By Morgan Bryce
Working to encourage a bold, entrepreneurial spirit and stimulate the growth of small businesses in Opelika is the goal of the city’s newest co-working space, Collaboration Station.
Founded by Phenix City native Daniel Sexton, Collaboration Station is located in the same building that once housed the small-business incubator Round House, which closed last month amid controversy of financial woes and mismanagement by its owner, Kyle Sandler.
Sexton said his longtime dream had been to one day own and operate his own co-working space, and that the opportunity to start it in this space was one he could not pass up.
Receiving word of Round House’s closing, Sexton said he immediately contacted the building owner Deke Hilyer to set up a tour of the building and determine if it would be a viable location for a co-working space.
Since mid-December, Sexton and his assistants have been busy renovating the building for its slated opening this week, giving it a fresher and more white-collar appearance, according to Collaboration Station’s Community Director Emily Baas. Baas formerly worked in the same role for Sandler at Round House.
“We want it to be a place where people come and enjoy the space … and be a vibrant, collaborative space for people to grow a business,” Baas said.
Sexton said he plans to use a more ‘hands-off approach’ in his business model, offering its tenants an affordable and professional place to run their business without interference and an environment that is conducive to collaboration.
“You will have a whole collective of different types of professions under one roof … so for example, let’s say you have a small legal question, we have a lawyer that is working out of this office, and we have a CPA who works out of this office … it’s a simple matter of walking across the hall and asking a question,” Baas said.
Several former Roundhouse tenants have stayed on with Sexton and Collaboration Station to further the vision of successful entrepreneurship and a robust small-business economy in Opelika, including Melina Brown, who operates the Opelika branch of the non-profit Enable Community Foundation.
“The Opelika branch of the Enable Community Foundation chose to remain in residence at the location on South Eighth Street … because we believe the co-working concept is a great asset to the community. We have maintained an office at this location for nearly two years and chose to remain despite the complications caused by the previous owner,” Brown said. “(The) ECF plans to remain a resident of the Collaboration Station for the foreseeable future and we are very impressed with the new owner and his dedication to improve the space and create a gem for our community.”
Sexton said his long-term goals for the Collaboration Station are to help facilitate the growth of small businesses, and help them reach a level where they can seek their own larger office space.
“Our goal is to serve as many small businesses as we can and help them grow into bigger businesses … unfortunately, that’s going to mean that they move out from us and outgrow us, but it will mean that they have gotten somewhere,” Sexton said. “Everyone says that small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the community, so we’re trying to have a place where there are resources and things in place to help small businesses thrive.”
For the big thinkers and dreamers in Opelika who might be hesitating to follow their entrepreneurial passions, Baas encourages them to come take a tour of the facility, and see what Collaboration Station is all about.
“I want to encourage people to come in, and see the difference and take a tour with me. I love to show people the space … it is scary, and a big risk to become an entrepreneur, but it’s a whole lot less daunting when you know you’ve got a community behind you,” Baas said. “So if there is someone out there who’s really thinking about becoming or starting something, come see me. I’d love to sit and talk about your ideas or your dreams and what’s stopping you, and see how Collaboration Station can help.”
For more information, find Collaboration Station on Facebook and Instagram, or visit www.collaborationstation.xyz.