by Tim Jahn on July 23, 2010
What if you were able to find like minded folks at your local coffee shop, list a free classified ad there, discover new local music, or find deals from local merchants? What if you had something that was like Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Groupon and all combined, but extremely local?
Welcome to your friendly neighborhood social hub.
Jason Goodrich and his wife Gretchen Goodrich are doing just that with their new site, A Space Apart. They want to help local cafes and coffee shops, and the people that frequent those cafes and coffee shops, to have a place to connect within the physical space.
Jason and Gretchen are the first husband/wife startup duo I’ve interviewed. I was really interested in how they balance their everyday lives and family with pursuing a startup. The story begins back in 2008 when Jason lost his job at the Chicago Tribune.
I’m Jason Goodrich and I’m the CEO of A Space Apart.
I’m Gretchen Goodrich and I’m Jason’s wife, and I’m also the CFO of A Space Apart.
And the obvious question is, what’s A Space Apart?
A Space Apart is a communication tool that helps people meet the world around them by using familiar social media platforms, the structure of Twitter and that sort of thing, to allow people to connect within a space, rather than just in cyberspace. It brings social media down to the local level.
You’re a husband and wife team of a startup. I think that’s a unique situation. What’s that like in terms of going from being an employee to an entrepreneur but still having life going on? What’s it like with life but now entrepreneurial things going on?
Oh, well, we have the business and the 4 year old and the mortgage. It’s a big juggling act. I try to be the pre-frontal cortex for all of that and it’s a little challenging some days for sure. We just have to communicate a lot. We have to stay in touch with each other a lot.
I try to provide a base for that stuff. I have more of the organized brain and Jason has more of the visionary brain. I have the organized, “ok let’s put all the numbers in an Excel spreadsheet and figure out how much this is going to cost!” You know, that sort of thing.
We compliment each other in that respect. He’s out there, he’s connecting with people, he’s making things happen. These meetings, these conferences, and I’m basically keeping the ship running and everybody fed and trying to do some of the behind the scenes support for the business as well.
So after you had the idea for A Space Apart at the Starbucks at North and Wells, what made you actually execute and say let’s do this?
The reason I was at the Starbucks at North and Wells, or passing by it, was for a networking event. I had lost my job year, in August of 2008, and I was trying to figure out ways to connect with people, and to get partners and clients and things like that.
It just made a whole heck of a lot of sense to me because this world is about communication and relationships, and that’s the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re coming out of a career in journalism like I was at the Chicago Tribune.
I’d been in journalism my whole life, I didn’t even know what the terms are for the wider world these days! So I was finding my footing. And I thought, being a communications guy and thinking about the web as I was at the Tribune as well, trying to target information, make it relevant, contextual, timely. That really struck a chord with me. It was kind of a lightning bolt.
I think any time you start up a business, you never know what you’re getting into, especially if it’s the first time that you’re doing it. We knew we were taking on a big task, but we’ve gotten a lot of really great feedback and made some really wonderful connections with people.
It’s definitely worth it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it!
The challenges have been time, concentration, getting expertise. Trying to find the people to help with it. It’s been really great, I’ve had a really great experience in meeting a whole new crowd of people in the tech community here, through Jelly Chicago, through Social Dev Camp, being at OfficePort where I was the co-working evangelist. I started TechThursdays, so that gave me a very wide exposure to some interesting quality people.
So that’s helped me get to this point and now I think we’re ready to take the leap.
I would definitely say that you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re getting into. You just have to have a passion for it because it’s going to be a lot of work. And you really need to make sure you’re with the right people.
There have been people come in and kind of go out. Every person that has passed through has left us with something positive that we’ve built on, whether it’s a lesson where we’ve said we’re not going to go there again or something where we’re saying yes this is what we want and this is what we’re going to build on.
We’re just trying to take it all in and synthesize it and bring out what’s positive. Bring out what works. But we’ve definitely made some connections where you go down that road a little bit with that person or that team and you say, oh, maybe that’s not where we want to be. And I think the biggest lesson from that is, don’t be afraid to let go.
If it’s not working and you can tell that it’s not working early out, don’t be afraid to let go. Jason’s really good at that. You always know where you stand with Jason.
You talk about the passion and the yearning to create and do that. I think that’d be hard if you’d spent so much time, even on a part of the business, if you have to all of a sudden realize this isn’t working, we have to change this. I think that would be tough.
Have you ever come across anything like that, where the idea, you just realized isn’t going to work?
Yes, we have come across that idea. And it was one of our core business ideas. We kind of looked down that road and we saw, oh the technology has already changed, and so we really need to rethink how we’re going to do this. Maybe reprogram some things. And boy, that was tough.
Because when you put thousands of dollars into programming it a certain way so that it works with a certain technology and then you realize, oh, it’s all going mobile now, ok! All of a sudden we need to think further ahead. That’s rough!
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