New coworking space hopes to bring community and connection to Chatham

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PITTSBORO — A new coworking space and innovation hub for Chatham County small-business owners and entrepreneurs has officially opened in Pittsboro.

The space, dubbed 79º West: Launch Pod, is located in Mosaic at Chatham Park at 367 Freedom Parkway, Suite 130. It serves as a precursor to a facility with over 22,000 square feet scheduled to open next door in the first quarter of 2023.

Until then, visitors can enjoy a 2,900-square-foot coworking space, featuring meeting and conference rooms, a cafe area, four offices, dedicated desks, and specialized programming.

The hub is the result of a collaboration between Innovate Carolina, a UNC-Chapel Hill initiative focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, and Eco Group, the developers of Mosaic. The owner of Eco Group, Kirk Bradley, is a partner in Chatham Media Group LLC, the media group that owns the News + Record.

Community and collaboration are at the forefront of what the 79°West brand is aiming to foster, said Clark Rinehart, founder of Coworking NC, a digital platform focused on local and independent workspaces that was contracted to assist in the execution of the hub.

“We want to connect the business and social fabric of this county,” Rinehart said during a recent panel held at the launch pod space. “There’s a lot of people doing interesting things. We want 79°West to be, again, that note of connection, along with a lot of other things.”

Besides the physical coworking space, 79°West will also offer programming via Innovate Carolina. In July, the hub held a soft opening and an open house that had around 65 attendees as the kickoff to a summer series of Innovate Carolina’s programming.

The brand also held a Q&A panel with Rinehart, Sheryl Waddell, Innovate Carolina’s director of economic development and innovation hubs, and Phillip Pappas, coordinator of the Small Business Center at Central Carolina Community College, about the space and its amenities on Aug. 2.

In the coming months, future programming will include workshops on crafting an elevator pitch with a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School professor, telling your brand story in a digital landscape, and creating a marketing plan. The summer series is free for attendees and they are intended for people of all skill levels, said Kimi Yingling, events program manager for the space through Innovate Carolina.

The brand’s goal is to create partnerships with people in Chatham County, in addition to bringing resources from the university and Orange County, Yingling said.

“Just as Chatham County grows, we want to make sure that we’re providing programming that you can come in no matter what type of business you’re running, and take something away that will help you grow that business or move it forward,” she said.

In laying the groundwork for those partnerships and planning for future programming, Yingling said she met, and is continuing to meet, with different startups and organizations in the county to get a sense of local entrepreneurs’ different needs.

One of those organizations is WEBB Squared (Wealth through Entrepreneurship for Black Businesses), a nonprofit organization and accelerator focused on closing the racial wealth gap and supporting Black entrepreneurs in rural N.C.

Stephanie Terry, executive director and co-founder of the group, said WEBB Squared views its work as being highly collaborative, and she hopes to connect their entrepreneurs to some of the services that will be provided by Innovate Carolina through the 79°West hub.

The individuals who seek out WEBB Squared’s services come from all sectors of industry, not just tech, Terry said. She noted that often in Black communities in rural areas, there may be a greater number of “informal entrepreneurs” — individuals who provide services within their community, like auto repair or childcare, but aren’t necessarily registered with the state in a formalized manner.

“So part of our work is when we encounter some of these informal entrepreneurs, is to provide them with information and resources, and direct support so that they can turn their informal business to formal and formalized businesses,” Terry said. “And what we mean by formalized is moving from owner-operated to actually being able to have the infrastructure in place to hire employees.”

Rinehart said he envisions the space as one that serves people in different phases of developing their business or career, whether someone is a remote worker or looking to grow the size of their startup.

He emphasized that he wants the hub to feel “authentically Chatham.” That means providing a network and a line to pre-existing resources in the county. Rinehart acknowledged that a coworking space, Perch Coworking, already exists in Pittsboro, and said 79°West wants to “double down on” and “amplify” those services.

Additionally, 79°West hopes to work with stakeholders in the county like the Chatham Economic Development Corporation and Small Business Center.

“The last thing I want is for people to feel like they have to go to Raleigh, or Durham or Chapel Hill to find the resources they need,” Rinehart said. “Oftentimes, the hard work is just finding those connections, and making those relationships happen, both personally and professionally.”

Pappas said CCCC and 79°West are continuing to have discussions about a partnership and how to cohabitate in an economic development space in the county. The Small Business Center, part of a Small Business Center Network, offers free one-on-one counseling and classes in Chatham County.

Pappas said the SBC typically helps smaller businesses, and he sees a partnership as a chance for the center to assist in developing the next big entrepreneur in Chatham County.

“It’s exciting that all of these players are kind of coming together and so far, being able to work together and decide how we can help each other and the community,” Pappas said.

Looking ahead, both Rinehart and Yingling expressed a desire to hear from community members about how the space can best serve Chatham.

“We don’t just have to grow for growth’s sake,” Rinehart said. “We can grow well, and what better place to do that than Chatham County.”

Currently, 79°West offers a variety of membership plans — $25/day for a day pass, $150/month for a monthly part-time plan, $800/month for a private office, etc. — for access to the space. The hub also plans to hold unique programming exclusive to members in the future, Rinehart said.

A breakdown of the plans can be accessed on 79°West’s website at 79westhub.com/membership-2/.

The 79°West: Launch Pod is staffed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the next workshop, “The Power of a Pitch,” will be held Aug. 17 at 4 p.m.

Reporter Maydha Devarajan can be reached at mdevarajan@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @maydhadevarajan.

Chatham Park, Pittsboro, Mosaic, coworking, entrepreneur, 79 West

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