Slice of Life

Syracuse CoWorks is possibly the chillest place to work

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Amy Wyant, CEO and the president of Tech Geekery, was a founding member at Syracuse CoWork. The company is doing its part to revitalize the downtown area of Syracuse.

When the biggest problem in the office is figuring out how to move a ping-pong table into the building, something has to be going right.

That’s one task Amy Wyant, CEO and president at IT firm Tech Geekery, has been pondering recently at Syracuse CoWorks, an E. Jefferson Street co-working office that’s centered around a flexible atmosphere conducive to freedom and collaboration. Wyant and Tech Geekery are just one of 67 tenants at the workspace — founded in 2012 — that specialize in tech consulting, freelance work and telecommunications.

“We’re much more chill, with the office itself feeling a lot more like a startup office like you might see out in Silicon Valley,” Wyant said.

Co-working is when a group of generally like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners pay rent to work in a shared space. The idea is that by working in such close quarters, individuals are able to bounce ideas off each other and develop business relationships. It has found a spot in cities around the globe, and its venture-friendly nature bodes well for it finding a place in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vision for New York.

The governor last week released state budget documents that show a revamping of his highly criticized tax-cut, job-creation program Start-Up New York. In short, the effort incentivizes startups moving to tax-free zones and now requires them to create one new job in their first five years in the program. And while Syracuse CoWorks and its respective startups might not meet the requirements for Cuomo’s cuts, the correlation between what he wants and what they are trying to be is worth mentioning.

It’s no secret a revitalization of downtown Syracuse is a priority for parties in both business and government. And by opening up right in the heart of the city, Syracuse CoWorks is doing its part. While it’s especially a hub for tech businesses, others have found home in the space.
On Wednesday, the contrast of just who fits in at the CoWorks was quietly on display.

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

At one table sat Jason Allers, president of insurance provider Sterling Casualty Company, LLC, typing away at his computer. Working adjacent was Seth Dollar, a rapper who collaborates closely with the brand Children of The Summer, compiling sticker packs for marketing purposes. Both echoed the idea that the CoWorks, even with its prime location, has room for everyone.

“It’s all about trying to continue to keep up for downtown. We’re slowly planting seeds, but at the same time it’s not cliché,” Dollar said.

Allers had nothing but praise for the space. From the snacks to the Wi-Fi and all the freedom in between, he’s realized during his time there that the privacy of another office wouldn’t have done anyone any good.

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

“I wrestled with not having a personal, physical office space, but my clients always asked me, ‘Why? (We) wouldn’t ever see it anyway,’” said Allers, who usually meets with clients outside of the office.

In Wyant’s experience, the co-working atmosphere has been nothing but beneficial. She said she’s gotten work, referrals and even started new ventures out of the bonds she’s formed with others at the CoWorks. For her, that’ll beat working from home any day.
“My dog is cute, but he’s very crappy at marketing,” she said.

Maybe the biggest benefit of this particular co-working office is one that could be seen as the opposite of beneficial. By ditching the home office and moving in with businesses of similar ambitions, people like Wyant are essentially setting up shop where all the competition is. But from the beginning, they haven’t seen it that way.

Wyant, along with real estate developer Troy Evans and software developers Brian Caufield and John Talarico, were all on board when Syracuse CoWorks began as a project run by local volunteer organization 40 Below. Making its home at the Syracuse Tech Garden, the program picked up a few more members, and eventually Wyant and company decided they had the numbers and desire to make this real. So they filed for not-for-profit status and moved into their current location at Evans’s Commonspace complex.

Instead of fighting for clients and customers, the separate businesses have been able to help each other out. Wyant said that if she’s lacking a certain skill, there’s a good chance someone else is great at it. After a quick text message, that person is by her side and ready to lend a helping hand.

It doesn’t stop there, though — there are a handful of other facets of Syracuse CoWorks that contribute to its communal vibe. There is programming like a new philosophical book club-type group that Wyant is trying to get going. Or, there’s the monthly event, 1 Million Cups, which Wyant called group therapy for your business. Luncheons themed around motivation and other topics take place on a regular basis. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a true tech environment without a drone club.

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

But pricing is usually a make or break for some business people looking for office space. Membership starts at $66 per month, and can rise depending on how many features someone is looking to take advantage of. It’s that affordability and credibility of the prime downtown location that attracted Anthony Tringale of Eat Local CNY a year ago.

“It’s inexpensive office space where you have other self-starters that are kind of in the struggle together,” Tringale said. “It’s nice to see that there are other people in the same position you’re in, and you’re not getting gouged.”

Still, Tringale appreciates the little things that define co-working. He recalled a time when a client came by to pick up a product. Tringale was out of the office, but instead of leaving the client empty handed, another co-worker was able to find what they needed and give it to them.

Eat Local CNY is Tringale’s endeavor dedicated to pushing central New Yorkers to frequent local establishments instead of chain restaurants. The idea comes from his childhood, when for a year he worked nearly every position at his parents’ diner in Kentucky simply because they couldn’t afford to pay a full staff. After their joint had to close down and they moved to Syracuse, Tringale always looks back fondly on the meals he ate at local restaurants — especially Italian ones.

By offering social media and photography assistance to local restaurants, all while maintaining a food blog and podcast, Tringale hopes to keep those eateries safe from the same fate his parents’ diner suffered when he was a kid.

“I’ve just met too many restaurant owners in this town who’ve mortgaged their house and put every penny they could into a restaurant,” he said. “They’ll go spend a thousand bucks a month in clipper magazine which brings them like, no business. It was just too frustrating.”

Tringale is one of a small bunch that has a private office at Syracuse CoWorks. Other amenities include a kitchen, a soundproof structure for audio and video recording called a Whisper Box and what they call the arena — an open-ended room with rows of seats that in the future will hopefully be closed off with a glass wall.

It seems the only thing missing from that picture is the ping-pong table.

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