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Business incubator gives young companies a boost

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By Tracy Harris

Home businesses and business without a home can now find office space at La Venture Station in La Grange.

The co-collaborative workspace on Main Street is an opportunity for home business owners, freelancers, artists and others to use office space as needed. The loft-like feel gives an air of openness and creativity, complete with an exposed brick wall and large windows.

Linda Goin, director of Discover Downtown La Grange, opened the business as a personal venture after falling in love with the idea.

“This is something I’ve been researching for about a year,” Goin said. There are now over 200 similar venues around the world.

There’s a rentable conference room, desk space for drop-ins, wireless internet and a kitchen.

And users have access to the ideas and input of other collaborators — a resource that can be invaluable.

There are already two full-time tenants at La Venture Station ahead of its grand opening on Friday.

Lynn Calvert, president of Otherworld Publications, is using the space to go full-time with her business — as of next week, she’s quitting her day job. She had been looking for space to run her book publ  ishing business and La Venture Station offers fewer start-up costs.

Plus, “I have someone to bounce ideas off of,” Calvert said. “Vonnie has a different point of view.”

That’s Vonnie Glover from “You Deserve It Travel,” which she operates with her husband Mike. The travel agency offers cruises, all-inclusive destination packages and train and bus trips. The Glovers moved to Oldham County from California earlier this year and were looking for a Main Street location, Goin said.

Glover and Calvert are two “depot members” of La Venture Station, which gives them dedicated workspace — they each have a desk overlooking Main Street — priority and unlimited conference room use, kitchen use and the Main Street Mail program.

The Main Street Mail program can actually be used by businesses not otherwise using La Venture Station, Goin said. Home businesses can gain legitimacy with a Main Street address, and Goin said the service is less expensive than other mail delivery services. For privacy, mail is sorted and kept behind a locked door accessible only by Goin and the two full-time tenants.

Other membership options allow for flexible use depending on what the user needs, like a $10 per day drop-in fee or a $25 per month “infrequent flyer” membership. Memberships with more access and benefits range from $75 to $250 per month. Membership also includes a “visa program,” which lets members use other collaborative workspaces around the world.

La Venture Station provides a way to fill an empty space with businesses that don’t need an entire office, something Goin knows is difficult.

“I know in the historic district the space is smaller than what people are accustomed to for offices,” she said. “We’re getting to a point where, especially in this economy, it’s going to be hard to find businesses that will occupy these spaces.”

Goin hopes that La Venture Station will be more like a community-owned business that facilitates small business growth. She is already thinking of opening a second similar workspace on Jefferson Street in La Grange, which would have more private office space.

“This is the kind of business where you find an empty space and you utilize it,” she said. “It’s repurposing what the building is all about.”

As the owner, Goin hopes to be a “facilitator” for La Venture Station. “I just make sure you’re in there, you’re happy and you have what you need,” she said.

Personally, she sees La Venture Station and other possible collaborative workspaces as her job for the rest of her life. “I’m giving people a space to grow and experiment,” she said. “This is the space and time to do it.”

La Venture Station’s grand opening is Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. The entrance is located at 125 1/2 E. Main Street, between Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop and La Grange Arts and Crafts.

The event will feature appetizers and music, and everyone is invited to come by and check out the space, Goin said.

She hopes it is an opportunity for people to see what is available at La Venture Station and get a better understanding of how a co-collaborative workspace operates.