Warehaus starts up co-working in Holland


Basic membership to Warehaus is $125 a month, with office space running between $400 and $750 a month. Photo by Nathan Chanski

The entrepreneurial wave is sweeping over Holland.

A new Holland co-working space, Warehaus, hosted its grand opening last month in its chic suite in the Baker Lofts building, at 217 E. 24th St., Holland.

Guests filled the stylishly renovated, 8,000-square-foot space, touring the hardwood-floored main hall, the 11 glass-walled offices lining it and the 4,000-square-foot basement, planned as a production space.

A basic membership, which includes a table space, printers and Internet, is $125 per month, while office spaces run from $400 to $750 per month, with all leases being kept as month to month.

Idea to special lease

The new hub, billed as a space for Holland startups and small businesses to work and collaborate, began as the idea of three men who happened to meet a few months ago after a Sunday service at Moran Park Church.

It was there that Seth Getz, a small business development coach, bumped into Quinten Kelley, owner of Holland Global Trading, and his colleague, Tom Liravongsa, HGT co-founder and principal.

Getz, who was named a member of the Business Journal’s Top 40 Under Forty classes in 2010 and 2012, said the three immediately formed a bond discussing a shared idea to create a space for people like themselves: entrepreneurs and small business professionals looking for room to engage in co-working collaboration.

“Isolation means creativity goes down, but year-long office leases can be a headache, especially for startups,” Getz said. “We’re trying to make it easier for others to take the leap into working with other people outside of their home.”

Liravongsa made a connection with GR Development, owned by Jay Carll.

The company was intrigued by the idea and offered the Warehaus team a special lease at its Baker Lofts building. Warehaus pays as it grows, Getz said, freeing the young hub from the burden of shouldering heavy rent fees before other “roommates” come into the picture.

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An "epicenter"

Getz hopes some of those new faces will be local students.

“I would really like for this to be the epicenter of startups in Holland and the lakeshore area, where people come to do a lot with their startups,” he said. “We’ve even been working with Hope College’s startup program. . . . Those students will be working at this space and as they graduate, will hopefully continue to work here, learning from professionals and other freelancers.”

Getz said the enterprise is not one he and his co-founders expect to make a fortune with. It’s more the culture building they’re after, he said, something he feels would be beneficial to the area.

One only has to look at Grand Rapids to see how that idea is working, he said.

“(Grand Rapids) startup culture is stronger, and its vitality is growing more vibrant, not just with large businesses, but smaller," Getz said. "Holland has some of that, but we need more. I see it as a good economic driver for the community and that could benefit each person there. Someone needed to do this.”

Looking to the east

While the feel and idea of Warehaus might come across as similar to The Factory, Aaron Schaap’s co-working hub in Grand Rapids, it seems to be finding its own Holland voice.

Getz said Warehaus wasn’t modeled after The Factory, but agreed there was an inevitable influence.

Schaap, a personal friend of the Warehaus team, counseled them during development, drawing from his own experiences with creating a co-working platform.

He praised Warehaus on “a good start,” adding that he and other Factory members are excited to see Holland becoming fertile ground for startups.

“As someone who lives in Holland myself, it’s exciting there’s more places popping up," Schapp said. "They’re probably the next, real co-working push that I’ve seen in a while. I like that they’re being intentional in creating community. We’re also excited what it could mean for our members as well, and we’re encouraging them to hang out with Warehaus whenever they’re in Holland.”

Early stage culture

Almost everyone has echoed that interest and excitement, Getz said, but challenges are still ahead.

Some could be skeptical about whether Holland is ready for an entrepreneurial revolution, and others might not be comfortable with such a collaborative work environment, Getz said. Only time will tell.

“It’s all been positive, but we’re so early stage at this point in time," he said. "And we still need to get people in there. We don’t have the culture yet, because we’re such an early startup.

“A concern of mine is how good of a culture can we make in this space," he said. "But we don’t know yet, because we’re so new. So far it’s been great. But this is only the first month with a small number of people.”

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