Courtesy / LiftOff
When you search “co-working spaces in San Antonio,” more little red dots than ever before appear on the map, especially in the downtown tech district and the densely populated northern parts of town.
But when Jesse Meese turned his lifelong hobby into a profession and decided his home on the Northside wasn’t the best place for his computer business, he found a new home – a dot on the map that is now his own little land of opportunity.
His 2-year-old Trionix Computer and Web Solutions business operates out of LiftOff, a bright and airy small business incubator and co-working space. Though it opened on the Southside of San Antonio a mere six months ago, LiftOff already leases space to seven small businesses like Meese’s.
Meese learned about LiftOff from a friend and began renting a desk there in December. He said the space offers him plenty of storage and a place to accommodate his repair work as well as client meetings.
It was a strategic decision to move there, he said. His new office space is in an area of town that needs his services – “That is part of the reason I chose this location.”
“There are 17 co-working sites in San Antonio, but we are the only ones that I know of on this side of town, and that would include the Southside and the Eastside,” said Lisa O’Briant, LiftOff operations manager.
“I think this is an underserved area of town right now. There are a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses over here and this is still a developing market, and so I think that the co-working needs on this side of San Antonio are just now being tapped. I think that the market is big enough for us to fill our space and for others to pop up as well. Right now, I actually have a wait list for offices.”
LiftOff opened its doors as a business incubator six months ago in a 6,300 sq. ft. building owned by its parent company LiftFund, which relocated to its current location on West Martin Street.
LiftFund is a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners gain access to capital and grow their business. They provide SBA 504 and small business loans for startups and established businesses and operate the Women’s Business Center, of which LiftOff is a program.
The Women’s Business Center also supports local business owners, especially women and minorities from its offices at Launch SA in the San Antonio Central Library.
LiftOff is situated on South Hackberry Street, about one mile from downtown San Antonio, at the crossroads of I-10 and I-37. Its neighbors are a branch of Chase Bank, a U.S. Post Office, and the iconic Little Red Barn Steak House. About one mile away, the Davis Scott Family YMCA is where O’Briant and a group of LiftOff members go and work out together.
“It’s one of the ways we build a sense of community, and that’s one of our goals,” O’Briant said.
LiftOff users get 24/7 access to the office space, WiFi, copy machines, and mail room, a kitchen with coffee and water, and free and overflow parking. Members can book a large, fully equipped conference room for meetings. They also enjoy no-cost professional workshops on topics like earning certifications, managing taxes, dealing with legal issues, and marketing products and services.
In addition to private office space for which there is a waiting list, there are semi-private spaces and cubicles still available for rent, including a temporary “desk by a day” option that goes for $25 and a “cube for a day” at $50.
“Desk by the day is our temporary work space,” O’Briant said. “So someone who’s just looking for a few hours to get some work done and they don’t want to go crash at a coffee shop, and they want to be here through lunch maybe…they can have access to our conference room, the kitchen, grab a cup of coffee, store their lunch, and that’s something that could be of interest to anybody.”
LiftOff is best suited for service-based businesses like marketing agencies, accountants, human resources specialists, and insurance agents, O’Briant said. Five of the 17 people now renting private office spaces are attorneys. One member temporarily rented cubicles for workers he hired to fulfill a short-term contract.
“LiftOff has provided me with a great opportunity by charging reasonable rent, allowing me to use my money in growing my business,” said Ofelia Delgado, an attorney with her own practice in immigration, criminal defense, and family law. “I don’t have a lot of overhead so I’m able to advertise, purchase business cards, office supplies, and equipment.”
Members pay rental fees, book the conference room, and get reminders about insurance renewals through a software system named incuTrack. A LiftOff business address also allows members to take advantage of Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zone certifications and tax incentives.
Once a week, a LiftFund business advisor works on-site to assist members with business planning, financial strategy, marketing, or licensing questions – all at no charge. LiftFund advisors help prepare small business owners and startups who are seeking business loans from LiftFund.
“We help them better understand what the process is for accessing that capital so they are ‘loan-ready,’” said Carlos Acosta, a LiftFund business advisor. “We want to make sure they are successful.”
The LiftOff space got a major facelift with new paint and furniture before its grand opening last September. A sign on the building still advertises small business loans. Since those are not directly available at LiftOff, it may soon be covered by a mural painting, O’Briant said.
Local artists such as Marcus Garza and Charles Harrison Pompa already exhibit vibrant and thought-provoking work on the interior walls. O’Briant is particularly proud of how the incubator helps advance San Antonio business owners.
“This place sells itself once I get people in here,” she said. “People are just excited that someone has taken time to put something like this on this side of town.”