Inspiration strikes in coworking space
It’s ironic that the Staunton Innovation Hub, a coworking center, opened its largest phase amid a global pandemic that sent many workers home, away from shared workspaces.
“The pandemic certainly created its own set of challenges in terms of opening a coworking space,” says Peter Denbigh, who founded the hub with his ex-wife, Alison Denbigh.
The first phase of the Staunton Innovation Hub, about 4,500 square feet on Augusta Street, opened a few years ago. The second phase is about 25,000 square feet located in the News Leader building on Central Avenue. The city newspaper’s offices are still located in the building in a smaller space. The renovated coworking space opened in October 2020 and was largely filled a year later. “We have a verbal commitment on the last remaining space,” Denbigh says. In October 2022, he plans to add another coworking space at the 25,000-square-foot Wetsel Seed building in Harrisonburg.
The pandemic “forced us to react quickly… to really listen to what our members needed,” Denbigh says. The hub’s second phase includes conference equipment, a game room and a wellness room for meditation or nursing mothers. The rooftop is available for socializing and networking, and an outdoor plaza will be completed in early 2022.
The renovation took a “100-year-old building and launched it into the 21st century,” Denbigh says. He’s pleased with the way the space has filled up, especially given that “this is in Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley, not in the middle of Reston or Fairfax.”
An entrepreneur, Denbigh co-owns Skyler Innovations, which created the “Watch Ya Mouth” party game that was a top seller on Amazon in 2016. He appreciates the “variety and quantity” of businesses represented at the hub, where nonprofits, CPAs, freelance contractors, mental health professionals, lawyers and tech companies can share ideas. Mary Baldwin University’s College of Education also has offices there.
Debbie Irwin, executive director of the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund, says the space serves as “a physical convening space for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Valley.” Startup companies have access to amenities and get the opportunity to talk to others who are taking risks.
“Having an entrepreneur support organization as well as a university and other great subject matter experts in one space really allows entrepreneurs to navigate through the startup process and get the support they need to keep moving forward,” Irwin says.