Though she was born in Fayetteville, Ark., a move to New Mexico at 6 months old means Lauren Wade calls the Albuquerque area home.
The 24-year-old University of New Mexico graduate worked for a construction company that allowed her to work remotely, which led her to Colorado Springs. It was here that Wade, who studied marketing and communication, became involved with the local startup community.
Today, Wade works at SpaceTogether.com, which matches empty commercial space with those who need flexible office options.
“I don’t know if we can say that I have a title, because it changes frequently,” she said of her position, “but right now I’m working on growth and experimentation, but also working on content strategy — building that so we have the right content to communicate with our users.”
Wade spoke with the Business Journal about the region’s startup scene and reevaluating life when things don’t go your way.
Why did you move to Colorado?
I had always vacationed in Colorado Springs with my family growing up but I didn’t know much about it. I wasn’t ready to do the Denver jump. Albuquerque to Denver felt like a lot. I wasn’t mentally ready for it. So it was like, ‘All right, Colorado Springs is Step 1.’ It’s been two years here in November and it’s been a good move.
Why not Denver?
The size. Traffic. I’m not super into it. In Albuquerque, I lived in the foothills and could walk a block to the mountains. In Denver you can’t do that and here you can. Having that access was important to me.
What did you do after graduating from college?
I worked at a construction company for two years while in school. I was offered a strategic communications manager position when I graduated, so I stayed on there. My job was great but I really wanted to move and was allowed to go remote in that role. I felt I could have size similarities in Colorado Springs but increased access in terms of networking and personal growth. I worked with the construction company for four months after I got here and then got a job with the startup FoodMaven.
How’d that go?
It didn’t end up the best. I can honestly say I was there for six months and I wasn’t at my best. I didn’t feel like I was a good fit there and was actually let go.
I was genuinely at my worst in July of last year. I was like, ‘I hate everything about marketing. I hate everything about creativity.’ Everything I thought was true to me, I hated. So I took the past year to be intentional in re-finding what I love. I felt really low after that experience and have been building these skills over the past year … and really came to understand I’m at my best building great things with even better people where there are problems worth solving. Those things weren’t in alignment for me as a marketing specialist before.
How did you discover what you want to do?
After I was let go I had strong savings. I didn’t want to start a job because I didn’t know what I liked. I was genuinely confused about my direction. So I used my savings to launch my own business and started doing freelancing. I started building out a product where I was increasing sales conversions for small companies — like two- or three-person companies. I was doing top-of-funnel conversion for them, ultimately. So I really came to understand I love experimentation from a creative perspective, but also from a systematic perspective. I was able to network and meet new people and get new clients.
Talk about where you are now.
I’m at another startup. It’s called SpaceTogether, which was co-founded by Justin Knapp and Brett Farrow. … SpaceTogether connects people with underutilized space to people looking for flexible space solutions. So for example, say your office has an extra office in the back that’s never used. That is now a newfound revenue stream for you. You list the space and connect with someone on the platform.
How was this traditionally done?
Traditionally it was done through Craigslist. That’s a fun way to manage things. Our co-founder Justin was struggling. He was pastor of a church that wasn’t being used to full capacity but he was paying for it 100 percent of the time. So he posted on Craigslist but wasn’t guaranteed payments.
What does your role involve?
Every day, I come in and look at how our campaigns are working. Are we getting the right cost per lead? Are we making sure that people are finding the right space and spaces are finding the right renters? The other side is making sure that our message makes sense to users. In our campaigns, we’re testing four different things, minimum, at one time. So I make sure we optimize the one that’s working best.
Is the company just in the Springs?
We’ve been doing national tests but we’ve seen the most success in Colorado Springs, primarily because of our localized presence.
We were able to re-launch the product three or four weeks ago and have now been able to push a national presence. Our initial test campaigns are to measure which communities make sense for us and which don’t.
I can say Colorado Springs is a great community for it. We’re looking more at underserved businesses — opportunities like fitness studios that do share space but don’t have a formalized platform, or churches that share space but don’t have a formalized way to do it. We’re also seeing opportunities in accountants’ offices or lawyers’ offices.
What’s your goal?
My major goal is to help businesses. My job is to create access to something businesses didn’t know existed. My dad, who was a pastor, was also a small business owner. He was in residential homebuilding before the recession, but even at the church we had people using space. We had a preschool, the city government was using it and there were a bunch of opportunities. My goal is to have businesses find this newfound revenue opportunity for themselves.
And it’s a startup, so I’m trying to create a highly scalable and repeatable model that works across the U.S. and internationally.
What is it about startups?
My job is to work myself out of a job and I think that’s where I’m at my best. I like to identify patterns, create systems and pass them off to someone else and equip them to do really good things with that system.
That’s part of what I like about it. It’s my job to create something strong and move it on. I can get bored pretty easily.
What do you think about the Springs’ reputation when it comes to startups?
I can say we have BombBomb and Cherwell [Software]. They’ve done it. We have companies like FoodMaven and SpaceTogether that are doing good things. I can also say this community needs more talent. I was able to snag an amazing intern from UCCS, but one of my biggest things is how to equip people to do this work, that you may work 10-hour days and it’s fine. I think we need talent but also to push the risk in the community to do big ideas and know the community will support them, whether financially or through networks.
What are your challenges?
One of the hardest things, especially in the startup space, is that every day is like drinking from a fire hose. Like today, I intended to write a blog post, but I’ll probably have to answer customer support calls. One of the greatest challenges is to be flexible across all these areas and still get your tasks done.
What would you be doing if not this?
One of my major dreams is to either own my own boutique development firm or do my own development — like get a motel and turn it into micro retail units. Part of my model would be to profit share with them and provide marketing services, accounting contacts, legal contacts, to help businesses grow in that space. And not just like an incubator. I want to build amazing companies that can stay there.
Are you happy with your decision not to move to Denver?
Yeah, I’m so comfortable with that decision. I’ve come to love this community and how people come around you if you ask — they’re willing to help and they’re there. I really feel like it’s paid off, coming here.