Small businesses find room to grow in downtown Janesville

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Jim Leute
Sunday, April 6, 2014

JANESVILLE—Nine months ago, Scott Story renovated and opened a downtown Janesville office building as a community business and meeting center to help small businesses get off the ground.

He figured the center would appeal to home-based businesses in need of meeting or work space, employers and out-of-town lawyers conducting off-site interviews, students looking for a quiet place to study or work on a project and small groups needing a spot to meet.

Since opening in July, My Office-Jvl has accomplished all of that and more.

In fact, customers have approached Story with even more innovative ways to use his space.

A spring wedding is booked; an art show is in the books, and three more are scheduled. One tenant has added an employee and soon will outgrow her space.

At the request of another prospective tenant, Story remodeled the small basement, and it's now home to Janesville Community Radio, a local podcasting group.

“It's everything we generally hoped it would be and has become so much more from things we didn't even imagine,” said Story, who rents a variety of individual rooms at 321 E. Milwaukee Street by the hour, half-day, day, week or month.

“It's really been exciting and has exceeded our expectations.”

My Office-Jvl is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or by request, and Story said the “by request” portion of his hours has been growing as small businesses and groups approach him with different ways to use the building.

Originally, Story was looking for a small downtown office for his consulting and life coaching business.

He ended up buying an entire building and launching the business to fill a niche for small startup and existing companies that need office space alternatives.

His own business has grown, and so, too, have the others calling 321 E. Milwaukee St. home.

Attorney Crystal Reinoso is one of the startups.

Reinoso worked in a larger Janesville law firm for four years before branching off on her own.

“I was immediately able to begin my own legal practice with conveniences such as the use of a conference room, furnished office and copy, fax and reception services without investing upfront capital,” she said. “My clients feel comfortable and welcome in my office, which is important as many of my clients are often experiencing difficult situations.”

Joe Gunn, a partner at Agricultural & Construction Equipment Solutions, rents an office on the building's second floor.

He said his newfound advantages include the ability to meet clients in a businesses setting, networking with other professionals, proximity to other services and a meeting room equipped with videoconferencing.

My Office-Jvl offers professional and personal office space without the overhead or upfront expenses. Amenities include break rooms, bathrooms, a copy center and free supplies. Bookings are made either online or in the office. Meals are routinely catered in from downtown businesses.

My Office-JVL can also serve as a virtual office. For a monthly fee, customers get an actual business address away from their homes, mail collection and forwarding and discounted office space if needed.

“The idea is to help small businesses get on their feet, and this serves as a stepping stone for them to move on to larger spaces and hire more people,” Story said. “It's been working better than we envisioned.

“It's been amazing the different things that people have asked us for and been willing to pay us for.”

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