Shift Space to Stay Open, Grow Client Base


Bryan Rubin, Photo editor

The Shift coworking space will remain open through the school year. There has been enthusiastic support for the pop-up project.

Vergil Demery

Oberlin’s Shift Project, a coworking space that provides a professional workplace for aspiring entrepreneurs, will keep its doors open through the end of the school year. Cullen Naumoff, director of Sustainable Enterprise at the Oberlin Project, and College senior Scott Hulver direct the project, which was originally planned to run through March 18.

“The reason the project has been extended is because there is demand to keep carrying forward, and we have a partnership with the owner to allow us to stay in that space,” Naumoff said.

The pop-up, which replaced SEED Ventures in February, began as a LaunchU venture and is located in the same space as its predecessor. The office space has room enough for around 20 people at a time.

“[Shift serves] students involved in LaunchU or students who are graduating and persuing their own entrepreneurial endeavors,” Naumoff said. “This space provides an affordable environment for them to launch their enterprise while networking and collaborating with other working professionals.”

Naumoff said that Shift was able to prove that there was a demand for entrepreneurial space in Oberlin. This was the deciding factor in extending the operation dates of what started as an experimental enterprise.

“We are looking at partnerships with the College and the city to enable it to be a long-term, permanent [project],” Naumoff said.

However, Shift will have to face a few obstacles going forward. Naumoff and Hulver are looking to update the physical space Shift occupies. It is currently an open coworking space, but they want to provide a minimum of two private rooms in which customers can conduct phone calls. Naumoff and Hulver also intend for these rooms to be used by clients as one-on-one meeting spaces.

Naumoff said that they have no plans to move Shift to a larger space, since they only want to supply as much as the community demands.

An unexpected benefit of Shift’s location was its capacity for bringing town and gown together, Naumoff said. The pop-up is located in downtown Oberlin, which serves as common ground for both groups. Naumoff and Hulver hope that clients will continue to develop the relationships they have made with each other as Shift remains open.

Hulver said that working at Shift is an opportunity unlike anything available at the College.

According to Naumoff, many of the people who currently use Shift are the partners of faculty members. The non-academic partners start their own business or find other ways to work while in Oberlin.

Members of the Oberlin community who have started their own businesses from home and are looking for a more professional working space also make up much of Shift’s customer base.

Many College and Conservatory students expressed interest in the opportunities Shift provides, Naumoff said. However, due to scheduling conflicts or other work commitments, College and Conservatory students have not used the space as much as the Shift team had originally anticipated.

While Shift has had a lot of success, Naumoff and Hulver are striving for a more diverse customer base.

“We want to continue to attract diversity,” Naumoff said. “We know that broader diversity of users will lead to more interesting collaborations and a community will be built within the space.”