Shift Project to Open Office Space Downtown


Rick Yu

Ventures storefront depicts the recently closed store. The Shift Project, opening Feb. 22, will take over the space.

Vergil Demery

The Oberlin Project will open its most recent endeavor, the Shift Project, on Feb. 22. Set to run until March 18, it will support local entrepreneurship by offering students and community members a working space.

The Shift Project is a follow-up to SEED Ventures. Both were conceived at LaunchU, Oberlin College’s annual startup accelerator and pitch competition. Like its predecessor, Shift will be located at 29 South Main Street.

Shift is an office space designed to be the perfect work environment for student and community businesspersons who are looking to further their endeavors. Shift looks to be a valuable resource for customers who want to do business in Oberlin, and nothing like Shift exists locally.

The space will provide a place for entrepreneurs to launch their ideas and network with other professionals. It includes private areas for phone calls, a 60-megabyte broadband connection and a space for meetings and socializing. A weekly schedule of events — like brainstorming sessions over lunch or happy hours — will be posted to encourage members to meet each other.

Ryan Sprowl, an entrepreneur who pitched the idea of a coworking business at LaunchU, will be partnering with Shift during its month of operation. A coworking business is a low-cost, shared-use office space that promotes collaboration between entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote working professionals.

“I’m excited for this pop-up space [at 29 South Main Street] to act as a pilot for Shift, the coworking concept I recently pitched,” said Sprowl in a press release. “I hope the pop-up will provide insight into the viability of a coworking space and a chance to work out any major kinks as my start-up progresses toward creating a permanent space.”

Cullen Naumoff, Director of Sustainable Enterprise at the Oberlin Project, hopes the success of SEED Ventures reflects how Shift will be received.

“The timing is opportune, based on the momentum we carried from the SEED [and LaunchU] ventures that ended in January,” she said. The Shift team hopes to capture the attention of students before they leave for spring break, she added.

College senior Scott Hulver has been working on the website for Shift and organizing the registration and reservation of the space. He’s excited about the opportunity to go beyond what the College offers.

“When it launches on the 22nd, I’ll be involved with helping staff the space, too, and solving any problems that arise,” Hulver said in an email. “It’s an opportunity unlike anything I can do through the College.”

Naumoff has repeatedly been asked why an entrepreneurial space like Shift would only exist temporarily.

“The Oberlin Project is using this as an opportunity to shape a longterm space and [find out] what it would bring to the community,” Naumoff said.
The space will function as a field test for popularity and functionality. If it receives a positive response from students and community members, Shift will be improved and relaunched in the future.

“Shift is the next phase of infrastructure The Oberlin Project is testing to better determine the value it brings to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and local economy,” Naumoff said in an email. “We ask individuals with even an inkling of interest to try the coworking space at least once to assist in shaping a more relevant space for the longterm.”