×

The Optimist Center Brings Co-Working to Woodstock

  • Jeffrey Lue and Emily Gaynor, both of Woodstock, Vt., work at Optimist Center, a co-working space in Woodstock, on Aug. 24, 2017. Both have helped with the creating of the space. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rachel Shields of Woodstock, Vt. a freelance book editor works on her laptop at Optimist Center, a co-working space in Woodstock on Aug. 24, 2017. Shields had helped with fund raising and publicity for the space. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A balloon rests on the ceiling of the Optimist Center, a co-working space in Woodstock, Vt., on Aug. 24, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Travis Hellstrom, left, the manager of the Optimist Center, a co-working space in Woodstock, Vt., talks with Ryan Munn of Interchain LLC on Aug. 24, 2017. Munn works in consulting and education and has hosted events at other co-working spaces in the Upper Valley. This room on the second floor of the center can be used as a quiet or meditation space. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, August 26, 2017

Woodstock — Travis Hellstrom wants to change the world, but he isn’t just a dreamer. He is a businessman convinced that he can help cultivate companies that make a difference and also turn a profit. That’s just what he hopes to help do by launching The Optimist Center, a new co-working space in Woodstock.

“We wanted to attract the right people off the bat,” said Hellstrom. “People who are working at changing the world and making the world a better place.”

The center, located downtown at 65 Central St., will offer co-working memberships for area business, individuals and entrepreneurs. A basic membership costs $100 a month and allows access to the space Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no ongoing commitment. A $250-a-month membership gives 24/7 access and allows the member to use the space for workshops, courses and events.

“You can make money off your membership,” Hellstrom said.

In addition, the center will offer free drop-in co-working on Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a program that the town has been hosting at various locations throughout the summer.

The Optimist Center is part of Advanced Humanity, Hellstrom’s humanitarian consulting agency. The idea for a co-working space in Woodstock was brought to fruition when the town’s Economic Development Council approached Hellstrom about working together on the project.

“The Optimist Center is really an accelerator for the town and for building businesses,” Hellstrom said. He hopes that the center becomes a draw for young families and entrepreneurs to move to Woodstock.

The center is a “B Corp,” a for-profit company certified by the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit B Lab to meet standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Vermont businesses such as King Arthur Flour and Ben & Jerry’s have been some of the most influential B Corps, and Hellstrom, who helps companies get the certification, said the designation brings real value to brands.

“Young people especially are demanding more of companies,” he said. “People are buying everything if they feel like that company matches their values.”

Proceeds from The Optimist Center will go toward supporting a similar center in Mongolia, where Hellstrom served with the Peace Corps.

In addition to promoting companies with a conscious, Hellstrom said he hopes that The Optimist Center will demonstrate that smaller co-working spaces in rural environments can be successful.

“New England is full of small towns looking at ways to create a vibrant economy,” he said. “But they have to make it work with a smaller number.”

Hellstrom hopes to have 20 members, much fewer than in the massive co-working spaces springing up in cities. However, he said, the space will still provide benefits to members.

“The members of the center will support people with their own services,” he said, noting that a member of the center already has begun providing her editing services to others. “The space will shape around the members.”

Hellstrom expects that it may take a while to build the center to its full capacity, but said he expects people from Woodstock and the surrounding area will stay once they experience the center.

“We’re looking to build relationships and connections slowly over time,” he said. “There’s a difference between cities and towns, but in towns there is more commitment long term.”

In the meantime, Hellstrom plans to rent the space for meetings, workshops and retreats in order to diversify the center’s revenue sources. He said the scenic location provides the perfect backdrop.

“Woodstock is a special place to work on your business, not just in it,” he said. “It’s an exciting time to use business to help the world become better place.”