by Tom Sims
No one is quite sure of the origin and no one owns the word, but a “hashtag” is hash mark (#) followed by a word used as a type of bookmark in social media, most notably Twitter. It facilitates cross pollination and collaboration of ideas by creating groupings and words. It creates space in cyberspace where ideas can grow. It is a new word in a world of new words, concepts, and constant change.
That is why it is an apt name for Fresno’s latest concept center where one can establish one’s bookmark and find a “third place” to work, play, and create 24 hours a day in the heart of the Tower District. The Hashtag is such a spot. Ideas are brewing constantly and the lights are always on.
It is the brain child of Irma L. Olguin and Travis Sheridan who spent a year developing the business prior to their grand opening May 15.Irma is a software developer who needed space. Since she needed it, she assumed others did as well. Her company, Geekwise, is a cutting edge business and Irma is a software and web developer. She is also a creator whose mind comes alive in the middle of the night when most coffee shops are closing.
Travis is an entrepreneur and coach to entrepreneurs. He has a day job as Director of Marketing & Communications at the Central Valley Business Incubator. He needs to work on his creative projects before and after work.
Both observed that most public places are not designed for people with their needs. The hours are not right. Entrepreneurs, developers, and other creative people need space that is comfortable, available, and that has reliable, high speed Internet service.
So, they created such a space. It is readily available 24 hours a day. It is well equipped with six white board surfaces. It has space for 30-35 people to work comfortably at the same time. It has high speed connectivity. It is well lit. There is space for meetings and for spreading out. It is designed to meet the needs of the people who use it. Every variable has been considered. “It is not a home office,” Sheridan noted. There are office features that are not included. You bring your materials with you and you take them home. People don’t drop in to see you. To get in, you either need a day pass for $5 or a monthly membership for $29.
With membership comes a key code that allows for security which is reinforced with video surveillance. If you want to eat or get coffee, there are restaurants open in the Tower District till 3 a.m. The Hashtag is not a coffee shop. You can make quick coffee or tea in the back, but Sheridan and Olguin are not in the business of taking business from coffee shop owners. They want you to give those folks your coffee business. They are in the business of space in a busy, safe area of town. It is an innovative concept.
“We’re running this a proof of concept,” said Sheridan. A proof of concept is evidence that demonstrates that a business model or idea is feasible. It takes the business partners out on a limb that they believe is sturdy enough to hold them. However, they are no strangers to limbs. Olguin and Sheridan are the driving forces behind 59 Days of Code, a process, contest and initiative that seeks to answer the question, “Does the Valley have the talent to sustain high-tech business?”
The business partners think so and have developed The Hashtag to help facilitate entrepreneurs like themselves who need a place that is not work or school, and not home where they can freely think, write, create, and collaborate without time constraints or interruptions. Their theme is “Work.Play.Create.” Sheridan calls it, “Freedom to behave in a creative way.”
On a recent visit, I found a room buzzing with activity, life, and ideas. There were conversations, but they were not invasive of the privacy of people working quietly and alone. I was greeted with smiles and immediately caught up in the excitement of something new, something alive with passion and vividly pregnant with possibilities.
That passion is written all over Olguin’s face as she described how the Hashtag was something that met her needs. It was evident on Sheridan’s face as he described his thinking philosophically. It was clear that both are not only business owners and hosts, but users of the space.The energy is contagious.
Surprisingly, there is nothing especially proprietary about what these folks are doing. They are not planning an empire of Hashtags. “We welcome competition,” both stated.
Fresno is a growing metropolitan area with many communities. Sheridan and Olguin seem to be more concerned with starting a movement than building a kingdom for themselves. It is congruent with their personal philosophies that meld entrepreneurial initiative and capitalism with social responsibility. Therefore, they have built the elegant and attractive space where their business is located out of recycled glass, affordable materials, and locally produced craftsmanship. Their families and loved ones have gotten involved.
The time they spent developing the idea of the Hashtag was detail rich. They considered multiple variables that would enable them to build a model for others to imitate.
Like hashtags on Twitter, The Hashtag is a “bookmark” that facilitates cross pollination and collaboration of ideas. It is a space that enables creation of groupings and a place where ideas can grow. And ideas are growing there!
Find out more about The Hashtag at their website or on their Facebook page. Spend $5 and visit for a day! They are located at 1298 N. Wishon Ave. Fresno, CA 93728 and can be called at 559-325-4767.