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Exploring Life & Business with Bob Martin of iWerx

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bob Martin.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I call Southwestern Pennsylvania home and come from a long line of entrepreneurs — both of my grandfathers owned their own businesses, my grandmother was a very successful artrepreneur with her art hanging in galleries around the world. My dad always had a side hustle too. So small businesses, start-ups and the entrepreneurial genome is in my blood. I spent four years in the Navy and graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. Reporting and writing about small business from the outset of my journey. We (my wife Kelly and I) subsequently moved to Los Angeles and founded Scribe Services — a freelance writing and consulting businesses. One of my clients made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse and we founded Gartlan USA, a sports licensing and marketing business. We sold the company nine years in and relocated to Southern New Jersey.

In December of 2000, I was named the Vice President of Marketing and Media for the Thomas Kinkade company in Morgan Hill, CA. I spent the better part of two years there before launching Martin Marketing, a sales and marketing strategic and tactical agency. We moved that company to Liberty, MO in August of 2005. Later that year, my wife took complete control of our company — which thrives to this day — and I went to work for the Walt Disney Company, where I spent nearly eight years working for the mouse before it closed our Kansas City operation. At that moment in time, I dedicated myself to helping small businesses launch, grow and flourish. In that capacity, I am a founding partner of the iWerx family of Co-working and Enterprise Development Facilities. Our nearly 100,000 square feet of office space, warehouse (for makers) and studios (for artists) support roughly 90 unique businesses. We are mission driven — we help business grow. I still serve several proprietary clients with marketing and sales insights including international conferences and local startups. We have equity holdings in four additional startups as well.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In hindsight, the struggles seem insignificant. Except for isolated health challenges — I had pulmonary embolisms in 2011 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer this summer, which was treated surgically — the challenges that one faces as an entrepreneur are inherent with the calling. One of the great rewards — and there are many — of hanging around with other entrepreneurs is the incredible wealth of positive attitudes and optimism they exude. It’s contagious and simultaneously necessary to weather the rigors of isolation, financial challenges, second-guessing and mental gymnastics that come with starting and owning a business.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about iWerx?
We launched the original iWerx in North Kansas City in 2016 after more than a year of construction — renovating 34,000 square feet of a warehouse originally built in 1937. It was on the heels of 2014’s net business losses nationally. In short, more businesses were closing than starting. That posed challenges for the economy. The iWerx partners — John E. Miller, John F. Miller and myself — believed we could provide infrastructure, amenities and support to buoy new business startups, featuring month-to-month membership agreements and 10-gig of internet connectivity. We liked the dynamic in the economy of a promise of new business births. By April 2017, we operated at full capacity — filling nearly 50 offices, complemented by our cafe, an event pavilion and several shared conference rooms, printers and more. Later that year, we launched a similar concept to support makers we called designWerx. And in 2019, we opened the second iWerx location in Gladstone, MO. In January 2020 we launched The Mercantile (now Artwerx) to support artists with retail and studio space. As founder, of course, I wear every hat — from taking out the trash to managing strategic partnerships and marketing. Like many small business Covid 19 was indiscriminate in its impact on our business.

Most heart-wrenching though was our front-row seat to the toll it had on small businesses in general. Every week during the summer and fall of 2020 we saw our member businesses leave and we knew many wouldn’t be back. Covid did them in, business-wise and in some cases health-wise, too. But we stuck to our marketing, maintained our business offerings and now North Kansas City iWerx is 100 percent occupied with a waitlist and iWerx Gladstone is at 80 percent occupancy. Our designWerx facility is full and Artwerx has undergone a rebranding and is pacing to be full early 2022. We credit our current momentum coming out of Covid to the continued marketing, personal persistence and our customer experience (some of the businesses that left have come back even stronger — the ultimate report card on our service and offerings). We are bullish on our future given the start of more 4.5 million new businesses during covid, a record amount. Ultimately they’ll need workspace outside the home.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
We believe the 4.5 million new businesses started during the last 18 months, largely a byproduct of the work-from-home phenomenon will continue to grow the co-working and business incubating businesses. We anticipate a heightened demand for support for hybrid work — virtual and in person — and that will be incumbent on high-speed broadband (10 gigs and above). That provides iWerx a competitive advantage in that we are the only such facilities offering that kind of support and speed in our local market. We also believe amenities that support the growing number of female entrepreneurs will be in high demand, think daycare and personal nursing stations, among others.

Pricing:

  • Everything we do is month-to-month, no long term leases
  • $190 up to $1,750 monthly
  • $55 office day rates

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All images are owned by iWerx, LLC

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