VIProfile: theCO

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, the Southern Lifestyles Lady.
Photography courtesy of Aaron Hardin & theCO.

The following is an excerpt of an article in the September issue of VIP Jackson.

Ben Ferguson is co-founder and CEO of theCO and is passionate about educating our youth for success while creating a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs in West Tennessee.

VIP: When was theCO established and by whom?
Ben Ferguson: The co-founders of theCO are Ben Harris and me along with Drew Ermenc, Barrett Gay, and Lisa Garner, our Director of Operations. We opened the doors to theCO on July 24, 2014.

VIP: How do you describe theCO?
BF: It is a co-working makerspace where people can learn something new, create something new, or make something new. Ultimately it is a community of talented and creative people who provide a front door for entrepreneurism in West Tennessee.

VIP: Tell me about memberships to theCO.
BF: Memberships are $75 per month or you may get a day pass. You may also be a resident co-worker for $300 where you have your own desk and you set up your business inside theCO. It’s your place to work. The real difference is their equipment stays there. It’s their seat. It’s their desk. The other is basically coffee shop style. With a day pass you sit where there is an open seat and use equipment that is open. All meeting space is for the community as well. theCO has two conference rooms—a makerspace and event space.

VIP: What are some of the benefits of membership at theCO?
BF: You get your own desk, high-speed internet, space and people or contacts to collaborate with; conference room space free for four hours a month; and co-working spaces. Being part of a community that will push you and challenge you to anything that potentially will introduce you to things that might help your business. (There are several people at theCO who help a person design websites.)

VIP: What’s next on the drawing board for theCO?
BF: If I look at the immediate drawing board, there are two high priorities: the Co-Mobile, which we will take out to our region. (It’s very hard to take a lot of things to these rural areas currently.) We have not found people like Murray Guard willing to donate the space or equipment of theCO in every county. There is not enough capacity to really need the space or equipment in every county. But we want to expose the students and constituents of those communities to the things that we do in a cost effective format.

Code for America: It takes people and asks them, whether they’re talented programmers, designers or developers, to commit some of their time to a project. What we’re trying to do is leverage some of our partners with Silicon Valley and partners we’ve got in our local communities through Chambers, cities, counties, the larger employers— to try to work together for things that will make our community even better than it already is.

That could be everything from designing apps and helping our cities and counties or non-profits with applications or technology that can make the services they deliver better or more impactful in the regions that they serve. There are a lot of opportunities there. What we want to do is build a center of innovation that really focuses on quality of life for West Tennessee.

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