Saturday, May 4, 2024
Jason Widen

Blue Co.'s Launch: Navigating New Beginnings and Shared Space

It was about a year ago that I stepped away from Founded Communities and started a new chapter in my professional life with the founding of Blue Co. 

I couldn’t be more excited and confident about Blue Co’s potential, but this didn’t come without some trepidation. This past year I’ve experienced a variety of emotions from excitement to fear. As a serial entrepreneur and perennial optimist it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to start something new, much less to get back in the trenches and “push the broom” as I am doing now. At the same time, it’s incredibly fulfilling. While I’m not one to spend much time on social media, a few of my friends and colleagues thought it might be interesting to share tidbits of my startup experiences along the way. So here we go…

The Idea

Every good business starts with an idea, but an idea is only as good as the solution to the problem you’re looking to solve. This is basic, I know, but I often forget that just because I think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean there’s a market for it. I spent a few years contemplating what’s next in shared space and how I can leverage my knowledge, networks, and know-how to deliver a meaningful community impact. Through this discovery process, I landed on the adjacent but under-served market of service-based co-warehousing. Shared spaces have been a valuable tool for high growth tech startups, offering flexible lease terms, business resources and collaborative communities. Yet few similar resources exist for service-based industries. Enter our new company - Blue Co!

Blue Co. provides flexible and cost-effective warehousing solutions to service-based workers, tradespeople, small business owners, e-commerce companies, and food and beverage entrepreneurs. These solutions are complemented by shared workspaces, commercial vehicle parking, and tailored resources to meet their specific requirements. By removing barriers to growth, our mission is to empower service-based entrepreneurs to build wealth for their families and communities. This was the foundation of the initial idea that I set out to test.   


The initial validation came from a group of students in the Entrepreneurial Clinic within the  Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. I worked with them to conduct a series of customer discovery surveys and interviews which proved to be extremely valuable in helping me to validate the concept.


I still remember my college professor writing "CASH IS KING" in bold letters on the chalkboard and leaving the classroom. This lesson has stayed with me for the past 30 years. Bootstrapping had worked for me in the past, but I wanted to take a different approach with Blue Co. I wanted to raise funds to support high-scale growth. My first step in fundraising was building a strong group of advisors with successful entrepreneurial and business operating experience to lend their advice, expertise, and credibility. I finalized our initial round of fundraising in early 2023 and launched our first location in July, with plans to open our second location spring 2024. Following this, our expansion plans encompass North Carolina and the Southeastern United States.

The Pilot

Up to pilot stage, I hadn't risked much except for some time, a minimal amount of money, and maybe a bit of a reputation hit if I decided not to move forward. Talking about starting something new was fun and idealistic. But when I announced to the public that I was actually doing what I had been talking about, it became real. There's a lot of fear of failure when you're leaving a stable situation to embark on something you're not 100% confident will work. Then there's the financial risk and how your decisions might affect your family. It was a scary moment for me, and I had a few sleepless nights. Once you jump, there's not much time to worry about what might happen; it's time to get to work.

Having experience as an entrepreneur and business owner, I know what to expect. I also know that I don't know everything and that I'm going to need help along the way. Surrounding myself with a solid team and trusted advisors has proven to be extremely beneficial. My advisory board consists of a diverse group of successful business owners and industry professionals, giving me a wide array of intellectual capital to draw from.

I opened our first building in July 2023 and will open our second building this Spring. We are making good progress towards meeting our revenue targets and expect to have proof of concept by this Summer. 

Although it has been an exciting journey, I have also faced some challenges. I have found that setting clear goals and breaking them down into quarterly objectives is crucial to our success so far. It's also important to expect that not everything will go according to plan. In these early stages of our business, we believe that it's important to keep things simple and stay focused on building a quality product, generating leads, making sales, and providing excellent service while prioritizing revenue generation. We understand the importance of recognizing the stage of the business cycle and avoiding premature growth or unnecessary initiatives. It's the small wins and incremental progress that keep us going and motivated. 

Future Growth and Staying Connected

We plan to open a third location later this year and continue our expansion in North Carolina and the Southeast. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing more about my entrepreneurial journey.