GCU senior drives west Phoenix small business ‘accelerator’
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
The office is the engine. But Sam Macias is the “spark plug” that keeps the motor running.
At least, that’s one nickname for the Grand Canyon University student driving a new collaborative business workspace at a 10,000-sqaure-foot commercial building in west Phoenix, just a few miles south of campus.
Macias, a 36-year-old business management senior in GCU’s Ken Blanchard College of Business, is helping to launch Jumpstart — a small business “accelerator” based at a site that served for years as a juvenile corrections office.
As he pushes toward his spring graduation from GCU, he is hustling to convert the empty space into shared meeting areas, rented private offices, and other rooms that could someday host business-development classes or community co-ops to push the revitalization of west Phoenix.
Co-working spaces have become a trend elsewhere in the Valley and in other U.S. metro areas. The idea with the accelerator co-working model is to create an affordable, collaborative headquarters for small businesses to work around merchants, artists and entrepreneurs who they can either learn from or tap for resources. For example, a small business owner with zero web or cloud skills might find advice at the desk next to them — or via a class offered through the co-op.
“You’re immediately able to access that pool of like-minded people to accelerate your idea,” Macias said about Jumpstart’s atmosphere. “You have those serendipitous ‘aha moments’ all the time.”
Such environments typically appeal to sole-proprietor businesses or people who would rather network at a shared workspace than log into their computers from a busy coffee shop every day, or isolate themselves at home. Others simply cannot afford to manage a traditional office or storefront.
Macias said the focus with Jumpstart will also be on stimulating economic development in west Phoenix, in neighborhoods near GCU. The new space is located southwest of Thomas Road and 35th Avenue. Jumpstart’s monthly rates range from $55 to $275 per month, but utilities and Internet access are included.
“It really comes down to creating that network, that alliance,” said Macias, the son of a pastor who actively volunteers through many of the same community programs that GCU students have participated in for years.
“It’s about bringing businesses to the table to talk about their vision,” he said.
So far, small businesses like west Phoenix-based landscapers, dance studios and design consultants have expressed interest in Jumpstart. Macias said he is continuously reaching out to community leaders and entrepreneurs to let them know about the new facility.
“This is exactly what he wanted to do,” said Faith Weese, GCU’s chief university relations officer. “He wanted to be in a situation like this or a business alliance like this. He’s so good bringing people together … honestly this will be amazing for the west side.”
Weese got to know Macias through the years through Canyon Corridor Neighborhood Alliance and other community outreach efforts through GCU’s Office of Spiritual Life. She said community stakeholders and business owners could stand to benefit from having a co-working space near Canyon Corridor to “rub shoulders” and brainstorm.
But Weese added that Macias is also the right person for the job. After living in west Phoenix as a kid, Macias worked for a bank and Christian organizations before deciding to finish his bachelor’s degree at GCU in order to pair his love of Christ with his passion for business networking.
“Sam loves people,” Weese said. “There’s a caring about him, a love for the Lord … there’s a special spirit in his heart. He’s never met a stranger. He would help anybody and everybody.”
Reach Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or [email protected].