Looking Back and Moving Forward

From the Founders of Flywheel

We want to dedicate our first communication of the year to a reflection on the past year and anticipation of a much better 2021. We are truly grateful to our members and community partners who rose to the challenge in 2020 and helped us adapt our membership plans and services to support their needs.

Taken pre-COVID

As I worked on this article yesterday (1/5/21), Andrea informed me that we had our first instance of Covid-19 exposure by a member using the space over the weekend, and we immediately went into action communicating the facts to the members and arranging for the space to be electrostatically sanitized. 

It was such a kick in the pants because there were a lot of members in the space yesterday, including our new members from Agile City, and the energy was great in the space – just like you expect the first week of the New Year. We reopened the next day, ready for business and ready for members to kick it up a notch

We all hate these disruptions and the extra load the pandemic has placed on both our personal and working lives. On the positive side, it has forced us to be extremely adaptable and flexible. I can’t thank the Flywheel staff enough for being creative, caring, and productive. 

Credit goes to them and our members for 10 months of operation without incident, and their preparedness when we did have an instance. If you were inconvenienced yesterday send me a note, and I’ll make a donation in your name to our SOS Fund to help one of our struggling restaurants or retailers.

Hybrid Worklife

We are bullish on 2021 as we continue to expand our network of coworking innovation centers. The Cabarrus Center in Concord, NC will be opening next month. Greenworks in Lexington, NC has been approved and is moving into design. The Poinsette Innovation District powered by Flywheel and Furman University is a multi-phase project in Greenville, SC, and is now preloaded with ecosystem partners. We will be moving into design and construction in 2021.

So why are we bullish? The pandemic will have a lasting impact that makes Flywheel locations a preferred workplace solution. Remote work and work-from-home have been enabled almost universally among white-collar workers and their productivity has increased for the first time in two decades. 

Over 60% of workers that can work from home now say they prefer combining work-from-home with going to the office. And the very nature of the office has changed to a place where you can get focused work done, where you can enjoy community, and where you experience the culture.  Sound familiar? That’s exactly what Flywheel delivers every day – a professional environment filled with a purpose-driven member community.

The Great Reflection

Back in March of 2020, the Flywheel team had a great conversational thread about what was coming and how we should plan to support our members through the pending disruption. 

Living through nine prior recessions and most recently the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009, after which Flywheel was founded in 2014, we know that these disruptions are part of the business lifecycle.

But we could tell this was going to be far different than the past because of its root cause as a health crisis and societal crisis, precipitating the greatest economic disruption of our lifetimes. 

Not to make light of the pain experienced in varying degrees by all of us, we coined the moniker the “Great Reflection”, because 2020 was like looking in the mirror and having to reevaluate all of our assumptions, both personal and professional, in the context of the pandemic. 

We’d like to share with you some of our learnings and accomplishments as we close the books on 2020 and get into 2021 with full steam.

Looking Back Over 2020

No question that 2020 forced us to reimagine our value propositions up and down to members, and that the key to our success is our dedicated team, with recent great additions of Danielle Kuhn as Community Manager of the Cabarrus Center, Christy Bellis as Community Coordinator of the Winston location, with the leadership of Andrea Howell as our Director of Communities and Adrian Smith as Director of the Flywheel Foundation, and lastly a wonderful marketing team composed of Flywheel members Kristie Staton, Kristen Daukas, and Keyla Ferretiz. Here are some of last year’s accomplishments:

  • Managed the space through Covid-19 
  • Converted our operating system to Office RnD to support the multi-location expansion
  • Pivoted to enhanced member-centric support through plans and services
  • Created a virtual events platform
  • Announced the Cabarrus Center- location #3 Under Construction – opening January 2021
  • Landed major corporate sponsorship with Truist – announcement coming soon
  • Landed major grants from the Cannon Foundation supporting the Cabarrus Center – announcements coming soon
  • The Flywheel Foundation jumped to a leadership role in the ecosystem with a new focus and board of directors
  • The Foundation created the SOS fund to help main street small business get through Covid-19
  • We launched the Evolve series for growth companies on flywheel courses
  • Continued to grow the flywheel courses with hosted content on cybersecurity and the Nordic Amplify program
  • Launched Pitch-Space.com and got traction with MVP – three live events
  • Delivered year #5 of New Ventures with the 2020 cohort including Tokyn, Xpand Gaming, WinningWise, DriveKey and UWallet
  • Produced a 2-day virtual Demo Day event with over 290 attendees and national program partners

 

Looking Forward to 2021

  • Agile City and the Flywheel Foundation will be moving into 500 West 5th, getting more visibility, and launching Venture Winston in 2021 
  • We will cut the ribbon on Concord, NC and start construction in Lexington, NC and Greenville, SC
  • Coming out of our year-end Town Hall, we will be launching a member services platform that mashes up skill-share, gig network, and enterprise-level purchasing power for members.
  • Our innovation centers will benefit by supporting the new norm of hybrid work styles (WFH+Cowork)
  • Our expertise in running digital events will evolve into a hybrid event delivery combining engaging digital with in-person. 
  • New Ventures will expand into a multi-accelerator program (1. Health, Wellness, Nutrition; 2. AgTech; 3. BIPOC Startups supported by our Learning Management System (LMS)
  • We will be raising inception stage investment funds across our location footprints
  • We will be launching a blog and podcast series with stories about our member’s entrepreneurial journey and lessons from ecosystem leaders and venture investors
  • Our LMS will expand to support affiliates across our footprint
  • We will be partnering with Provident 1898 on the Acquire program for minority entrepreneurs

Two Tigers

We’d like to close with a Zen story that I think is perfect for capturing the resiliency we found in 2020 and is also a great inspiration for the entrepreneurial journey. May you find your strawberries in 2021!

 You are traveling across a field and encounter a tiger. You flee, the tiger after you. Coming to a precipice, you catch hold of the root of a wild vine and swing yourself down over the edge. The tiger sniffs at you from above. Trembling, you look down to where, far below, another tiger is waiting to eat you. Only the vine sustains you. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little start to gnaw away at the vine. You see a luscious strawberry near you. Grasping the vine with one hand, you pluck the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tastes!

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