SHELDON—There are businesses that exist to serve customers, and there are businesses that exist to serve other businesses. Fusion Workspace is the latter and is off to a hot start despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Operating in downtown Sheldon, the company provides office space, conference rooms and individual desks for digital-minded firms in the area.
Owners Chris Nuckols and Mark Trego had kicked the idea around for a co-working space months before purchasing their Third Avenue building late in 2019.
The duo said they wanted to create a spot that’s attractive for firms and professionals who might otherwise leave the region for more upscale urban areas.
“Part of the idea is that, with the internet, you can have a trendy Brooklyn job and northwest Iowa prices, and nobody needs to know the difference,” Nuckols said. “One thing we’re really hoping to do is show people in Sheldon that they don’t have to leave to have great things. They can do it here.”
Nuckols and Trego, who also are brothers-in-law, are from upstate New York and North Dakota, respectively. After marrying sisters from Sheldon, they grew their local roots and wanted to invest in the community.
“We really want this to be a place where the tenants mingle, get together during happy hours, share business ideas back and forth. We’ve really been resistant to all that now because of the distancing,” Nuckols said. “I can’t wait until the physical part of the dream is realized and the community that comes with it can be so much more. I can’t wait until we can sit around, have a beer, shake hands, without worrying about infecting someone.”
Getting any business up and running during the pandemic is daunting, especially one predicating on physical office space. The pair decided it still was the right time to get started when the former Marigolds building went up for sale in October 2019.
“No one knew what to expect COVID,” Trego said. “If you would have told me a year after we bought it that I would be sitting here wearing a mask, I would have laughed in your face. I just didn’t think something like that was possible.”
“As our attorney said, ‘You picked the worst time in the last hundred years to open a business,’ and we opened two,” Nuckols said, referencing the Downtown Grounds coffeehouse, which the team also owns.
Infelicitous timing did not stop the two entrepreneurs, especially with the location and layout being what they envisioned their dream workplace being.
“The building has a pretty neat vibe to it with a good location,” Trego said. “We wanted everything to be downtown. Part of what we’re doing here is trying to keep Sheldon’s downtown more vibrant.”
The team said that they are not trying to fill the space to its capacity until after COVID-19 resides. They said there are seven businesses renting space in the building, and that there is room for three more.
In addition to office space for companies, Fusion also offers a conference room, which Trego said has been used for some small local events and meetings.
The space also allows single workstations. Nuckols said there is an individual who often travels through Sheldon and stops at Fusion. The space offers an oasis of fast internet and comfortable accommodations that are not replicable in a car or hotel room.
The business partners said they hope their efforts can help vitalize and modernize the town they have grown to love.
“My long-term vision would be to see Sheldon be a more livable community, and this business is just one small piece of it,” Nuckols said. “Just see the downtown vibrant; see every store and building full top and bottom; people coming in and out; the streets full — that’s part of what we’d like to do.”
“I would like to see more young people in Sheldon and the surrounding community be able to start their own businesses using the internet — a software business or whatever it is — and then be able to stay here and provide the community with those sorts of opportunities,” Trego said. “I’d like to see that change sooner rather than later.”