Turning Culture into Coworking:

How Jenny Poon’s family prepared her to be a Face of Coworking

“What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.” -Jason Fried

Founder of CO+HOOTS and the CO+HOOTS Foundation, creator of eeko studio, mother, and wife, Jenny Poon is a great example of someone who was once a concern to her parents for her silence, and then proved her appreciation of her parents hardships through her actions. As a first-generation American myself, Jenny Poons’ words reminded me of why my parents crossed the Mexican-American border in ’76 despite the risks it posed.

“It’s a crazy story,” Jenny began as I asked what it was about her personality that led her to the world of coworking. “They’ve experienced war and have had to escape the country and didn’t know where they were going to go; they just jumped on a boat and hoped that someone would save them. With that, I grew up in a family that didn’t really have any opportunities, so they fused any opportunities that came their way. That has always been something that we talked about and has been ingrained in me. That concept of never giving up has always been a part of our family.

Our fears are constantly eating away at our opportunities and this is something that Jenny recognizes too well. Jenny grew up hearing that her parents courageously “jumped on a boat” without knowing what was ahead for a better future. Similarly, early in Jenny’s career she realized that her work environment was no longer working for her. She made a bold decision and jumped on her own boat that would challenge her introverted nature.

Jenny Poon worked for a publishing company as a graphic designer. Like many who gravitate toward the coworking environment, she was not satisfied with the corporate structure. So Jenny left her job, started her own company, and began working from home. Soon, she realized she missed having people to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of. This got Jenny thinking: “What if I could have that’ what if I could build that? What if I could build a space where other people who are incredibly creative would surround me and [I] could grow my business while having that support structure?”

“So I started looking for the creative types that were creating their own companies. Found a few people who seemed receptive to the idea and then from there it kinda took off,” Jenny continues. “I didn’t know what coworking was at that time. I was just looking for a space where I could be inspired without breaking the bank.”

Because Jenny’s work ethic is grand and, as she says, “only needs a little wind” to gain a lot of momentum, she actually made it sound simple to start your own meaningful business (although, we all know it most definitely is not!).

Jenny then explained that her initial group had to be cost conscious because this was all done during the middle of the recession. Once Jenny found the perfect space, they “launched it on a whim.” From the beginning, “it just went bonkers… I didn’t realize at the time, [but] the recession really created entrepreneurs. People who lost their jobs had no other choice but to become entrepreneurs. That really propelled this entire change in workforce that I hadn’t even thought about,” Jenny explained. Although Jenny was looking for a solution to her dilemma, she found that many were in the same boat.

“If I were to look back, I don’t know if I would be able to do it again,” Jenny admitted. “There was a beauty of being new to the concept. Follow what the need is, follow where the community is going. If people are frustrated with something, make sure we are solving the issues.” Jenny not only met the needs of the initial group of people with whom she grew her business, she outgrew two spaces and extended a non-profit branch (CO+HOOTS Foundation) as well to meet even more needs.

Each time Jenny fused a new opportunity, she grew and came closer to yet another hurdle. Jenny saw needs and was good at meeting them. This brought her to a point where despite being inherently introverted, she was comfortable around the amount of people it takes to run a coworking space. She created her ideal environment and this did not come easy. Throughout the years, Jenny went from constantly fearing “not being good enough” to “building a lot of confidence.” Jenny said her approach to everything when looking back is that: “It never really is the end. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s never the end of [the] story. I think back to my parents who were on a boat in the middle of the ocean and running out of food, and probably thinking this is the end––and then a miracle happens. I hate to believe in just miracles because I feel like it is a lot of hard work.”

Jenny’s advice is to not “give up before the magic happens; every problem you run into is the same, if you can learn from it, you can move on!” As I heard those words, I realized that passion and hard work go hand in hand for successful endeavors. If you are moved by something, then you simply have to go for it. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Too often, we give up right before the magic happens and miss out on the fruit of our labor. Jenny on the other hand loves challenges and demands a high level of excellence in everything she does. Jenny expressed, “I am wired [to] jump into action. Entrepreneurs are usually quick starters…don’t ask what if for too long. I think what [people] forget to think about is what if it does work, what if it is successful?” 

Jenny is driven by the success of others and by little winds from her supporters and herself. Jenny also understands that people put a lot on the line to do what they are doing.

“If you make it past the next three years, the problem is no longer your business, it’s how to be more efficient.” -Jenny Poon

Because Jenny is willing to put in the work, she also risks putting her time into the wrong hands. Remember: coworking is meant to be a supportive and productive community. But sometimes “your trust and your energy [go] in the wrong people,” says Jenny. Not everyone reciprocates, and this is what Jenny finds most difficult. For those who do work as hard, or maybe even harder, CO+HOOTS has a bell wall and champagne for that emergency celebration!

It is no longer extremes that drive people to jump on the “coworking/entrepreneurial boat,” but community and support that attracts quick starters. They will be the ones to take advantage of the endless ways to fuse opportunities in the coworking world. Networking, as Jenny puts it, will be less about shaking hands and exchanging cards and more about working hard and being noticed. This is the perk of coworking, many career paths under one roof is the recipe for networking done right. Just like Jenny’s parents as they were making their way to the United States on an unpredictable boat, for some reason, they knew that people are good; and that although the risk was high, they were willing to put in the effort to continue their story. 

COSHARE is featuring Faces of Coworking, a platform to highlight the extraordinary people opening people centric shared work spaces, particularly coworking. On a monthly basis, Faces of Coworking targets those opening a variety of shared work spaces in order to gain perspective on the qualities and progress of whom our shared space community is made. The people opening up coworking spaces are forward-thinking individuals and they deserve acknowledgement. The Faces of Coworking is where this acknowledgment begins.

Share This