5 Questions With

5 Questions with Michael Adams

Sam Bender
Aug 27, 2020
5 Questions with Michael Adams

Michael Adams studied Geography at Kansas State University and International Business with Columbia International University. Business and entrepreneurial startups was further pursued through participation in The StartUp Intensive program cosponsored by Silicon Couloir and Central Wyoming College with a business plan premise based on recycling plastic waste in developing countries.

That relationship introduced Michael to SparkJH, the coworking lab that would eventually become The Cowork Space. Opportunity lead to part-time hosting and eventually to directing the space while still pursuing aspects of the plastic recycling ideation. While the recycling program itself is yet to fledge, certifications in ski and snowboard instructing is a fulfilling winter job balanced with directing The Cowork Space.

A business plan is an important component of engaging in new enterprise or creating gainful income for oneself and Michael gives his experience to young men and women in developing countries who have inclinations to become self-employed. He works with the entrepreneurial students through emails, texts, and Messenger video chats to help frame the ideas into western business formats so that they might solicit loans or other forms of startup support from investors. Empathy for the hardships of growing up in poverty is a driving factor and the poverty itself is a major mountain for these individuals to overcome in conceptualizing and writing into plans their business dreams.

It was so great to meet you on one of our Cobot spaces calls the other week! Can you tell us a little bit about Silicon Couloir and about Jackson, Wyoming?

Silicon Couloir is the non-profit parent company of The Cowork Space. The two evolved and came into fruition separately answering specific needs within the entrepreneurial and technical communities.

Silicon Couloir was formed to help entrepreneurs and startups incubate their ideas into viable companies through a mentoring program and an educational program called Start Up Intensive. During this current COVID pandemic, Silicon Couloir also pivoted to offer resources and guidance through its website and mentors to help businesses with a range of questions stemming from the impacts caused by the economic dislocation of the pandemic.

The Cowork Space was started by three individuals who saw a need for a space serving the remote worker and small enterprise with limited budgets for office space. The benefits of the coworking atmosphere were rapidly spreading through major cities around the world, and the need for such a space was as relevant to Jackson, Wyoming, as it was to San Francisco, Chicago, NYC, or even LA. A relationship between what was then known as SparkJH and Silicon Couloir came about quickly, with Silicon Couloir eventually purchasing and rebranding the collaborative remote workspace as The Cowork Space.

Wyoming is the least populated state in the United States, where cows outnumber people exponentially. Jackson, or Jackson Hole as the valley is known, is a resort town with a great deal of history and is an access point to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Once a cow town, and usually a remarkably busy center of access to a vast amount of outdoor recreation, it is also quietly a hub for technology and innovation. Several outdoor manufacturers have had their startup here or developed major improvements in product line in the Teton mountain range or on the Snake River. Nowadays, as lifestyle becomes as important as employment, tech industry individuals work remotely from Jackson while fulfilling their daily yearn for time in the mountains or on the river with hikes, fly fishing, kayaking and river sports, mountain biking, and other active outdoor sports right outside the front door. There is a large sub-group of mountain athletes who train here for major events around the globe. We believe The Cowork Space helps diversify the local economy as well as create lifestyle opportunities for engaged tech industry individuals.

I saw that your space offers extensive programs to support entrepreneurship. Can share any success stories from these program?

Silicon Couloir, through its Start Up Intensive, TEAMS mentoring program, Chance Meetings networking events, Angel Funding Group and Pitch Day (“Like that Shark Show, Teton Style”), has contributed to the success of many startup enterprises, a few of which I’ve mentioned below.

POWWATER is an organization that uses profits from the sales of promotional items to subsidize and support ongoing water resource projects in several developing countries. These projects not only bring potable water to communities in need, but the investment often spurs sustainable business models to manage maintenance of the water facility and brings about social amelioration through gender equity opportunities and quality of life enhancement. POWWATER won the Bob Arndt Community Caretaker award at the 2019 Pitch Day. See their story at POWWATER.COM.

Give’r is the story of success from the Start Up Intensive program. The educational format of Start Up Intensive is to bottle an MBA-like education into a ten-week structured program that culminates with its own pitch day in front of a judging committee (mentors who give feedback) and community members who simply cheer participants on. Give’r’s Bubba Albrecht pursued the idea of a better glove for winter and rough work as his business premise and application for joining Start Up Intensive. Since then he has grown his line of clothing and accessories to include technical sportswear and comfy lodge pieces as well.

Momentous is a sports nutrition company born here in Jackson Hole in pursuit of the athletic lifestyle. In bringing their product to market, Livemomentous participated in The Silicon Couloir StartUp Intensive, the TEAMS program and won Pitch Day 2017. Their business growth and product line has accelerated in their marketplace as they define best practices in product and market development.

How has the pandemic affected Jackson and your space?

The onset of the pandemic was definitely a period of uncertainty and trepidation. We rapidly put together a response guide with protocols and procedures for deep sanitization of the space, and personal requirements for membership entry such as use of the hand sanitizing station and follow-up wipe down of occupied spaces and phone booth with a sanitizer. We stayed open by requesting a variance through our local health department based on membership needs for our high bandwidth that is not available within the average residential setting. Many patrons did follow shelter-in-place protocols and only visited our Cowork space when specifically in need of our infrastructural resources. We realized a significant dip in cashflow for the first three months of the pandemic.

Jackson, as a resort community/mountain town, with a multitude of second home(s) ownership became a go-to place to escape urban environments and those localized COVID environs. It made much of the town remarkably busy with record-breaking business, but it also induced similar spikes in local COVID infections akin to what big cities were experiencing. With much effort to mitigate these impacts and juggle the need for revenue and health safety, the Cowork Space was able to return to its previous revenue levels, and in fact, this summer demand has exceeded that of previous years. Planning and execution of next steps to heighten the wellbeing of staff and patrons was and is the highest ongoing priority.

What are your goals over the upcoming months?

Many of our particular members have a heightened need for micro-office space. They need to have the fullness of their workstation in front of them while engaging in their daily business calls. We offer a small number of private offices within our original space, but there is a constant demand for more. I am currently endeavoring to create an acquisition schedule that will include the remodeling costs and long-term efficacy that such added space can provide.

Information specific to The Cowork Space can be found here. The footer bar of the Silicon Couloir website has an abundance of resources. For instance, For Entrepreneurs covers insights into our Angel Group, Business Crisis Coaching, Chance Meetings, The Cowork Space, Pitch Day and Start-Up Intensive. For Entrepreneur Supporters details how leaders can become involved in supporting our many ongoing endeavors to grow the entrepreneur community such as becoming an Angel member or Trustee.


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Happy Coworking!

Sam Bender

Senior Communications Specialist at Cobot and all-around connoisseur of useless trivia, reading on airplanes, sleeping in late - and working from interesting places!