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Santa Cruz's Cruzio hosts open house Friday to showcase new businesses
[February 01, 2013]

Santa Cruz's Cruzio hosts open house Friday to showcase new businesses

SANTA CRUZ, Feb 01, 2013 (Santa Cruz Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Designers Michael Bertoni, Emily Cohan and Steven Lienhard used to work at home, but now they cross paths downtown.

All three moved their businesses to Cruzio's co-working space last year. They are among more than 40 small businesses operating at Cruzio, which will host Open House Extravaganza 2.0 from 6-9 p.m. Friday at 877 Cedar St.

Bertoni, 44, who designed the O'Neill wave logo and specializes in branding, design and web, said he likes the so-called "bounce hour" when people gather to bounce ideas off each other.

Cohan, 28, said she loves the energy of being with other professionals. She said it can be lonely running a business by yourself.

Lienhard, 50, who spent years commuting over the hill to Silicon Valley to work as a software developer, said he appreciates the camaraderie.

Of course, it helps that Cruzio offers high-speed Internet.

When Cruzio invested in a fiber-optic network despite a lagging economy, co-founder Peggy Dolgenos hoped the downtown space would be a launching pad for entrepreneurs. The strategy is paying off.

Creative professionals "Employees need the tools of the day," Bertoni said. "Cruzio is that modern version." He has worked in branding for companies such as Fox Racing and Plantronics, experienced layoffs, and reinvented himself by taking web design and video classes at Cabrillo College.

Working for himself at home or a coffeeshop trying to drown out the sounds of nearby conversations, "it was hard to be motivated sometimes," he said, but at Cruzio, "there's politeness and a protocol" and "everyone respects your privacy." He juggles three to five projects at a time, with Plantronics, Crossfit, Covewater Paddle Surf and Gaijin Games current clients. He met the folks with Gaijin Games at the Sentinel Cafe, another small business operating at Cruzio, and he thinks the co-working space could serve as a testing ground for Plantronics headsets.

Critical eyes Cohan, who grew up in Monterey and went to Johns Hopkins University, has been freelancing for five years. After she got an assistant, she found meeting at Starbucks in Scotts Valley was too distracting. She now has two contract workers and a new product called NiftyScreens, digital signage for small businesses starting at $100 a month.

She's particularly proud of the annual report she created for Bamboo Finance, a multibillion-dollar investment firm based in Switzerland specializing in socially conscious companies such as the one bringing solar-powered ATMs to India.

The report was designed to be online but "it was so beautiful, they decided to print it," Cohan said.

In November, she offered a website critique session in Cruzio's classroom, with Lienhard as guest designer, providing five to 10 minutes of comments to a dozen people. Feedback was good so she plans to do it monthly.

Cohan said companies and artists frequently think their content is sufficient when it's not.

"They need to say 'I do photographs' or 'We sell widgets'," she said.

Cross-pollination Lienhard said he likes "working with my peers -- there's a lot of cross-pollination going on." At the website critique, he observed too many sites buried the social media icons, which he believes should be on top at the right. He suggests using a carousel "slider," to automatically rotate images as a way of adding interest to a website, and video because "people just like videos." A project he's excited about is one he completed for Santa Cruz First Friday Art Tour, which enables venues to upload their own information online; the site went live for the February show. Before, the nearly 30 participating venues sent information to the head of the Downtown Association, who then did the job manually. Close to 100 artists have posted their own profiles for a $25 fee, making it easier for venues to research and choose talent.

Other new businesses showcasing their stuff are: MakersFactory, a space for 3-D projects founded by Dave Britton and Chris Yonge; Tech Shift Academy, founded by Bartosz Solowiej, who teaches middle school students programming; Civinomics, founded by Manu Koenig and Robert Singleton, using web and iPad surveys to get public input for better political decision-making; Instant Magazine, founded by Traci Hukill and Eric Johnson; and Totel Communications, led by Sean Brender, who sets up phone systems for local companies.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at IF YOU GO OPEN HOUSE EXTRAVAGANZA 2.0 WHAT: Meet more than 40 new businesses at downtown co-working space with high-speed Internet, music, art, three food trucks.

WHERE: Cruzio, 877 Cedar St., Santa Cruz WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Friday COST: Free.

Details: ___ (c)2013 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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