Trail Guides for Start-Ups

November 3, 2015

Trailhead provides a community clubhouse for entrepreneurs

By Liza Long, photography by Mark Dyrud

Jeff Reynolds is a self-described start up guy. A serial entrepreneur with a proven background in marketing and advertising, the new Director of Engagement at Trailhead on 8th Street in BoDo is exactly the kind of person the organization was created to serve.

“We want to improve the culture of entrepreneurship in Boise,” Reynolds told me when we sat in a meeting area in Trailhead’s open, inviting office space. “Entrepreneurs and freelancers can connect here.”

All around us on a Tuesday afternoon, people worked on laptops, sketched ideas on whiteboards, or sipped cold brew coffee, the fuel of ingenuity, at the centrally located coffee bar. “There’s also beer in the fridge,” Reynolds confided, mentioning that other liquid known to promote inspiration.

Trailhead was the brainchild of four successful local entrepreneurs: Jason Crawforth, Faisal Shah, Karen Myers, and John Hale. Their goal was to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit incubator where start-ups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and Trailhead--0024remote workers could share workspace, ideas, and resources right in the heart of Boise. Members pay nominal monthly fees for unlimited access to Trailhead’s BoDo flexible space, which also includes use of a projector for client presentations, lockers, an 8th Street mailing address, and the aforementioned coffee. Current members include non-profit directors, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, programmers, even a fish fertilizer business owner.

As Reynolds and I discussed the critical need for collaborative small business incubators, Boise’s Mayor Dave Bieter joined our conversation. When I asked the mayor why Trailhead is so important to our community, he gestured proudly and said, “This is the piece that has been missing for Boise. There’s a huge need to support entrepreneurship and small business creation, even for existing businesses. We had to find a way to get behind this, and we made it happen.”

With local support from the City of Boise, Capital City Development Corporation, Micron, and Albertsons, Trailhead is also a member of the global Startup Federation. Boise members are connected with other entrepreneurs worldwide and can enjoy similar creative spaces in cities from New York to San Francisco to Amman, Jordan. Trailhead plans to expand its hours beyond the traditional 8-5 workday and will continue to offer its popular free and low-cost workshops to provide tools, education, and resources to its members. “People have an idea but don’t know where to start. Trailhead is that starting point,” Reynolds explained.

Trailhead’s Executive Director Raino Zoller brings angel investor experience as well as passion to the organization. “Entrepreneurship is a vital ingredient of a vibrant community, and Trailhead is a great opportunity for me to contribute to making Boise a great place to live and work,” he told me. “Trailhead provides a place for people where people gain access to mentors and capital providers who can help navigate the road to success.”

Reynolds notes that the support for Trailhead should pay off for Boise. “We measure our success on our members’ success,” he said. “Every successful new business is a win for Boise, in tax revenue, growth, and jobs.” Besides, he notes, the organization demonstrates the community’s commitment to entrepreneurship. “If you were an artist, and there was no Esther Simplot Center or Boise Contemporary Theater, you would have to wonder if this was a community that cares about the arts,” he said. “With Trailhead, it’s clear that this community cares about start-ups.”

For more information about Trailhead’s mission and memberships, visit www.trailheadboise.org