The Grove

The Wednesday Wine Down

Every Wednesday afternoon, The Grove becomes a place of refuge for its members, offering an informal, relaxed setting for fellow grovers to kick back and enjoy each other’s company over some wine. One late May afternoon, grovers came together in hopes of getting their minds off of work and lift the burden of responsibilities. With the help of Cultural director, Christina Kane, over the course of a few social games to break the ice, the group started to ease into comfortable conversation.

Everyone began talking about what brought them to New Haven, which consequently educed grovers to discuss about past jobs, former ambitions, and what’s led them to The Grove.
Meet Marc Audet — he is a computer programmer for a new innovative system that’s been developed to evaluate school teachers on a more objective basis. Marc emphasized the fact that this new program is much more positive and beneficial compared to the traditional evaluation systems used in most public schools. “Teachers that get poorly evaluated on certain skills, like engaging the class, are sent to complete certain modules online.” Essentially, it allows teachers an opportunity to improve their skills, rather than formerly having punishment as a reinforcer. Jesse Raccio, a fellow grover, shared with Audet his unfortunate experience of being evaluated during his first year as a music teacher. He claimed that traditionally teachers are assessed by administrators with no expertise in the subject being taught, which can lead to an unjust evaluation and an overall ineffective system. Together, Audet and Raccio discussed the nature of this new program and the potential it has to offer. Although Audet works more behind the scenes, programming, he agrees that the content of the program itself is more fair in its evaluations. As a music educator, Jesse commended Marc for his work and conveyed a certain appreciation.
Also, within the midst of discussing different projects, a few grovers discovered that they’ve all spent some time in Oxford, England. John Nixon, who works on the Board of Directors for team MakeHaven, mentioned he studied a year at Oxford University for engineering. Jesse Raccio and Marc Audet both chimed in that they had lived in Oxford for some time, as well. Together, they reminisced on their favorite pubs and restaurants in that area, as well as the type of work they did there. Audet reflected on the aspects of European culture he thought were especially different from America, saying, “People have a special respect for reserving tradition in the UK — living under a queen and their structure of government was something I had to get used to.” They went back and forth over some time about their experiences and bonded over their shared interests.
Matthew Masterson, a newbie to The Grove community joined in to share his backstory, as well. Originally from Kansas City, Matthew moved to New Haven with his wife and four daughters in need of a space to get his work done. “I looked on the website and I wasn’t really sure of what this place was about — like I don’t need to co-work,” he said using air quotes, “I just want space to do my thing.” Everyone at the table broke into laughter — they agreed that from just looking at the website, they hadn’t understood what the The Grove entailed either. Matthew spends his days here doing necessary paperwork for the company he works for, Deloitte & Touche Consulting. He adds that with a family as big as his, it’s been a blessing to find a place like The Grove to work.


Although grovers vary greatly in whatever profession they pursue, it’s easy to find similar difficulties and aspirations as independent workers. As stories are exchanged, people come to realize that through their individual journeys, they find common ground.

As admirable as it may be to work independently, it can be isolating. Take advantage of the community in which you surround yourself with and meet new people. Whether you’re running a small business, selling your artwork, or keeping up a blog, know that everyone needs encouragement to get through each week.
Join us for Wine Down every Wednesday at 4:30 pm, we’ll see you there!

Sweet Success

 

John Fitzpatrick Co-Founder and CEO of Applivate

John Fitzpatrick Co-Founder and CEO of Applivate

When John Fitzpatrick got up to give his 60-second pitch at the November 2011 Startup Weekend at The Grove’s former Orange Street location, he had never given a business pitch before. He also didn’t have a clear idea of the product he was pitching.

What he did have was a background in biology and an intimate knowledge of the constant tracking people with Type 1 diabetes must do. He knew that for people with Type 1 diabetes, keeping track of their blood sugar levels is vital, sometimes onerous, and levels that are too high or low can literally be fatal. “My wife has diabetes and we sit down to dinner every night and she would measure her blood sugar,” John told me. The readings determine the correct dose of insulin to administer. The dose is then stored in the insulin pump. “That’s data stored in these devices. The idea is, we needed to get this data off these devices and into the cloud where we can use it to help people manage their diabetes.”

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Life After The Grove

Ever stay awake wondering if there’s life after the Grove, and if so, what it holds? Well, if Raj Jalan,  co-Founder and CEO of Device 42, Inc. http://device42.com, is to be believed, the answer is ‘yes, there is life after The Grove. And it holds growth, success and even a few challenges.’

Grovers who have been around for a while may remember Device 42 from the early days when The Grove was at 71 Orange Street, or from the days when Device 42 occupied the entire third floor of the expansion wing at the Grove’s current location on Chapel Street.20160202_113639In November 2015, Device 42 moved to its new location at 600 Saw Mill Road, West Haven, having outgrown their space at The Grove. Their new offices are spacious, bright with ample onsite parking, and located only a half mile from the exit off I-95. The new space allows for an increased staff and has several quiet conference rooms, for customer demos and conference calls.

Jalan founded Device 42 in 2010 and ran it from his home till the company took off to the point where Jalan needed space for employees and to meet with customers. Realizing it was no longer feasible to run the business from home, he looked into The
Grove. “The main benefit [of The Grove] was collaboration,” Jalan said. “So many helpful people around, full of energy more – than in the usual office.”
Device 42’s product, an IT infrastructure management tool that allows companies to identify, visualize, and manage devices (physical, virtual, or cloud), networks components, software, and passwords, was already developed by the time it took up residence at The Grove. The product allows a company, using Device42 browser interface, to visualize their infrastructure, understand network interdependencies, improve network security, and mitigate the impacts of planned and unplanned IT network changes.20160202_113748

Having spent years working as a consultant to various IT companies, Jalan had first-hand knowledge of the need for such a product and, with his background, he was able to design and develop it. His experience working with companies that needed the product meant he could also market the product efficiently. In fact, Jalan told me, Device 42 was in the enviable position of being profitable from day one.
Given those advantages, Jalan was not looking to collaborate with other Grovers on product design or development, but, transitioning from a solo, service-based business consultant, to entrepreneur of a product-based business with employees, presented new challenges. It was this area, what he refers to as “mind expansion” where Jalan found the creative energy at The Grove most helpful. He mentioned another Grover, John Fitzpatrick, founder of Applivate LLC ( http://shugtrak.com), as being particularly helpful by introducing him to The Founders Lunch group, an informal group of startup entrepreneurs who meet regularly for lunch and discuss various challenges they’re facing.

Asked what was the biggest challenge he faced on a daily basis as the founder of a startup, Jalan didn’t hesitate:  “What to do first. You have one hundred things to do; what are the five most important?” Jalan noted that this is an area where too many startup entrepreneurs get trapped. Having run his own consulting business before Device 42, Jalan knew how to handle various administrative details such as bookkeeping, but once the company got to a certain size, doing those things himself was no longer feasible. “I’ve seen startups where they won’t spend the money to hire a resource that can do the work in two hours that it would take you ten hours to do. I was at that point at some stage, I suppose,” he admitted. “But you can only do five or ten things a day. Which five or ten?” Another constant challenge, not just for Device 42, but for any business, is finding, hiring and keeping the right people. “Our most successful hires are from networking,” Jalan told me. “Networking is absolutely necessary for everyone at every stage.”

Other advice Jalan had for entrepreneurs included being sure to keep good records and not to get discouraged when things get hard. “I think it’s all about persistence. Just keep going.” Given that Device 42 now has clients in 29 countries and is actively growing its employee base, it sounds like this is a man who knows what he’s talking about.

The Happiness Lab: Measuring out Happiness One Cup at a Time

Happy life cafeThey say you can’t buy happiness, but Onyeka (Ony) Obiocha and Vishal Patel are out to prove that old adage wrong. Ony and Vishal are co-founders of The Happiness Lab, well known to Grovers as ‘the place downstairs’, and billed as ‘the first coffee house in the world dedicated to happiness.’ I admit, the warm, rich sensuousness of a deep, strong latte in the morning is enough to convince me that true happiness can be found in a coffee cup, but that’s a small part of what this duo means by happiness.

Happiness here is a larger concept, where the good you do in the world comes back to nourish you. It has to do with ideas of ethical business practices; a relationship to the world that is echoed in the natural furnishings; the commitment to individual expression, evidenced in their commitment to using their space for local artists to show their work; a non-exploitive relationship with their suppliers who are all Fair Trade growers; and a 1:5 business model where they have committed themselves to an equation where the highest paid employee is limited to no more than 5 times what the lowest paid employee is paid. The business is also registered as a Benefit Corporation. Benefit corporations are for-profit corporate entities whose purpose includes creating general public benefit, which, according to Wikipedia, “includes positive impact on society and the environment, in addition, to profit as its legally defined goals.”
It means a lack of exploitation all the way along the line from the farmer to the distributor to the server. Coffee served at The Happiness Lab is roasted by Happy Life coffee roasters and are exclusively part of a sustainable harvest and workers are paid reasonable wages.
Ony was proving his business acumen as early as the fifth grade when his teacher appointed him manager of the school store for the coming year. When Ony announced this to his parents, they explained that his business career needed to be put on hold as he and his siblings would be going to Nigeria for a year. “Being appointed store manager was really a big thing,” Ony explained, but this was only a pause in his business career.Ony
Ony went on to study economics at the University of Connecticut. After graduation, he went on to work with a start-up company in Hartford, where he was responsible for building out their corporate social responsibility (CSR) work as their Program Development Officer. Both Ony and Vishal were part of reSET’s Accelerator Program in Hartford.

“I met Vishal, co-founder of A Happy Life, in the program and he told me an idea of a startup coffee roasting company with 100% of net profits going to coffee farmers in developing countries. I said, ‘You’re an idiot.’ He said ‘No, hear me out,’ and we’ve been working together ever since.”

Vishal 2(1)Vishal’s path to The Happiness Lab also started early. I couldn’t restrain myself from asking him what made him so devoted to promoting happiness. “Hmmm. Good question, I don’t know. My own happiness means so much to me,” was his initial response. But as he thought about it, he realized that back in high school he had started thinking about happiness and what it means in people’s lives. He delved into Buddhism and other religious traditions and as he put it, came to the conclusion that “life’s too short not to be happy and everyone should have a chance to experience that.”
Several years later, Vishal had a disastrous experience in Nigeria trying to get retailers to sell coffee beans grown locally. He realized that while there might not be a home market for local entrepreneurs’ products in Nigeria, there could be a market in the U.S. The challenge became one of making his brand unique. To distinguish his brand, he unabashedly promoted the idea that treating the farmers fairly would be echoed the happiness enjoyed in a flavorful cup of coffee. He also named all the roasts using words for happiness in various languages. The idea of a coffee shop wouldn’t come till later. All profits would go towards fighting poverty in farming communities. The first community that will profit from this arrangement is Kiema, Tanzania, where Vishal spent many months volunteering as a student and forged a relationship with the local coffee growers.

After The Grove expanded, Slate Ballard, one of the founders of The Grove approached Happy Life Coffee about opening up a café downstairs in the expanded portion of The Grove building. In May 2015, The Happiness Lab had its official opening.
Aside from the ethical business model that brings happiness to their suppliers and employees, The Happiness Lab offers a grab at happiness to its customers through great coffee and other quality of life improvement resources including yoga, meditation classes, and even crayons and drawing supplies!