Towny Waco: How MC Art Supplies Brings Color + Creativity to Waco

(Welcome to the Act Locally Waco/Towny blog series. Towny is an app that exists to connect consumers with local businesses. It’s loaded with answers to the question, Why local? Through this blog series, the folks at Towny will be sharing the stories behind some of our high-quality, local products and helping you get to know some of our energetic local entrepreneurs. We hope you enjoy it! Supporting local business is a terrific way to support the Waco economy! Plus, it’s just fun to get to know your neighbors. For more posts in this blog series, click here: Towny Waco.– ALW)

by Marissa Minter

MC Art Supplies, located at 2025 Washington Ave. in Uptown Waco, is well known as a haven for local artists. Shop Owners Aaron and Jessica Williams have created a warm environment where all artists – from the novice to the expert – can feel comfortable and find almost anything they need. We spoke with Aaron to learn more about what makes MC Art Supplies the wonderful shop artists know and love in Waco.

How did you get into this business?

“My sister, Mackenzie, was an art student at Baylor, and she would come to MC Art Supplies to get all of her art supplies. She became close friends with the original owners, Rose and Clyde. She learned that they were going to close down the store and retire. Around the same time, my wife and I were looking for something new to get into. We wanted to start working for ourselves, and we also were excited to contribute to all that’s going on in Waco. There’s so much going on in the downtown area, and we’re right in the middle of it. We’re super fortunate to be a part of it. Anyways, long story short, we wanted to keep this place going so we took over.

Clyde just turned 91 this year, so he had definitely earned retirement. Both he and Rose were really sweet and great when helping us take over. When my wife and I finally met them it was like we had known each other for a long time. I never thought I would take over a retail store like this, but we had a lot of help along the way from people who had done this before. Rose and Clyde were very happy that we decided to continue their store.”

How has your experience as a store-owner been?

“It’s been almost two years. We’ve survived three back-to-schools already so we’re getting the hang of it. At the beginning it was chaotic and crazy but we’re getting the feel for it. When we first took over the store, our biggest customers were students at Baylor and McLennan Community College. Of course, we expected to have customers through those art programs, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how many artists live in Waco. There are people moving from places like Austin and out-of-state, and they’re bringing their flavor and creativity to Waco. It’s neat to meet the people who come through our doors. I learn new things every single day. Every time I think I’ve figured it all out, there’s some new item that someone will come in and ask about. And I’ll say, ‘let me try to make that happen for you.’”

That’s awesome! Do you prioritize ordering new products for your customers?

“Well, we’ve had the opportunity to meet other small business owners and ask how they set themselves apart. One of the things I’ve learned from them is that you should create an atmosphere people want to come to. That goes hand-in-hand with doing what we can to get people the items they need or want. I’m going to make every effort to get something in our store or special order it if it’s something I know we can get from one of our vendors. We really want to be advocates for our artists.”   

How are you and your wife as a team?

“My wife works full-time in another job, so I’m pretty much here all the time. She’ll tell you that I’m definitely an extrovert. I’m not afraid to have a conversation with people, and it’s where I excel. My wife is the one who keeps it all together. She’s the brains behind the operation for sure. We’re kind of the perfect team. She’s incredibly creative, too.” My wife and I have characteristics that drive each other crazy sometimes, like every couple. But we always find middle ground. We’ve always been a really great team from the get go.”

What is your experience as an artist?

“I’ve always been right-brained. I’m not a painter, but I am a musician – I’ve always been an artistic person and appreciated art. I love seeing what an artist will create with the stuff we sell. Sometimes customers will come back with the art they’ve made after shopping here, and it’s just incredible and brings me tons of joy.”

Do you have any funny stories from your time running MC Art Supply?

“We’ve been doing a lot of renovations here in the store. If you’ve ever been to Poppa Rollo’s restaurant here in Waco, you’ll know there’s a door that doesn’t look like a door. We discover unique things like that here at the store all the time. Every time we think we’ve cleaned everything up, we’ll get to another part of the store that’s just full of surprises. Some of it has been awesome. For example, we’ll find a ton of paintings from Clyde that are amazing. Then sometimes, we’ll find inventory that’s super old and not really needed. We’ve put those items on a sale table in the store.”

What are some of the dreams you have for MC Art Supply?

“Our biggest thing right now is that we’re trying to add as much inventory as possible. We’re doing that because we want to set ourselves apart from the bigger box stores that might not have as much variety. We try to find things that will get artists excited. I want the store to get to the point where people can walk in here and find anything they need.

Another thing we’ve done recently is added a studio room. There was a room where most of the merchandise used to be, but now it’s a studio where we can host paint nights, classes, and meet ups. Community involvement is our biggest goal for next year. Starting January and February is when we’ll launch that. We’ve got a list of people who said they’d be willing to teach these classes, and several other art groups around Waco are interested in using different spaces like ours.”

Last question: what do you love about Waco?

“I was born and raised here. There has always been a sense of genuine community. Waco as a whole is a very welcoming city. The people here aren’t stuck up or fake. It’s really the people that make me love Waco – that and Cameron Park!”

When you shop at local Waco businesses like MC Art Supplies, you are not only building a robust economy, but you are also supporting your very own neighbors. Find them on Towny – the free tool making it easy to choose local.

Marissa Minter is a writer and creative from Houston, Texas. Since graduating from Baylor University in 2014, Marissa has traveled, explored, and learned a lot about life and people. Marissa is passionate about Towny because she loves the idea of encouraging people in Waco to care about and support local businesses that make Waco the wonderful place it is!

2019 Legislative Priorities for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce

By Jessica Attas

As we wrap up the year and look to the year ahead, the Texas 86th Legislative Session looms large on the horizon and front of mind.

As the organization dedicated to the economic well-being of the area, we at the Chamber seek to actively promote policies that are conducive to growing a thriving economy and community. Our ability to help develop the economy- and your ability to help your business flourish- is impacted by state and federal policies and the regulatory environment in which we operate. For that reason, your Chamber of Commerce is active in the public policy sphere, advocating for businesses to our legislators on issues of importance to our community.

Prior to every state legislative session, we go through a process to seek input from our members on their policy priorities, and with our public policy committee together with other community stakeholders, listening to the conversations being held around the state about coming policy debates, develop a relevant legislative platform to inform and guide our advocacy work in the session and the interim that follows.

The past few months have held a great deal of conversations at the state and local levels related to property tax, school finance and workforce development. Indeed, the growth of property tax and the quality and future of our workforce are both directly related to school funding, and are in fact consistently the top concerns we hear from business members.

The manner in which schools are currently funded is too heavily reliant on local property tax dollars. As economic growth occurs and values rise, the state uses the increased local contributions to themselves pay less in per-pupil spending. The state’s budget plans on (and some might say mandates) that, and calls for increased property tax valuations ranging from 6-7% annually for each of the next two years.  This allows the state to pay less, by shifting the cost down to local taxpayers. Where the state used to pay for the majority of per-pupil costs to educate our children, it has now fallen to 37% of the cost being paid by the state and the balance by local property tax payers. Without reform to the way we fund our schools, that will drop to just 30% by 2023. At a time when Texas already has the 46th highest property tax burden of all fifty states, this will inevitably mean millions more dollars that will have to be collected locally in order to offset the loss of state dollars. Every property owner can expect their local property tax bill to increase if no changes to the way we fund our schools are made.

The question of how we fund our schools also ties in with whether they are adequately funded. While money isn’t the only determining factor, it is a factor. Money matters in education, and money well-spent can allow our schools to produce the student outcomes we need. Recognizing our currents skills gap and that our student outcomes are not aligned with what our businesses need, Governor Abbott called on three key agencies- the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Higher Ed Coordinating Board, and the Texas Education Agency- to work together on a shared vision for the workforce our state will need if we are to keep our economic strength. That vision is called 60x30Texas, and aims to see 60% of Texans aged 25-34 hold post-secondary degrees or higher by the year 2030. This is a data-driven goal; by just 2020, more than 60% of jobs created will require some sort of post-secondary degree.  The current reality provides a stark contrast. At present, just over 30% of graduating students in Texas test on the ACT or other college or career readiness measures as “college-ready,” and less than 30% of high school graduates have completed any post-secondary degree six years after graduating. The implications for our future workforce- and our ability to sustain and grow our economy- if we do not act, are grave.

For these reasons, key priorities as we move into the legislative session are addressing property tax reform; opposing increases in local appraisal growth mandated by state budget planning; and increasing the state’s share of per pupil spending on public education, focusing those dollars on the strategies proven to improve student outcomes in order to build a 21st century workforce. Further, the process of appraisal valuation needs reform, and we call on improvements to include local input on valuation ranges. At present, the state sets target valuation ranges based on a sample of properties, and each appraisal district has to come near that target. Aligned with our overarching support of local control, a priority is local input on those target ranges.

Because there has been significant conversation at the state level around these interwoven issues of property tax and school finance, they are key priorities for our Chamber. However, as the organization responsible for the economic development of the area, we also have state legislative priorities regarding competitive incentives, small business and entrepreneurship, and trade and international competitiveness. We continue to support the Texas Enterprise Fund- the state’s deal-closing incentive fund- and call on the legislature to expand accessibility to the fund for existing businesses of all sizes throughout the state.

Of course, your Chamber of Commerce is a membership-driven chamber, and there are issues across the board that impact your ability to develop and grow your business. As an example, given this issue is focused on healthcare, we know access to a healthy workforce impacts day-to-day business operations. However, access to healthcare in Texas is limited, and in fact, Texas has a rate of uninsured more than twice the national average (26% compared to 11%). Further, Texas is also experiencing both a physician and a nursing shortage. Half of Texas counties do not have sufficient physicians for their population and thirty-five counties have not a single physician. For that reason, legislative priorities focused on healthcare include things like expanding access to healthcare coverage; prioritizing preventative and behavioral healthcare; supporting robust nursing programs and allowing those nurses to practice within the scope of their expertise; and given that doctors are most likely to work where they do their residency, prioritizing additional medical residency slot funding over new medical school funding.

Our legislative agenda is robust yet focused, prioritizing those topics of greatest impact to our businesses: business climate (including fiscal policy and regulatory reform); economic development; public and higher education; healthcare; transportation and infrastructure; and water and natural resources. To see our full state legislative agenda for the 86th session, please visit our website or reach out via email to If you become aware of a bill during session that would impact your business or your industry, please let us know. It is our charge to be the voice for the business community of Waco in Austin; we look forward to working and standing with you for the good of our community in the months of legislative action ahead.

Jessica Attas is the vice-president of public policy for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. She works with key state and federal elected and appointed officials to advocate on key issues of community and economic development.  Attas loves thinking about solutions for big challenges, and when her schedule allows, enjoys serving as a professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core Honors College. Attas has two sons and a pup who keep her busy during “down time.”

Act Locally Waco New Year’s Resolution ideas for 2019

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions.  I come up with one or two every year and probably every other year or so, I stick with one.  Sometimes they are quite dramatic. One year I decided to make walking my default form of transportation; that was life-changing.  Most years they are small and concrete, e.g. floss every night.  Some years they are personal – spend one hour a week on cleaning the house. (Don’t judge!)  Some years they have more of a community focus – pick up a bag of trash once a week. 

My resolutions aren’t earth shattering, but they help me remember that even a little effort applied consistently toward a goal can make a difference, and having a goal makes it more likely I will make the effort.  The smallest thing I actually do has more impact than the biggest dream with no action behind it.   

Here’s a handful of ideas for resolutions with an “Act Locally Waco” twist. Maybe one of these will spark your imagination and inspire you to make a resolution or two of your own.    Whether it inspires action, or a yawn and a nap, I hope you have a terrific 2019!  Happy New Year! – ABT

Read one article from the newspaper every day (or once a week, or whatever…) – We are lucky to have devoted and talented journalists at the Waco Trib who keep us up to date and informed about local issues.  At least once a week, and often many times more than that, I am impressed with well-written coverage of issues I care about or a thought provoking editorial (whether I agree with it or not).  The first step to getting involved is getting informed.

Walk in your neighborhood once a week. – I have heard it said that air conditioning and TV killed neighborhoods. Since those two things were invented, people stay locked up in their homes when we used to sit on the front porch and visit with each other.  I’m not willing to give up air conditioning and TV, but I’ll confess I don’t know my neighbors very well…and that is bad.  Every speck of research I have ever read on this subject says that when neighbors are strangers, the community suffers.  Crime increases, people are not as happy, we have less empathy and care for one another.  I am a little bit too much of an introvert to be the one who organizes block parties and neighborhood socials, but I have found that by walking in the neighborhood regularly, I strike up casual conversations and have at least a waving acquaintance with more of my neighbors and that is – literally – a step in the right direction.

Pick up one bag of trash a week.  – One year I combined my neighborhood walks with picking up a bag of trash a week. I’ll admit it was a little depressing to see how quickly I could fill up a bag of trash in my own neighborhood, but I loved the feeling of concrete accomplishment as I dropped the full bag into my gray bin with a satisfying “thunk.”  This is a great resolution for a family to do together. I even know some folks who combine litter picking with jogging.  If your neighborhood is not trashy enough, “adopt” a local park or another spot in town where you have noticed litter collecting.   Check out the Group W Bench Litter Patrol or Keep Waco Beautiful for opportunities to participate in community clean-ups.

Find a regular volunteer gig. – A couple of places in town that do terrific work and ALWAYS need volunteers are Meals & Wheels (Contact Rachel Salazar at ) and Caritas (Contact Andrew Bryngelson at   The United Way is also working on setting up a long-needed volunteer portal ( ) to make it easier for all of us to find a place to plug in.

Give consistently, even if it’s just a little.  –  The other day I heard someone say dismissively, “Well, some people think they can just write a check, when really what they should do is get out and get involved.”  I am a big proponent of getting out and getting involved, but I also want to emphasize that giving is a BIG deal.  Our local non-profits depend on giving from individuals.  Money they get from grants or the government often comes with many, many strings attached. That is all fine and good, but our local non-profits need money to pay the light bill and fix the washing machine when it breaks.  Most grants don’t pay for those kind of every day operational expenses.  We may not all have millions or thousands to give, but if a whole bunch of us would get in the habit of giving ten or twenty bucks a month to support our local organizations, it would make a huge difference in our community.  Click here for a list of local non-profits who have appeared in The WHOLE Enchilada in the last year, with handy links to their donation pages.  Pick one and sign up to give a little each month.   By this time next year, your small gifts each month can add up to a nice sum.  You might even pay the electricity bill for one month!

Do something regularly and intentionally to support Waco ISD. – I could write a whole column about how our school district is the heart of our community, and how our kids are our most important natural resource, and how we will not be able to maintain our current Magnolia- fueled “sugar rush” of economic development unless we educate our work force etc. etc. and all those things are incredibly important.  But, I will confess that the main reason I try to keep connected to Waco ISD is because it’s fun. Even though there are some serious challenges — maybe because there are serious challenges — it makes me proud and happy to be a part of it.  “Support” can range anywhere from volunteering regularly in the lunchtime reading club program being organized by local churches (Contact to volunteer), to making the effort to attend the annual (AMAZING!) high school musicals or other fine arts events, to talking to your employer about becoming an adopt-a-school partner.

Do something downtown once a month/Be a local tourist once a month/shop local. – People are coming from all over the world to visit Waco and sometimes those of us who live here are the ones who don’t take advantage of all our town has to offer.   The Waco Convention and Visitor’s Bureau maintains a terrific events calendar and their app is easy to use and even offers coupons! (There’s no rule that says people from Waco can’t use the coupons!) The DowntownWacoTX website and Facebook page are always full of great information about enjoying downtown and The First Friday Facebook page is another good downtown resource. Follow Cultivate 7Twelve to keep up with art happenings downtown. The Towny app can help you identify local businesses and they also offer deals and coupons.  Make it a goal to shop local as much as possible, to regularly attend First Friday, or to enjoy one Waco “attraction” a month. Why should the visitors be having all the fun? 

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now. Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else. She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say, “Hi!”

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

2018 Greatest Hits #2: Downtown Dwellers – Waco Cha Launch

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT)

By Jaja Chen

I often hear people ask (and personally wonder) why downtown Waco does not have its own organic grocery store.

In 2016, I attended a Baylor Continuing Ed course called “Waco 101.”  In that course I learned that these stores invest in locations with higher density of downtown populations than we have right now. Ashley Bean Thornton, one of our instructors who hosted the course, challenged us near the end of class to fully invest in downtown, including through our finances. To care for and support downtown means to choose to spend time, energy, and money downtown.

We left that course with a challenge to see how we could move from just wishing Waco would develop into the place we would like to live in into making the changes we hoped to see.

Since the course, my husband and I have officially moved downtown. Five years ago, we would have never considered living downtown. But here we are – all in – as we move to the next step in caring for our downtown by seeking to launch our business – Waco Cha. Waco Cha has been on our hearts and is an overflow of our desire to build community and hospitality in our city. We are excited to start our tea stand later this month at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market! Be on the lookout for the newest kids on the block!

 “Cha” is the Chinese word for “tea.” At Waco Cha that you will find authentic Taiwanese-inspired tea drinks such as classic bubble milk tea made from local milk, passion fruit green tea, amongst other fruit tea flavors. Dairy free options will also be available. Eventually we hope to start selling dumplings, Chinese-inspired rice bowls, and other side dishes.

What started out as a few ideas to better our community has grown into an upcoming business launch.

I leave you with the same challenge Ashley left us at the end of Waco 101 – What are ways YOU can spend more time, energy, or money towards advancing the causes of downtown Waco?

Is it through having date nights downtown on a First Friday? Or supporting our local farmers and vendors at the farmer’s market? Or perhaps even moving downtown like we did? And to my fellow entrepreneurs – perhaps taking that step in seeing what comes next in order to launch your creative ideas?

How do we – collectively – make Waco into the city we desire it to be? Join us in being downtown dwellers.

Jaja Chen is a social worker/private practice therapist by day at Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions. Her hobbies include making kombucha, practicing yoga, and helping to market Waco Cha. Chef Devin Li is an engineering teacher by day and a self-taught chef, entrepreneur, and the creative mind behind Waco Cha. More about Waco Cha can be found on Facebook and Waco Cha’s Instagram page here

2018 Greatest Hits #1: I admit it…I did not want to go to the March for our Lives

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT)

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I went to the “March for our Lives” rally Saturday, but I did not really want to go.

I do not like political rallies and protest marches.

Sure, I can appreciate a clever sign and an inspiring speech as much as anyone, but once the initial emotional high has worn off, I feel bad.

I want to believe people can work together to understand each other’s points of view and to find a way forward together when it comes to difficult issues.  Once the PA system and the signs come out, however, I feel like we aren’t trying to understand each other and work together any more…we are trying to make sure our side wins.

I have a democrat sticker on my car and I have heard people say that means I hate guns.  I don’t hate guns. I would characterize my feeling toward guns as neutral.

I don’t personally own a gun. They are not interesting to me, so I spend my money on other things.   Also, I am pretty much blind in one eye…the one you need for shooting it turns out.  So, there’s that.

But, I don’t hate guns. Many of my friends have guns for all kinds of different reasons… hunting, protection, fun.  I don’t have any problem with that.  I don’t have any problem with you carrying your gun in your purse or your pocket or your holster or your pick-up truck.  If you are not using your guns to shoot innocent people, and you are keeping your guns away from little kids, then I don’t have any problem with your guns.

I do not hate guns.  Most of the time I don’t even care about or think about guns.

One reason I have the luxury of not caring about guns is that most of the people who do own guns are very responsible with their guns.  Most gun owners are responsible. I get that.

I also get that responsible people don’t like having their rights and privileges abridged because of the behavior of irresponsible people.  I don’t want my car taken away because someone else drinks and drives.   I don’t want my cell phone taken away because someone else texts and drives.  You don’t want your guns taken away or your gun ownership made inconvenient because some other guy was irresponsible.  I get that.

Also, I believe that some (maybe most) gun owners “get” some of things that are important to me.   For example, I am fine with a whole lot of people having guns, but there are some exceptions.  I am not fine with unsupervised teenagers having guns that can kill people. I am not fine with certain kinds of criminals having guns.  I am not fine with mentally unstable people having guns.

I bet most gun lovers can understand why I believe some people ought not to have guns.   I believe we could have a fruitful conversation about where to draw those lines and how to enforce them. I believe we could make some headway that would keep us all safer.

When it comes to “assault guns” or “AR-15’s” or whatever the right word is for guns that fire many, many bullets incredibly quickly…I don’t like them, but I can understand why some people might not want to have them banned completely.  I bet most gun lovers can understand why I think the standards and rules for owning such a dangerous weapon should be very, very strict.  I bet if we got in a room together with the goal of coming up with rules we could both live with on this matter, we could come up with something that would move us down the road.

There have always been and always will be trade-offs between freedom and safety. We can’t protect ourselves or our children from every harmful person, but we can work together to get better at it than we are doing now. I believe that’s what we should do.   Or more to the point, I believe that is what our elected representatives should be doing in our names.

I don’t really like rallies and marches because I feel like, if we are not careful, they become opportunities for vilifying each other, reinforcing our worst opinions about each other and making it harder than ever to work together.

So why did I go to the “March for our Lives?”  Honestly, I succumbed to peer pressure.  My friends were going, so I did.  And, despite my misgivings, I’m glad I did.

The young people who spoke were magnificent! Smart and poised and well-reasoned, they gave me hope for the future of our country.

Also, bluntly, the way I wish we would work together doesn’t seem to be working.

As I stood in the sun listening to the speeches, I thought about how long we have been trying to figure out how to protect our children and ourselves, and it seemed to me we have made no progress.

As I looked around at the crowd of hundreds in Waco (and the pictures that showed crowds of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands in other cities) I thought, “I guess this is what it takes to make progress. It takes bodies getting out into the street. It takes showing the sheer physical mass of people who care about an issue. This is what it takes to get an issue on the table.”   I understand this is what it takes, and I am so very grateful to those hardworking souls who are making it happen, but I still wonder why … why can’t we just talk? I wish we could.

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now. Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else. She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say “hi!”

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


2018 Greatest Hits #3: What is “Co-working space?” and Why does Waco need it?

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT)

By Caroline Thornton

After graduating from Baylor in 2016, I decided to make Waco my home.  I sensed an entrepreneurial movement growing in Waco. I began to see many of my friends –  young professionals – were choosing to stay in town. They were staying not just for grad school, but because they saw what this town offered and they saw opportunities to give to the city through their personal and professional lives. This excited every fiber within me! I had always seen what Waco has to offer when you dive head first into involvement in the city.

I decided to join the movement by starting my own business. I started a company called “Second Me.” We offered services to help people do their “to do” lists. I hired college students to work for me and began managing lots of schedules! As it grew I saw the potential it had to become something big. The bigger it got the more I was confident I did not want to be the one to drive it to become a national business. After two years of my company, I felt at peace to find the next thing in my career.

When I decided to put my business to rest, little did I know I would get to be an integral part of making co-working space in Waco a reality.

A little over a year ago I heard a podcast from the founders of a national co-working space company called, WeWork. I immediately felt this concept could be a part of taking the entrepreneur movement in Waco to the next level.

Since graduating I had noticed groups of creative, entrepreneurial people who were enthusiastic about all things Waco. I started immersing myself in several of them. I also noticed that these groups of people didn’t really have a place to call “home” for work. Many are freelancers, have start-up businesses, or work remotely. Being a business owner myself, I noticed how we were all working all over town at different places, but no place existed that allowed us to truly root ourselves and our work.

After making my decision to leave Second Me,  I took on a babysitting job and discovered that  the dad of the kids I was watching and his business partners were developers in the city. I began talking about our need for a co-working space. I shared articles, podcasts, books, and statistics of what co-working is and why we need it.  They agreed.  We needed that kind of space in Waco. Coincidentally they, Duelge Holdings, had just purchased their second building downtown on Columbus and 6th street (the first being Mary Avenue Market).  They asked me if I would help develop the idea and educate the community on the concept of “co-working,” and then help run the space once it was open.

I eagerly said, “YES!” And, with that, started the most fun part, so far, of my professional journey.

What exactly is “co-working?”

By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, independent contractors, and solopreneurs. Collaboration and sharing are growing all around us, partly due to the possibilities created by new technologies and partly due to changes in the current work and corporate structures. Companies are getting smaller, but at the same time more productive and competitive. People are making their work places more collaborative within their companies, and are also breaking the borders by joining other companies.  All this is an effort not only to reduce expenses, but to create a more dynamic, creative, and happy workplaces. This is the heart of co-working – to share expenses, but also to be a part of a community that networks and collaborates so everyone benefits from it.

Is this a trend? Will it pass? I don’t think so.  Co-working responds to a deep need. The structures of work in our society are changing and with them the needs of workers, namely freelancers and entrepreneurs. Co-working responds to these fundamental changes and will keep growing in cities around the globe – and here in Waco.

Our team has been dreaming together about how to make our space, WACOWORK,  the best possible space for helping the entrepreneurial spirit take root in Waco. To us at WACOWORK, it’s creating a collaborative work environment for startups, freelancers, small companies, and remote employees to share resources and ideas as one working community. Our vision for WACOWORK is to see connections, relationships, and opportunities form through our space. We aim for the community within WACOWORK to be dynamic and innovative, exemplifying the power that happens when professionals with all different kinds of businesses work alongside one another. The aesthetics of the WACOWORK space reflects the connectivity, creativity, and productivity we hope to stimulate — its a bit quirky to help make every day at the office a memorable one.

WACOWORK is going to be a place for taking big risks and doing things that are a little off-kilter. We aim to house members that are bold, innovative, and welcoming.  Waco is a city ripe with opportunity, and I cannot wait to unearth all of the exciting things to come through Waco’s first coworking space, WACOWORK.

If this sounds like something you think would work well for your entrepreneurial venture, feel free to contact me at 254.304.9368.  Hit me up, let’s get coffee, I want to meet you!

After graduation from Baylor in 2012, Caroline Thornton decided to stay in Waco.  Seeing the opportunity for some creative endeavors, she first opened “Second Me” a company that aimed to do peoples’ to do lists – from running errands to tasks around the house.  Here next venture it to help manage the “WacoWork” coworking space at 600 Columbus Avenue Suite 106. She encourages everyone she meets to take a chance – be a creator in Waco, not just a consumer!