Today Sunshine Suites houses 1400 “shiners” (they don’t call them tenants) representing 600 small businesses. Recently I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Cheni Yerushalmi who co-founded Sunshine Suites 8-1/2 years ago with Joseph Raby.
From the beginning it was clear to Cheni and Joe that long-term leases make no sense for start-up entrepreneurs. In addition, when a start-up business rents traditional space, moves in and closes the door, no one knows they are there. At Sunshine, entrepreneurs make an investment in themselves by getting out of the house and joining the Sunshine community. Getting out of the house is a mini-goal that when achieved, creates a chain of success that allows you to establish yourself as a small business not just an individual.
In the early days Cheni and Joe sanded floors and painted walls themselves. Sunshine Suites started as the rental of extra space to lower the start-up costs for another venture Cheni was involved in. The budget was small so Cheni did the decorating and design on his own by reading books on the subjects. As time went on, early tenants with design and decorating expertise jumped in to help as well.
So began a structured environment that provides budding entrepreneurs with the discipline of a place to come and work each day. In addition, Sunshine Suites provides networking opportunities one can only find in a community of like-minded individuals. In Cheni’s own words “Community is what Sunshine Suites is; it’s so much more than an office.” Now, 8-1/2 years later membership in the community even includes access to a vacation home in Vermont.
Early on one shiner had trouble paying rent and Cheni and Joe had the option to evict them or help them find a way to pay the rent. They found another shiner in the community who needed the services of the first shiner. They connected the two shiners and the revenue earned by the shiner having trouble paying rent resulted in Sunshine Suites keeping two tenants.
When new shiners join the community there is a natural fear that “if I talk about my projects and ideas someone else in the community will steal them.” Soon one realizes that shiners have enough of their own ideas and it’s the execution of the idea that’s difficult, not the act of coming up with the idea.
As a business grows to a size of around five people it is typically time to graduate from Sunshine Suites and move on. Cheni feels that Sunshine Suites can’t be all things to all people so we have to do what we do well. Once an entrepreneur graduates they have a responsibility to give back to the community and help keep Sunshine vibrant and alive. Most accomplish this by mentoring other entrepreneurs and helping them find their way to Sunshine Suites.
As a person who works from home I sure wish I had the Sunshine option in my area. While going to a coffee shop to work does get you out of the house, it’s somewhat like Twitter in that the noise to signal ratio is quite high. Working at Sunshine would be more akin to participating in a community like Third Tribe Marketing where all the community members not only want to be there but have cleared a modest financial hurdle to be there as well.