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Former FatWallet Owners Open RockTek Facility For Entrepreneurs

By Adam Poulisse Rockford Register Star, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Rocktech" is a new 30,000-square-foot co-working facility which provides entrepreneurs, business leaders and others a place to work and meet away from their homes or the nearest Starbucks.

ROCKTON

Heather Stephens doesn't have to commute very far for work.

She can operate her business, Wise Owl Marketing, which designs websites and marketing plans for service-based businesses, from her dining room in Roscoe.

But the distractions of home, the isolation and the inability to collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs led her to look for a new workspace.

Stephens, and other business owners, have found a more-traditional workspace in the former FatWallet building on Wagon Wheel Road in Rockton.

Tim and Kathleen Storm, who sold the bargain-hunting FatWallet website in 2011 but continue to own the property, have renovated the 30,000-square-foot facility into RockTek, which provides entrepreneurs, business leaders and others a place to work and meet away from their homes or the nearest Starbucks.

"This is helping me get out of the house and away from the dog barking when the UPS man comes," Stephens said, "and to hopefully have a little more separation so work isn't oozing into every minute of my day."

RockTek has had soft-opening events and some occupants have staked out space, but the business officially opens on Tuesday.

Base membership at RockTek is $100 and secures a "hot desk," or a shared workspace. For $200 a month, members can secure one of 50 cubicles, and $300 includes a private office with a door and windows.

Eight private offices have been spoken for, but all cubicles and hot desks are still available, Tim Storm said. Five-day rental packages can be purchased for $79, and other daily rates will be announced.

"It really is creating reality for entrepreneurs," Tim Storm said. "The more that we as RockTek can reduce the friction to allow that to happen, the more successful we will be, the more successful the surrounding community will be."

FatWallet moved operations to downtown Beloit, Wisconsin, in 2011; the Storms sold the business a few months later.

The former facility next to Red Barn Golf Course then housed Woodward for a few years, but the company eventually vacated, leaving the Storms with a building that wasn't gaining interest from prospective tenants.

Aside from a few minor touch-ups, the facility turned out to be an ideal workspace for entrepreneurs to find their footing.

Amenities include a kitchen area, four conference rooms and one large boardroom that members can use.

"A lot of what you're seeing is what FatWallet was, but we've giving it a different flavor," Kathleen Storm said of the building's interior.

Member Dirk Dutton manages Primetime Audio/Video electronics store at the corner of Perryville Road and State Street in Rockford. While his business has a brick-and-mortar location, having one of the private offices at RockTec allows Dutton to "break out of that retail mold."

"It gives me an avenue to work on the business, as opposed to working in the business," Dutton said, adding that it also gives him an opportunity to collaborate with other business-minded RockTec members.

"There are a lot of smart people out there that are sitting in an office or in their house," Dutton said. "They have brilliant ideas and want to share them with other people."

RockTek isn't just for business owners. Community leaders also use the space. The village of Roscoe has had strategic planning meetings there.

Village Administrator Scott Sanders praised the Storms' vision and RockTek's potential impact.

"Anything that starts economic development, even at a grassroots level, is great for the community," Sanders said.

"I think there will be a lot more innovative, more technology-based companies that either get their start here or grow here. Perhaps we can retain that."

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