Startup Spaces: How Sojern turned a restaurant into an office in 5 months - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:50 pm
Startup Spaces: How Sojern turned a restaurant into an office in 5 months

Sponsor: Thanks to turnstone, an office furniture company focusing on small businesses, for supporting Silicon Prairie News and sponsoring our monthly Startup Spaces series.

About the author: The Turnstone Tip is authored by Jenny Gauld, space planner for turnstone.


Sojern's 10,000-square-foot office boasts a wide open kitchen with two industrial fridges and cereal dispensers along with ping pong and shuffleboard tables.

Not all that long ago, 810 S. 169th Street was home to an upscale restaurant, bar and nightclub called Prestige World Class—not to be confused with Prestige Worldwide—where West Omahans would have nice dinners, buy a top-shelf drink or host a wedding rehearsal.

But for the past year, the building has been home to Sojern, a travel data and media company that has blossomed in recent years. It took five months for Sojern to transform its suburban space from the upscale restaurant into the open, collaborative office it is today.

Sojern—which opened its Omaha offices in 2007—had a few homes before its current space, including a more traditional space near 116th and Center streets and a stint at Lakeside near 171st and Center.

It wasn’t until last February that Sojern landed in the building, nestled among Pacific Springs Golf Course and nearby Village Pointe mall. The travel marketing startup seemed to buck the trend of startups in urban, downtown areas, but the company’s VP in Omaha, Brent Brummer, said the 10,000-square-foot space made sense for his 40 employees.

“We had looked at a lot of places in downtown, Midtown area and out west,” Brummer said, “But after touring each space and surveying our employees, we found that most lived closer to out west.“

They ripped out nearly everything—the dance floor and high-end wood bar that once ran the length of one room—and replaced it with their signature orange and blue colors and a wide-open floor plan with a kitchen and dining room, with meeting and other private rooms along the perimeter.

In five months, about half of what it actually should have taken, Brummer said, the work was done.

They also put in an impressive open kitchen with two industrial-sized fridges, daily catered food, cereal dispensers, free drinks, a kegerator and a wall of health snacks like pistachios and fruit. Along with booths and tables, the dining room has ping pong and shuffleboard tables beside an 80-inch TV.

Sojern has space for 75—a number they think they'll reach at some point—in the office if they add more desks. The startup also has 25 employees in San Francisco, 10 in New York and 10 in London.

Turnstone Tip

"We were wowed by the photos of Sojern’s space on the west end of Omaha. Converting an upscale restaurant into a highly designed, well-planned office is no small undertaking, and we applaud them for the space they call home today.

Sojern has hit a home run with their floor plan, taking into account the various task-related needs of their team. They’ve made effective use of zone planning, providing an amazing employee kitchen, as well as places for fun, collaboration, privacy and those needing quiet.

This group also has amazing color and artwork on display, sending a powerful message about their brand. Their use of vintage travel posters and travel lingo to name their conference rooms reinforces their mission to engage travelers.

Sojern appears to be mindful of wellbeing, as modeled by their game center and the exercise ball chair we spotted. With such stylish surroundings, we’d recommend upgrading away from the exercise ball to our Buoy to encourage small movements throughout the day.

Sojern’s collaborative areas would also look awesome with a Campfire Paper Table replacing the coffee tables. This small substitute encourages brainstorming and gives your ideas a cool place to land."

Sojern will receive two turnstone buoys for free as a thanks for participating in SPN's Startup Spaces. To submit your startup for consideration, email editor@siliconprairienews.com to tell us why your company should be featured, and include a few photos. 

                                       

Sojern's exterior is unassuming and hidden from street traffic, but inside the office is a little more lively.

At one time, a long, dark wood bar took up a majority of the space, now desks replace it (the orange and white wall on the left is the same as the one with the TV in the linked photo). Sojern decorates its office with its orange and blue color scheme.

Sojern's lobby is one of the impromptu meeting spaces. Architects Alley Poyner designed the entire office. 

Sojern designed their office with an open, collaborative atmosphere in mind. "We find the collaborative style lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere," Brummer said.

A ping pong table, 80-inch TV and shuffleboard table are some of the downtime activities in Sojern's dining and common area space. They host tournaments and keep game records on a board near the table (not pictured).

Two microwaves, two industrial fridges, a kegerator, coffeemaker and stocked cupboards are among the perks.

Sojern pulled a bunch of vintage travel-themed prints to decorate the office, as well as trophies and other startup relics they've accumulated over the past seven years. 

Conference rooms are named after travel terms like "Red Eye" and "First Class." This room also is enabled with an 80-inch TV for video conferencing with their other offices in San Francisco, New York and London.


This post has been co-authored by our sponsor, turnstone.


Credits: Photos by Michelle Vu.


About our sponsor: Turnstone believes that our world needs innovative entrepreneurs and successful small businesses. We champion the idea that intentionally designed spaces and a vibrant office culture play a big role in this success. That’s why we’re committed to making it easier for leaders to leverage space and culture to help their companies thrive.

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