written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Ariel Lev graduated with honors from Appalachian State University with a degree in Communications Broadcasting. She continued her studies at D.C.’s Georgetown University and achieved a Master of Arts in Communications, Culture and Technology.
A North Carolina native, Ariel moved to Roanoke in 2014 with her husband, Sam, and their two rescue dogs. She’s the Executive Director of CoLab, a community co-working center. It’s a perfect fit, as Ariel enjoys making connections and solving problems.
She admits she didn’t have a lot of work experience prior to taking this job. “I don’t have years of a certain skill. I don’t have years of helping people write a business plan or develop a marketing plan. My biggest asset to this community is the ability to connect them with people who do know those things.”
Having the “mental rolodex” and the network of people she’s met through this job, Ariel can point to who can do what and sometimes at a low price for startups. “Seeing those relationships build and change people’s trajectory is so incredibly valuable to me. It builds me up so much. That’s what makes this job really fun and also pretty easy.”
Ariel describes CoLab as “a three-tiered business in the Roanoke area that serves the Roanoke region.”
* We provide co-working which is a relatively new business model. There are desks in our facility, and office amenities, and people share them. So, people work in the same space together but not working for the same company. For startups, freelancers and people who typically work from a home office but want the feel of an office environment, we provide that.
* We also have event space/conference room rental. It provides a really essential service to Roanoke and the area. There really wasn’t office or conference room rental space that was low overhead before we came along. We provide that and it’s a huge part of what we do.
* We are a resource hub for people starting their growing businesses. We sort of collect the existing amazing resources in the area and make them available to people, especially our members. But, we try to do it for everybody.
Spreading The Word About What CoLab Can Do For You & Your Business
CoLab is only about two years young. The greatest challenge is educating the community on the importance of having it in the Roanoke area.
“Being in the South..being in a smaller city…we’re faced with people who have done it the same way for a long time and haven’t felt the need to change that up because it’s been great.”
Ariel continues, “Word-of-mouth marketing is still the biggest form of marketing here. So, having freelancers and having people who remotely work from home is sort of new. I guess that group of people has always been here but they never thought they needed to connect with each other.”
“Now, we’re saying here’s the option to and here’s why you’d want to connect to those other people. Making sure that we provide that educational element has been really important in our marketing so people understand why we exist.”
Why Roanoke Makes a Great Hub For Small Business Community
“We’re a great sized city for experimentation and a great place to fail.” Ariel explains, “The barrier of entry for starting a small business is much lower here. It’s less expensive. And, if it’s not going to work, you’re not going to be out as much money as you would be in Asheville, Charlottesville or somewhere comparable to our size.”
She continues, “And, there’s a ton of opportunity! We’re not a saturated market, so if you have an idea for something, it might not actually exist here yet and you have the opportunity to be the first one to do it.”
“That’s why I tell people who are thinking about moving here, and thinking about starting something, to do it. Do it now and do it as hard as you can because you have the opportunity now and somebody else will do it if you don’t. We’re a city on the rise.”
The UnOfficial Ambassador For Roanoke, CoLab & Small Business Owners
Ariel is bursting with pride, enthusiasm and tons of convincing reasons for others to move into and become a part of this vibrant, warm and welcoming city. She does all she can to help it all grow. She jokes that she’s the equivalent of “the Poster Child” for Roanoke.
Ariel shares, “This city has been good to me and my husband, so it’s only fair to be as good, or better, back to it. I’ve never felt so at home in a place before. This is where I was meant to be.”
Reach out to Ariel and CoLab today to put some energy and traction into the steps you take to grow your business!
Ariel@colabroanoke.com “I’m tied to my inbox, so you’ll get a response pretty quickly.”
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– Article Written with content provided by Episode #002 – interview with Hal Cone.