Silicon Valley might be the capitol of startups, but it also can be a lonely place for home-based entrepreneurs, artists and stay-at-home parents.
But Sacred Space Coworking at Crossroads Community Church, located at 2490 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, offers a place for building relationships, working and spiritual solace. It's a chance for freelancers, artists, students, stay-at-home parents, new residents and others to share ideas and learn from each other, Brandon Napoli, a church board member and self-described "lead servant," said on a recent afternoon.
Napoli moved to Palo Alto from Brooklyn about 1 1/2 years ago. The idea for Sacred Space came out of his own pain and loneliness of working from his home, he said. He was an economic development professional who did micro-financing to under-served entrepreneurs, and he was in the midst of a transition to a different job, he said.
He began volunteering at Crossroads as a way to connect with people. He noticed that most church spaces were dormant on weekdays when there aren't services.
"So I thought, 'Why can't I create a working community here?' I saw a need that I had, and I didn't think I was unique. It is a growing trend. Neighbors could come and create a place and community to share like-minded passions," he said.
Napoli said Sacred Space is about creating common values that members of the church and the larger community share: gratitude, stewardship, contemplation, productivity, hospitality, creativity, peace building and working together collectively as guiding principles for community.
"We have space in Palo Alto, and that's a cherished thing. We ultimately want to be a place of resource," Rev. Jake Duckworth said.
To that end, the church hosts 25 different meetups. Some are spiritually themed, others are not. There's a "Meditate in a Historic Church" meetup on Wednesday afternoons, "Shut Up and Write!," which brings together people who want to write for social time and an hour of writing in silence; poetry workshops, and a workshop on qualitative research for startups.
Elena Krasnoperova, founder and CEO of FamTerra, a mobile and web applications company that helps families manage co-parenting, communication and scheduling, described Sacred Space as "a WeWork with a soul," referring to the New York-based business that rents shared office spaces.
"It's about having more of a heart. They focus on under-represented entrepreneurs. As a female and an entrepreneur, I definitely fall into the category," she said.
She started a local chapter of Founding Moms, a national group for mothers who are entrepreneurs, and uses Sacred Space for the meetings, she said. She also attends the Women's Coworking Day, where female entrepreneurs meet monthly and discuss their businesses and ideas.
Krasnoperova said she isn't a religious or a spiritual person.
"Yes, it's in a church, but to me that's not the point of it. Churches have traditionally been a community-building and a community-strengthening place. I wish sometimes that I belonged to a church for the community it provides," she said.
The church also offers daycare for toddlers and preschoolers, parking, reflective outdoor spaces, Wi-Fi and printing, and it's an easy walk to Midtown restaurants and shopping.
Use of the "hot desk" space, an open area with individual and large tables with seating, is by donation so far. The coworking space also offers conference rooms and a lounge at hourly fees.
"We didn't want to create a barrier with a price. Initially, we just want neighbors to respond," Napoli said.
Since opening in late January, Sacred Space has had more than 230 unique visits, he said. Some Sacred Space users have come into the church. Many use the sanctuary as a place of meditation and to walk away from their screens.
But it's the importance of community that leaps out most to Napoli — when perfect strangers meet and make connections and see the "remarkable importance" of face-to-face human contact, he said. It's when someone suddenly realizes the person they need to talk to, who sheds light on helping them solve their problem, lives two blocks way and they never knew it.
And the value of having Rev. Duckworth often present to provide pastoral care to those in need is a service amenity that isn't found in other spaces, he said. Entrepreneurship, parenting, and moving to a new neighborhood can be stressful.
"In corporate life, where would I go if I needed someone to talk to?" he said.
More information about Sacred Space Coworking can be found at sacredspace.io.