WESTFIELD, NJ – Despite the bitter cold, Annette Velazquez Hendricks drove from her home in South Plainfield to Westfield on Monday morning in search of camaraderie and, she hoped, new work ventures at the first gathering of the Blue Sky Co-Working Meetup.
Velazquez Hendricks, 50, juggles several part-time positions, including work as a bilingual ordained minister, a notary public and a yoga and Zumba teacher, but these typically occupy her nights and weekends, leaving the days open.
“Well, I just want to socialize with other people who are home during the day,” she said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m lonely because I don’t have a full-time job.”
The Blue Sky Co-working Meetup invites workers of any stripe who telecommute or work independently to gather with others, bring their laptops and get some tasks accomplished while enjoying a collegial atmosphere over a free cup of coffee.
“It builds a community of co-workers,” said said Terri DiMatteo, who started the group with Jill Korcusko-Ramirez, owner of Blue Sky Café with husband Marcos Ramirez
The café, located at 1120 South Ave West, will host the group on weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Those who drop in are welcome to a $5 price-fixed breakfast, free parking and a cup of coffee on the house. The café also offers participants a well-lit workspace, free Wi-Fi and plenty of outlets.
DiMatteo, a licensed professional counselor who runs Open Door Therapy in Westfield, heard about co-working from several clients over the last few months.
First popular in New York City, co-working often involved a group of industry-specific workers banding together to rent out office space and chip in for Wi-Fi and phone service. DiMatteo heard of co-working groups popping up in New Jersey and was interested in starting a less formal local group that did not require participants to pay.
DiMatteo’s interest in co-working also grew out of her own experience transitioning from 25 years as a full-time employee to her work as a therapist.
“I love the independence of going solo. There’s no boss, but there are no colleagues,” she said.
And DiMatteo learned other pitfalls of working at home, where readily available technology means that work always beckons.
“I was discovering that my home was becoming my workplace. There was no division,” she said.
DiMatteo hopes that the co-working meetup will also give those who don’t travel to an office a place to network organically.
On Monday, Velazquez Hendricks, who worked as a secretary at Rutgers University until she lost her job in 2009, told DiMatteo that she hoped to polish her resume at the co-working meetup.
“Really, your resume is like your brochure,” DiMatteo told her. “Check out Blue Sky Resumes. Ironically, it has the same name,” she said of the resume-writing service.
Marcos Ramirez said that he is happy to offer his restaurant to the group.
“I like people. I like company,” he said.
And DiMatteo is appreciative of what the café is doing for the group.
“He wants his café filled, and he’s very generous,” she said.