BILLINGS — Starting a business can be hard. Finding a place to work can be even harder.
Insert ROCK 31, a place in downtown Billings where entrepreneurs and business owners can come together and take their ideas to the next level.
ROCK 31 is located in the old Montana National Bank building on the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North and was originally erected in 1918. It underwent construction in the late 1950s and 15 months ago, construction started to make it what it is today. Once it was all said and done, the project cost $5.4 million.
"We renovated everything and did a bunch of projects to help bring back the building and make sure we have the latest greatest technology inside for all our members," said Ryan Walla, the community manager at ROCK 31.
This is now the first Billings business incubator, a hub for start-ups and small businesses alike. It provides an entrepreneurial workspace and a place to innovate.
"We do already have 20 people in the space. So, 20 owners, operators, businesses that are renting the space, and we’re working with quite a few people right now to make sure they’re going to be good fits for the space. So, that way we’re both happy, and then we're going to go and make sure that we can welcome them into the space. There’s a lot of people in the community that share their story that they’ve been going at this for a long time, and they haven’t had the ability to come out and work with other entrepreneurs to connect to build," added Walla.
Big Sky Economic Development officially cut the ribbon on the new space Thursday. Space here costs anywhere from $49 a month for a shared desk and workspace all the way up to $450 a month for an office. There are no long-term leases. Each member instead signs up for monthly memberships.
Drew Bennett, who started his graphic design firm, Freeform Design, in 2014, said he is excited for the move into a new space and out of his house. ROCK 31 has allowed his business to flourish while not breaking the bank.
"Right away I’ve noticed just the amount of energy that I have. Going into work, just having collaboration discussions are a big one for me. Also having the Big Sky staff here to assist with my business. They just have a lot of resources available to me. But it’s also exciting to know that I can refer clients to maybe something I’m not a specialist in I can refer to a colleague here. And the missing component when I was working out of my home is that ROCK 31 brings that networking component. To be able to collaborate. Refer clients to each other and that’s something that freelancers have struggled with, especially in Billings not having this resource, is we’re all isolated in our homes working. But now we have a common space to come together," said Bennett.