The purpose of Client Tell is to spotlight the incredible work of our clients, and to help businesses learn from and connect with each other. We sat down with Founding Partner Jason Widen of HQ Raleigh, an award-winning entrepreneurial co-working space, to learn how this innovative Downtown startup is unleashing the impact potential of next generation business leaders.
Jason Widen is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. After getting his feet wet in the hospitality management industry in the U.S. and abroad, he started his first company in his 20s, and has been self-employed ever since. “I started out as a real estate investor,” he explained. “When I did well with that, I began investing in other kinds of businesses including restaurants and both home and commercial development.”
In 1999, Jason and his wife created Leadership exCHANGE, an acclaimed study abroad organization dedicated to training the next generation of leaders and global citizens to change the world. Building a network of up and coming entrepreneurs around the globe ignited Jason’s passion for education, development and community building.
A Need for Dynamic CollaborationHQ Raleigh launched in 2012 when Jason and his fellow local entrepreneurs recognized the need for a co-working space that could connect emerging change makers with the resources and relationships to help them grow and deepen their impact. “We wanted to contribute something positive to the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Jason said. “There was a need for more access to fundraising, better storytelling, and a physical space where leaders and startups could base themselves.”
What began as a 4,700 square-foot building has now flourished into three locations and 70,000 square feet serving more than 300 high-impact business leaders and contributing to thousands of local jobs. The operation has also expanded to Greensboro and includes affiliate organizations in Charlotte and Wilmington, with plans for several more locations across the Southeast by the end of 2018. Jason recalled:
“I don’t think any of us ever thought it would grow like it did. When we launched, we received more than 500 inquiries in the first 45 days. It was overwhelming to see how many people want to be involved.”
When it comes to Raleigh’s position as a thriving hub for more than 500 startups, Jason says HQ Raleigh is just one piece of the puzzle. Since the company launched five years ago, thousands of jobs have been created and millions of dollars have been invested in startups in Raleigh alone. North Carolina was recently ranked the number one state for business by Forbes, and the second-best city for entrepreneurs by MoneyRates. “We’re really proud to be part of all this growth through our efforts to develop leaders and support new companies,” he said.
A Solid Foundation
In addition to his work with Leadership exCHANGE and HQ Raleigh, Jason is Co-Founder of Forward Impact and President of REVGEN, a training and staffing company that specializes in revenue generation. He believes building a successful startup is all about knowing your customer. Before spending any money, he advises entrepreneurs to do their homework, identify a problem and then solve it.
The next step is to put foundational services in place, such as a bank and financial advisor, business mentor and trusted legal partner. “How a company is set up from a legal and tax standpoint is so important,” Jason said. “We knew we needed to bring in reliable local partners early on to make sure everything was done right before the company grew and became more complex.”
HQ Raleigh has partnered with Jesse at Fourscore Business Law for his legal needs. “It’s clear that Jesse knows where entrepreneurs are coming from,” said Jason. “He understands that it’s all about building relationships and trust. He’s worked with some big players in the community, and that knowledge base and experience with the early stages of a business have been critical to us.”
To learn more, visit hq community.