NextSpace Effect

The NextSpace Effect: Eric Ressler of Cosmic

By NextSpace on May. 05, 2016

In 2009, Eric Ressler (above right) became a member of NextSpace Santa Cruz. At the time, he was designing and developing from his bedroom in a house full of people who kept opposite hours from him. The move into NextSpace enabled him to focus on his work and scale his business. After two years, he had launched Cosmic, his own creative agency, and built a team around him.

When it came time to move Cosmic into its own building, Ressler took the spirit of NextSpace with him. Cosmic headquarters, which is a few doors down from NextSpace in downtown Santa Cruz, feels like a coworking space, with an open floorplan, large community tables, lots of interaction and movement, and dogs. The business is organized as a flat hierarchy and prioritizes work/life balance with four-day work weeks and plenty of time off.


These days, Cosmic is a standout of the Santa Cruz business landscape, a top-tier agency that also has a strong focus on creating community and sharing its space through events that bring together different local businesses and groups. Going full-circle to its coworking roots, Cosmic redesigned the new NextSpace website.

I connected with Ressler, who’s now the creative director at Cosmic, to find out more about launching a business in a coworking space, the influence coworking continues to have on Cosmic, and how the company has remained part of the NextSpace community. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Cat Johnson: What did you pick up at NextSpace that you brought with you to Cosmic?

Eric Ressler: For one, NextSpace opened up this thought process in my brain that there’s more than one way to set up a company, and more than one way to structure it, in terms of organization and space and all those things. Coworking felt like a much newer paradigm and a much more modern approach to starting a business and running a business.

It also opened up this realization that there’s so much to these serendipitous moments of bumping into one another. I don’t think that was something I fully grasped until working at NextSpace. So, when we’ve designed our studios, we’ve always tried to keep an open office setup to allow for serendipity.

What’s your ongoing relationship with the NextSpace community?

We’ve been really ingrained in the NextSpace community from the early days, so we’ve maintained relationship with a lot of the early NextSpace community members and staff. And, as new members and staff have joined up, we’ve tried to stay in communication and be part of the community.

We’re big fans of NextSpace because of how integral it has always been in terms of our growth. A lot of our projects that come in, we can still tie back two or three degrees from an initial NextSpace relationship. It might be that we met someone at NextSpace whose wife got a new job as a marketing manager somewhere, or whose friend did. All of our work is referral-based and a lot of those referrals are a couple of degrees separated from NextSpace.

We try to promote NextSpace as an entity to our clients and our community and when there are events and happy hours, we promote those to our community. NextSpace does the same for us. And we always extend all of our invites to the larger NextSpace community as a way of staying connected.


With Cosmic building the NextSpace website, there’s a nice full-circle thing happening. You started out at NextSpace, and now you’ve grown your business and are working with NextSpace on a new site. Tell me more about that.

It’s always been this kind of dream project, ever since becoming a member, of wanting to create the NextSpace site. It’s such an awesome opportunity and there’s so much good stuff to say about NextSpace. There’s so much potential for creativity in the way it’s expressed.

That’s what’s really exciting as a designer is having those projects where you have no limit to your creative potential on them, compared to a software startup—no offense to software startups. I guess you could argue that your creativity is even more important there, but maybe not quite as fun to work on.

From the early days of NextSpace, I’ve always wanted to be involved with that project. For a number of reasons, the timing never worked out for that seed to come into fruition, until somewhat recently.

It’s definitely a phase one of the website. There’s a lot more that needs to be done. The site we’re working on is really geared at educating people what NextSpace is, what it’s values are, how it works, what it looks like—just telling the NextSpace story to non-members and people who are interested in becoming members.

What was your approach for the website, in terms of design and branding. What were you going for?

We were really trying to find a way to modernize the site in terms of having it feel a little fresher, a little bit more modern, more contemporary in its aesthetics and usability. We knew that there was so much potential for imagery and for photography in the spaces and in the community to show and communicate more effectively what the experience is like being at NextSpace.

We knew there was a distance between how NextSpace presented itself on the web versus the experience of actually being a member. That was a big goal. The challenge with the site design was finding a way to be authentically NextSpace with that design, and not WeWork.

Rather than Dwell-style photos of incredibly designed interiors, NextSpace is way more focused on the community, and it’s a little quirky; it’s got a little bit more personality. We tried to capture that personality and that quirkiness through the design, but, at the same time, we made sure it’s clear that this is a professional workspace. That’s the balance we tried to find with the design: to be authentically NextSpace and to translate that experience of being a member into the aesthetics and the experience and the communications of the website.

We’re big fans of NextSpace because of how integral it has always been in terms of our growth. A lot of our projects that come in, we can still tie back two or three degrees from an initial NextSpace relationship. It might be that we met someone at NextSpace whose wife got a new job as a marketing manager somewhere, or whose friend did. All of our work is referral-based and a lot of those referrals are a couple of degrees separated from NextSpace.

What advice would you offer other businesses considering starting up in a coworking space?

You should just do it. I can’t think of a business that wouldn’t benefit in one way or another, starting in coworking. Even if you’re a manufacturing business, you still have sales and operations and strategy. Those are things that you never know what kind of partnership or opportunity you’re going to find by just being connected to such a strong community.

Especially if you’re in any kind of creative industry, or professional services industry, it’s kind of a no-brainer to me. It’s just such a great way to start. Even if you end up launching from there, and growing, and even eventually moving out from the community, it’s always there. You can always come back to it when you need it.

NextSpace is a nice place to be able to come back to. When we moved to one of our locations on the West Side, it was a warehouse-style building with no insulation and no air conditioning. There was a week that it was so hot, we just couldn’t stand it. We took our whole company and moved into NextSpace for a week. They were just so excited to have us back. It wasn’t about, how are we going to figure this out logistically, it was just yes, of course, what can we do for you. I can’t even think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to. It’s only positives, to at least have some kind of presence.


Any other big picture thoughts about that connection between coworking and entrepreneurialism?

When you’re starting your own business, it’s kind of a scary endeavor, especially if you’re coming out of having a salaried position. You have so much more pressure than just doing your day-to-day. You have to suddenly juggle so much. Especially as a freelancer, so much is resting on your shoulders.

What’s awesome is, through NextSpace, you feel like you have a larger support system. At a certain point, you’re busy enough, and you’re making enough money that you can hire a bookkeeper, and, by the way, she’s next door to you.

That’s what happened for us. We have two of our original team members from when we started at NextSpace. What started as a contract-based position has grown into them being full-fledged team members. Without NextSpace, that may never have happened, or I may never have met them.

Having that support system is really helpful in allowing you to keep focused, and stay positive, and work through a lot of the hard parts of starting your own business or being a freelancer that otherwise might be the kind of deal-breaker where you start applying for salary positions again.

It’s really nice to have that community around you. Everyone’s at their own level, and everyone’s helping each other, and everyone’s really eager to do that. It’s really invaluable and not something that you can really find anywhere else.


How do you see NextSpace contributing to the Santa Cruz community?

NextSpace is really good for Santa Cruz, specifically. It’s beyond Santa Cruz at this point, but it always has been and always will be what I think of when it comes to Santa Cruz becoming more integrated into Silicon Valley and becoming more of a place where people can live and not have to work a restaurant job or teach yoga on the weekends to  make it work.

It’s a good opportunity and a good central hub of creative work and tech work and professional services and more sustainable career-oriented opportunities that is really critical for Santa Cruz as a small town and a town that’s traditionally thought of as a place where you can’t get a real job unless you’re really lucky. It’s really empowering in that way and I think it’s really, really important as it relates to Santa Cruz growing up in a way.

We moved into our current space because we wanted to be more connected and reconnected to our initial roots and community, and NextSpace was a big part of that. The fact that NextSpace is a couple doors down from Cosmic was a huge factor in our consideration of this space, and ultimately choosing this space. 


Cat Johnson is a writer and content strategist based in Santa Cruz, CA. She's a regular contributor to Shareable and her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Yes! Magazine, GOOD, Mother Jones, Triple Pundit and Good Times. Follow her on Twitter: @CatJohnson

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