Gina Podesta (l) and Spencer Hudson have
converted the former Knupp & Watson & Wallman
Advertising site on Old Middleton Rd. and
converted it into the multi-functional space Synergy.
Synergy Co-Working Space
Dynamic Mixture of Talent
“We develop trainings that are based on the needs and requests of the women we work with,” Podesta said. “We don’t work at the grassroots
level. We are working with women already in positions of leadership. We take their recommendations of what is needed locally and help them
to build their capacity. We work with three different groups of women. We work with women who are business owners in small and medium
On one of her forays home to Madison, she became reacquainted with Spencer Hudson whom she knew back in high school and they would
became partners on a couple of levels. Podesta moved back to Madison while retaining her position with Vital Voices. When Podesta was
trying out some co-working space because she didn’t want to operate entirely out of her house, she couldn’t find a space that fit. So Podesta
and Hudson decided to create their own co-working space and called it Synergy. Synergy takes all of Podesta and Hudson’s training,
experience and passion — Hudson has been a school guidance counselor — and transforms it into an initiative to provide a welcoming and
stimulating for start-up businesses of colors and other small ventures.
Synergy is a unique space located in the former Knupp and Watson and Wallman advertising space on Old Middleton Road. A walk through the
building reveals all kinds of spaces from a large work room decked out with WiFi, electric outlets and comfortable furniture to enclosed office
spaces and everything in between. It is an interesting, creative space where one can be left alone or engage with fellow entrepreneurs to
develop the business or initiative that one is working on.
The physical space is important to spurring creativity and the exchange of ideas. But it is also the environment that Podesta and Hudson are
creating that is equally important to the success of the co-working space. As people of color, they feel an obligation and commitment to ensure
that the space is accommodating to entrepreneurs of color.
“Synergy is perfect for entrepreneurs who are starting out,” Podesta said. “It’s a lonely journey, so if you can actually have a space where you
are in a room where those around you are doing the same thing and have done some of the same things and share that experience. There are
friendships and really we are like a family here. We’re also trying to utilize our space on social media and anywhere else to help to bring
visibility to businesses and members who are here with the particular interest in highlighting entrepreneurs and professionals of color. We
grew up in communities of color here in Madison and now through the firsthand experience, I’m going to issue the challenge in that was really
one of our commitments to making sure that we created a space that not only would seem appealing, but was actually pushing for a different
type of growth and opportunities for professionals and businesses of color.”
Synergy has been around for about a year now and Podesta and Hudson are still tweaking it to see what will be the best formula to spur the
entrepreneurs to growth and success. One gets the sense that there will always be a sense of fluidity at Synergy. Even the people who use
Synergy are members, but aren’t all members.
“We have about 25 members at the present time,” Podesta said. “As I mentioned before, what we do is not only going to those who are
members. We have a lot that we do for the community at large. And that we open up to the public. And then we have people who aren’t
members, but are clients. They come and they use the facilities. They aren’t on a month-to-month plan. But they just call and reserve space as
needed. And then we have our resources as well who come and share their expertise. They are small management firms, small law firms and
other practitioners who can come in and share and help that process. They share their expertise pro bono.”
Podesta and Hudson also have a lot of experience under their belts.
“We’ve experienced a lot even with just starting this business,” Hudson said. “And a lot of the people here are start-ups. So we are able to
share our experiences. And with both of us being from Madison, we’ve been fortunate enough to develop a pretty strong network. And there is
nothing about our experiences and our network that we have that we won’t share to help other entrepreneurs as well.”
And while Synergy may have some formal events, the Synergy “family” also creates its own structures to fill their needs.
“There are certain things that are organic,” Podesta said. “We have a group that meets informally every two weeks. Those are members who
tend to always be here no matter what their schedule is during the week. They will show up on Wednesday at 12 p.m. to reconnect with
everyone to find out how things are going and find out what updates they have and find out what referrals people need and what challenges
and obstacles people are facing. They give each other support.”
Next issue: The clientele and environment of Synergy
By Jonathan Gramling
When she moved to Madison when she was five-years-old, Gina Podesta became
immersed in her studies — as the daughter of a UW-Madison professor — and in the
Latino community where she danced as a member of Tiawanaku and had been active in
Podesta graduated from UW-Madison and went to the UW Law School and returned to
her native Peru as part of her law school experience.
“I felt the need to go back to those roots and have the opportunity to live there,” Podesta
said. “That’s what actually changed my direction. I worked for a number of women’s
groups and just became more and more passionate about economic empowerment and
working with women.”
Podesta then moved on to Washington, D.C. for her Washington experience and ended
up catching on with Vital Voices Global Partnership that was started by Hillary Clinton
when she was First Lady in the 1990s.