By Marc Rapport
Moultrie Ball, Colin Griffin and Chloe Rodgers are doing very different things in the same place, the Bakery at BullStreet Common.
Ball makes and sells toys. Griffin builds web applications. Rodgers does community news. They and dozens of other creative types and entrepreneurs are denizens of the SOCO co-working venture that has expanded from its original location above Jason’s Deli on Gervais Street in the Vista to the former bakery on the old state hospital grounds.
Moultrie Ball is a Columbia native and 2011 USC grad who first put his mechanical engineering degree to work with steelmaker Nucor in Charleston. But his passion for teaching and sharing and a lifelong love of messing with gadgets has led to the creation of RumbleLab.
RumbleLab designs and sells things like paper plane launchers and do-it-yourself electronic guitar kits, complete with instructional videos and empowered by the idea that science and technology and just making things is fun, and here’s why.
Ball began by offering his products as an idea and quickly had subscribers “popping” up from New Jersey to Texas to Hawaii. He now provisions his kits with parts either from off-the-shelf parts or from contract manufacturers, depending on the projects.
He gets his inspiration for new products from his own experience, from customers, fellow engineers and the internet. That kind of sharing makes SOCO a natural fit, he says.
“There’s something to be said about human interaction and collaboration and not just staying in a dark hole at home,” he said. “Great ideas don’t happen in a vacuum, and we sure don’t have one here.”
Colin Griffin is a Virginia native and 2011 USC graduate in computer engineering. After working with The Mariner Group, a situational security firm, Griffin launched Krumware last year. He focuses on producing software and services that help individuals and companies make the best possible use of web technologies.
Griffin also is focused on growth. He has four employees, three of whom will soon be full-time and on salary. His goal is to have 25 employees at the end of the year. He also plans to soon move his operation from the shared-space main room at the Bakery into a classroom that had been occupied by the Iron Yard coding school.
He said he sees a market opportunity for providing compelling development tools to other companies that will “de-mystify web development” and allow them to create the infrastructure they need to move forward in their own enterprises.
Griffin also sees the Bakery as a great place to develop and keep in town the local talent needed for the city’s budding technology scene to survive and thrive.
“With the insurance companies and everything else we have here, Columbia should be a tech hub. I think we can be, and this is a start,” he said.
Chloe Rodgers is a Florence native and 2012 USC graduate in public relations. She recently left the Flock and Rally communications firm to become engagement editor for COLAToday, a local news aggregation site that launched on April 3.
Rodgers’ job is guide the editorial voice of the newsletter on social channels, working with daily themes and topics, and providing the last keen editing eye before the newsletter goes out.
She’s one of three staffers working in Columbia for the Greenville-based operation that also has launched a newsletter for the Charleston market. She also said that SOCO was a natural fit.
“We thought the Bakery was so in line with our brand that we didn’t even want to look elsewhere,” she said. “It’s a bunch of creatives in a progressive space that’s part of an even bigger progressive area: the Bull Street development.
“We’re a new media platform thinking of ways to give people what they want and need in new and different ways. The vibe here is just right.”