CIW Co-op Member Nick Stocking’s Design Cloud Fosters Chicago Creativity

As a real estate developer at Centrum Properties, CIW Co-op member Nick Stocking spent around 50 percent of his workday collaborating with the creative in the urban planning and real estate world, but he longed to put 100 percent of his efforts into creative endeavors.  So, when the economy tanked in 2008, Stocking knew his moment to quit real estate and think creatively had come.

Nick Stocking.

“Now is the time to start something where I could live a more creative life and be surrounded by and work with creative people every single day,” he said of his decision to found Design Cloud, a co-working and gallery space for Chicago’s “creative entrepreneurs.”  The business plan for Design Cloud was, in Stocking’s words, “reverse engineered” out of his desire for a creative network.  That community was one he had to build from the ground up: Stocking placed an ad on Craigslist just to “see if people would be interested in this kind of blue sky idea.”
Today, the initial founding group he culled from Craigslist and his connections has made that blue sky idea into a reality.  Perhaps most importantly, the founders have created, in his words, “a really great purpose-driven community of…creative entrepreneurs.” 
That phrase—creative entrepreneur—is one Stocking stresses.  Distinct from a creative freelancer, the creative entrepreneur hand-selects projects and products that fit into a broader vision and that may lead to the formation of a creative organization.  And the creative entrepreneur is the type of person behind the many offerings at Design Cloud.  In addition to its brick-and-mortar co-working facilities at the Near West Side, Design Cloud hosts events, displays local artists’ work and runs the MOUNT Residency, which allows an artist to curate Design Cloud’s gallery space for three months.   The latest MOUNT Residency exhibit, titled HERE|NOW, opens July 25.     

Ever the entrepreneur, Stocking has set yet another goal post for the organization: expand the community by 20 new members in 100 days.   His reasoning behind this ambition is simple. “[W]e have a great space catered exclusively to creatives,” he explained. 

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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