‘Business lab’ latest addition to Fields Corner lineup

Jordan Frias, Special to the Reporter
Apr. 10, 2014

The fourth floor of 1452 Dorchester Ave. is currently a maze of empty offices and open areas, spaces that John Maudlin and Travis Lee are looking to fill with 50 young entrepreneurs, small business owners, and nonprofit organizations.

The space will be known as the Fields Corner Business Lab and is set to open on Tuesday, April 15. According to Lee, the lab will serve as a “cost effective and convenient” resource for those looking to invest in Fields Corner.

“We’re hoping it will be an economic development engine that will bring job creation, collaborations, and vibrancy to the area that will have a positive effect on residents,” Lee said.

The lab will have 12 private offices and 10 dedicated work desks or stations. There will also be 15 “flex” work areas which will essentially be desks in an open area.

The lab is equipped with a kitchen, lounging areas, conference rooms, and WiFi.

Business partner John Maudlin said that 12 of the spaces available have already been spoken for, but nothing has been set in stone as contracts are still being drawn up.

“We have people coming in regularly to look at the space and many have tiptoed into it to take a look,” Maudlin said.

The idea for the Fields Corner Business Lab came from places like Cambridge and South Station where Maudlin said new innovation centers and labs are popping up every day.

“The more of these (labs) the better. It’s a great way to work and it’s a convenient way to work,” he said.

The website Fieldscornerbusinesslab.com advertises “affordable prices,” with flex stations going for $100 a month and private offices starting at $450 a month.

“We offer a good mixture of privacy and community,” Maudlin said. “As more and more people start their businesses (here) they get to do more of what they love and it becomes less about what’s cumbersome about doing business,” he said.

The largest office in the lab is 185 sq. ft. while the smallest office is 85 sq. ft. The entire lab is 4,500 sq. ft. and cost about $45,000 to renovate.

Community development organizations in the area are among those who have already expressed interest in renting a space, along with a lawyer who specializes in immigration and a small business owner.

The space has also been visited by organizations like Viet-AID, Fields Corner Main Streets and representatives from the Boston Foundation who have agreed to host a grant writing presentation in the lab.

Maudlin said that he and Travis would like to host Thursday night cocktail hours for people in the lab which will consist of training programs on things like grant writing, financial planning and budgeting, things that Maudlin said will help strengthen startups and businesses in the neighborhood, especially nonprofits.

“One of our targets is nonprofits because there are a lot of them in the Dorchester area,” he said.

Lee, who purchased 1452 Dorchester Avenue for $1.6 million, has spent the last decade working with community development organizations like the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation. He has been able to use the network that he’s built in Boston to get suggestions and feedback on how his lab should operate, calling them “soundboards” for ideas he and Maudlin have had on what type of space and resources organizations in the community will need.

They are hoping to promote the lab more after its opening.

“What’s really going to be awesome about this project is when it starts helping the people of Dorchester to start growing and building their business,” Maudlin said.