Durham, N.C. — A unique contest to create the world’s smallest office is getting big attention.
The Smoffice – a project dreamed up last year to promote entrepreneurship in Durham – is the only U.S. finalist in a global competition for Best Unconventional Chamber of Commerce Project in the World.
The winner of the contest, sponsored by the World Chambers Congress, will be announced in Qatar in April.
“We’re gonna win! Yeah!” a hopeful Adam Klein said.
Klein, who used to work for the Durham Chamber of Commerce, created the Smoffice with Matthew Coppedge of the nonprofit Downtown Durham Inc. The project stoked the startup world by offering the winner six months of free office space, technical support and the use of a downtown condominium.
The catch? The Smoffice was just 25 square feet inside the Beyu Caffe on Main Street.
“We actually came up with the idea coming back from a meeting in Rocky Mount in our cramped car,” Klein said.
Their idea was a hit, attracting contestants from around the country who sent in 60-second videos of themselves showing why they should win. The also had to send in a one-page summary outlining their idea, market and team.
The winners were three sisters – Sara Rose Nordgren, Krista Anne Nordgren and Brita Nordgren – who crammed into the little space inside the café to launch The Makery, a website that sells local art.
“The company is still in downtown Durham and doing very well,” Klein said.
The organizers say Smoffice proves you don't need a big space to succeed with a big idea.
“Our philosophy is that the best resource we can provide an entrepreneur is another entrepreneur,” Klein said.
Added Coppedge: “Who thought something so small could be so big? It's pretty amazing.”
The Smoffice is taking applications through March 30 for the next winner, who will be announced April 13.
Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent of WRAL, is a key investor of the Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Smoffice.