Josh Bobrowsky’s journey to co-founding a successful co-working space is anything but typical.
5 min read
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Walking into most coworking offices, you’ll see an obligatory beer tap and perhaps a dog or two wandering the halls. Not so at Ignitia Office, a coworking space located in Brooklyn. The only thing you’ll find on tap is Kombucha, and they have a strict no-dogs policy. The setting is as unique as one of the co-founders, Josh Bobrowsky.
For starters, Bobrowsky has a law degree, and he played high-stakes poker to pay tuition for undergrad and law school. When he moved to Texas, he discovered networking was done at the shooting range as opposed to a golf course. So in order to build his network, he spent months learning how to fire a shotgun. He eventually quit his job at an oil and tech VC firm so he could focus on raising enough capital to open Ignitia Office along with his co-founder, Stephen De Rosa. This involved driving from Texas to New York with no job, no apartment and no safety net if things didn’t work out.
Sounds like a huge risk, but in Bobrowsky's opinion, the bigger risk was not taking a chance at something he thought would be an amazing opportunity. Here, he breaks down the steps he took to build a thriving business.
Success starts with people
"The first company I started was a landscaping business. I was about 17 years old, living in Pittsburgh. It was a really great experience where I learned to talk about sales and gained leadership experience. Over the course of five years, I probably had 50 different employees. I learned a lot about different people and how they like to be managed, how to treat people fairly for employee retention and how to improve the overall atmosphere of the company."
Going along your own path
"I have a non-traditional career path from getting a law degree to consulting to playing high-stakes poker to running a small chain of CrossFit gyms. When I moved to Houston, I had just finished taking a year off to travel around the world, which I funded by selling some Crossfit gyms. I realized in Texas that a lot of business deals were done at the shooting range, so I hired one of the world’s best shotgun shooters to be my personal shooting coach. I was able to learn quickly and in a few months, went from never firing a shotgun to winning some local tournaments. It was fun and a great lesson about the value of a great coach or mentor in helping you achieve high levels in a short amount of time."
Related: How to Take the Right Risks
Mentors who helped along the way
"I’ve been fortunate to have several great mentors during my career. Three, in particular, come to mind: Anthony Westreich, Stuart Romanoff and Steve Cowen. All have been incredibly helpful to me in my business life as well as my personal life. All three are successful businessmen, generous, kind and have great families. I think when you look for a mentor, it is valuable to look for a person who is not just successful in their career but also is living a life that you would like to emulate."
Importance of self-care
"I think self-care is really important. Self-care involves carving out time for yourself, as well as time for people you care about. For myself, I probably work out four or five days a week. Two to three days a week are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One day a week of some sort of hot yoga. And then maybe two days a week of standard gym workouts and I try to eat very clean. In terms of spending time with friends and family, or dating, I prioritize that at the same level as I would put a business meeting. If you're just working 16-hour days, seven days a week, you'll end up getting burnt out."
Healthy people build healthy companies
"Entrepreneurship is a marathon. It's not a sprint of three weeks or three months — or really even three years. Most good big businesses take 10-plus years to build, if not more. So making sure that you take care of yourself and are able to be a healthy human being is the best way that you can build a healthy company. I think that that self-care trickles down. If you look at a lot of entrepreneurs who just work all the time, their co-founders or employees often burn out quickly because they feel compelled to work just as much. I've never been a proponent of that kind of company culture."
Reading for inspiration
"Reading is also part of my self-care routine. There's a book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz that takes a tough and honest look at an entrepreneurial journey. I think a lot of people only watch what I call 'entrepreneur porn' which usually sounds like, 'Well, I went through a hard time at one point and then x, y, and z happened and now I'm successful and it's just been smooth sailing from there.' But almost every entrepreneur goes through an unending series of ups and downs. To understand that and read about a company that really had some hard times and then persevered and made it through to a multi-billion dollar exit and then became one of the most premier venture capitalists in the world, that's a pretty inspirational story."