Blue Co. brings cowarehousing into full color

Jason Widen Head Shot(1) (1)Raleigh-based entrepreneur Jason Widen and his team already pioneered the coworking movement in the Triangle with the Raleigh Communities family of spaces. Now he and his team are trailblazing again with a new concept of cowarehousing.

What is cowarehousing? 

Cowarehousing brings the community ethos and flexibility of coworking to warehousing. As Widen described it, “It’s warehousing, but not unlike coworking, people can get the benefits of shared equipment and shared space and that flexibility — they don’t feel like they're signing their lives away for longer term commitment.”

Widen came up with the idea after recognizing the power of the community he built with Raleigh Founded, a successful coworking network housing 450+ companies. He saw cowarehousing as his “next growth area, to create a sound business model” to scale regionally. He spotted a gap - no one was doing flexible, shared warehousing tailored to small service businesses and tradespeople.  


The pilot locations

Already Widen has two 30,000 square foot warehouses in downtown Raleigh serving as pilot locations for Blue Co, his new cowarehousing venture, and uses Coworks to manage the space with members. The spaces serve a diverse mix of businesses, from e-commerce firms needing storage and fulfillment capabilities, to contractors storing equipment and supplies. 

“It's been fascinating to see the different types of users,” he said.

Ecommerce companies need warehouse space to “store their inventory, and they're shipping goods, and they're fulfilling or kitting their products.” But they also want “a professional environment with an office and chairs and meeting rooms.”

Surprisingly, contractors and tradespeople also want offices and meeting rooms, in addition to parking and areas to securely store materials. 

Shared warehousing: what customers need

Many SMBs end up liquidating unsold inventory after holidays to free up room for new stock. But for those determined to hold onto excess inventory, redistribution and shared warehousing can help. 



Widen has also seen niche laboratory companies needing flexible, affordable lab space: “We have people who need a non-biohazard kind of lab facility, with nothing toxic or flammable or anything like that...a ‘life science light’ is what I'm calling it.” Meanwhile, food and beverage companies need refrigerated storage near professional work areas.  

The common thread? “Anyone who needs flexibility,” Widen said. Plus a combination of storage space and office/meeting room access.

Fostering a business community

Blue Co promises more than just warehouse space. “There's a big difference between storing your stuff at a residential storage unit and having your business within our community,” Widen explained. He’s actively fostering connections between members, like he did with coworking.

“At Blue Co, just like Raleigh Founded, you're meeting other like-minded business people. You're exchanging business cards. There's always an opportunity to meet someone to grow your business. I think at the most basic level, it's about connecting people and being intentional about making those connections.”

Widen plans to formalize these community-building efforts over time: “Right now, we manually curate a list of resource providers and those types of things. We make those referrals kind of ad hoc, but it'll become more robust.”

He also plans to offer specialized services in-house, after seeing many members struggle with consultants. “I feel like even providing fully vetted resource providers can be really helpful," he says.

Rapid growth trajectory  

The future looks bright for Widen’s newest venture. After validating the pilot locations, his goal is 3-4 new warehouses in the Triangle this year, then “three or four warehouses a year for the next seven to 10 years” across the Southeast. 

For business owners seeking flexible warehousing without painful long-term commitments, Blue Co offers an exciting option. And early signs point to the same community ethos and meaningful connections that have defined Raleigh Founded. 

Once again, Jason Widen seems to have tapped into entrepreneurial zeitgeist. He pioneered coworking in Raleigh, and now prepares to redefine warehousing. 

Cooperative warehousing delivers on demand storage

The cooperative model reduces costs through shared infrastructure and resources. Members get affordable warehousing without large overhead expenses. Warehouse owners generate steady revenue from unused space.


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