Gentlemen’s Factory began once Jeff Lindor realized that everywhere he went, he had to “fit in.”
And, so, the co-working space for men of color was born. Founded in 2014, it’s more than just a professional network and a makeshift office: It’s also a community.
“There aren’t necessarily places that ‘fit me’,”Lindor explained to Yahoo Finance. “As a result, I founded the Gentlemen’s Factory because that’s not only a situation I encounter. I realized that so many other black and brown men face that same reality.”
Members pay $150 per month, and are male and predominantly black. However, it is also open to other ethnic groups: Lindor said there are Hispanic and Middle Eastern members of the roughly 150 members of the community — part of an effort to create a space for working class professionals that Lindor described as “isolated.”
He added: “They’re husbands, fathers, and entrepreneurs. The higher they get in their accomplishments, the less of them they see. There weren’t physical spaces that were designed specifically for them in mind.”
The inside of Gentlemen’s Factory looks like a professional ‘man cave’ that features a miniature golf turf, tailoring services, a barber, and televisions. The space is open 24 hours a day for men who need to work at odd hours — and through a partnership with the coworker company BKLN Commons, they can also access conference rooms and other spaces.
Building confidence, ‘bouncing ideas’
The Haitian-born Brooklyn native said that when he thought of Gentlemen’s Factory, he had no idea it would evolve into its current form. Many of the members are entrepreneurs, or men looking for an investment opportunity. They all benefit not just from the camaraderie, but also the ability to share ideas and build confidence.
According to the founder, it can be helpful to see other men succeeding or facing similar hurdles. As a result, members can begin to chip away at the feeling of isolation, and get comfortable with articulating their needs.
The members-only club is also “intergenerational,” Lindor said, with ages spanning from 23 to 74, and the average age between 30 and 40.
Part of the benefit of joining Gentlemen’s Factory, Lindor says, is building the confidence and skills of the entrepreneurs and businessmen who join. Members invest in each other’s companies, and partner with others to create businesses, while others will pay fellow members for their services.
There are also monthly pitch competitions, allowing members to build and hone their skills in a safe and encouraging environment. Winners take home a cash prize, but also much more: Some members have gone on to appear on the hit show, “Shark Tank.”
Gentlemen’s Factory member Marvin Johnson, co-founder of the company Dashible told Yahoo Finance that joining the space has helped him improve his processes as a business owner.
“I met people to bounce ideas off of,” Johnson said — rattling off connections and partners that have helped him build his own business.
For Johnson, the experience is worth the trip from Queens to Brooklyn. He’s trying to raise capital, and has been accepted into an accelerator. The entrepreneur’s GF membership has helped him to “refine” his own pitch, in what he called a “safe space.”
The networking space also pairs with global trauma researchers to host monthly workshops centered around mental health.
“We are always having conversations around mental health but in a culturally competent way,” Lindor told Yahoo Finance. “We also partner with Thrive NYC for mental health first aid trainings.” The program, run by the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, aims to help people recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
Also important to Lindor is furthering conversations around hot button topics in the black community like relationships, parenting, and more.
As part of the effort, Gentlemen’s Factory hosts these events to facilitate dialogue on topics like millennial dating, co-parenting and people of color in the middle class.
Growing across the United States
Gentlemen’s Factory is ambitious about its growth. It plans to open two more spaces in New York this year, and is looking to expand in cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Lindor is also eyeing London, Paris, and Ghana as potential overseas locations.
Right now, Lindor says he’s completed a ‘friends and family’ round of funding, but is seeking to secure further capital. One day, he hopes to take the company public.
“It is the goal to create the largest personal and professional network for black and brown men around the world,” he said with a smile.
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.