(ABOVE: photo by Sara Wasserman)
“If I had a second chance, I’d still start my agency in Hoboken,” James Runkle said, as he confidently stepped out from between two parked cars to cross Fourth Street. “I didn’t plan to go out on my own when I did. It was just a blessing of good fortune I lived here when it happened.”
We were on our way through Church Square Park to sit outside at Empire Coffee and check out the progress of the new lofts being built. The imagery was spot on to our conversation about the larger City of Hoboken and its continued growth. James has called Hoboken home for fifteen years.
“One Thursday at five o’clock, I got called into [the owner’s] office, at that agency I was with, and he told me I wasn’t going to make it through the latest financial slump,” James said. “I thought about a lot of questions that night. And had a scotch, as you do. I got up early the next day to organize myself for a job search, or possibly a vacation—I wasn’t sure—and by noon, four of the agency’s clients offered to hire me directly. Then, there was just one big question—can I do this entrepreneurial thing?”
Five years later, he’s still doing it. Drummond St. Strategy has evolved from a solely strategic marketing agency into one with execution capabilities for creating apps, building tactical websites, and running social media campaigns for higher education, consumer electronics, startups, real estate, and politicians.
“Could I have achieved the same success so quickly if I operated out of anywhere other than Hoboken? There’s no way. Absolutely no way,” he assured me.
James pulled out his phone and Slacked the following list.
Hoboken adds significant value to my business by offering:
- ONE—A functional blend of traditional and progressive work spaces
- TWO—A cornucopia of food and beverage options for entertaining clients
- THREE—A dynamic and diverse business community
- FOUR—Inspiration from living on the leading edge of innovation
- FIVE—A lot of room to grow
While I read the list, he primed himself with a swallow of coffee and then said, “You ready to record?”
ONE—A functional blend of traditional and progressive work spaces.
“Development of the South Waterfront opened the door for major companies to migrate to the area, and award-winning public spaces like Pier A and Pier C parks and the connecting promenade enticed people to live here. A walking commute along charming neighborhood streets to a world-class company pretty much sells itself.
The ripple effect from the success of the waterfront also placed a proven, higher value on what Hoboken has to offer companies. With it, came more opportunities in the business space, such as the Hoboken Business Center, Hoboken Office Suites and Monroe Center for the Arts (Yes! Business space for artists). For entrepreneurs who are too big for their living room (like me) and don’t need expensive, large office buildings (again, me), these types of companies offer a variety of sophisticated workspaces to grow into.
The city also upholds its long history as an important transportation hub. I can quickly get into Manhattan and, less than fourteen miles away at Newark Liberty International Airport, go anywhere else in the world. As a business owner—this all means I can conveniently go wherever my business takes me and be easily accessible to clients.”
TWO—A cornucopia of food and beverage options for entertaining clients.
“Hoboken has earned a lot of notoriety for its bars, as the city should, and if you can’t find a bar to satisfy your needs, you aren’t thirsty. From drink specials at Urban Coalhouse to cocktails and a foodie dining experience at Halifax, our one square mile nails entertainment.
Without traversing very far, it’s possible to tailor fit a client experience. Fun, friendly, and fashionable can happen at Del Frisco’s Grille, and you can get a real insider, Hoboken-authentic Italian meal (I mean, Frank Sinatra’s chair hangs over the bar) at Leo’s Grandevous. Plus, everything can get delivered to the office for lunch meetings and late nights.
I want people to remember enjoying themselves when they interact with my brand, whether they become clients or not, and the food and beverage talent here makes hosting meetings a competitive advantage.”
THREE—A dynamic and diverse business community.
“Business now happens in the global marketplace thanks to advances in technology, and the world holds a lot of talent. An overwhelming amount, sometimes.
All the advantages of Hoboken I mention here, along with many others, have attracted a lot of talent in almost every industry, from marketing and advertising to technology to finance to physical therapy and more. Being able to scour the earth for professional services is one thing, and having premier talent in your neighborhood changes the game.
Within one square mile, I can work with an amazingly diverse group of businesses—from world-class research institutions (Stevens), vital public service organizations (Hoboken Public Library), religious groups (Ss Peter & Paul), and Silicon Valley-type startups (Forkcast).
How do you meet your future go-to talent and clients?
FOUR—Inspiration from living on the leading edge of innovation.
“There’s nothing more disappointing than having a state-of-the-art approach in a room full of outdated thinkers. People around here get it!
Hoboken’s first hotel was a W Hotel (the only one in New Jersey), and the deal came together famously when Starwood Hotel executives saw the mass of young professionals exiting the PATH station. The high performers and achievers have been here for years creating authentic demand for all things facilitating and fueling the lifestyle born from success, from five-star dining and hotels to brand-new real estate development to premium, fully furnished homes for temporary living by Dharma Home Suites.
Living and working among forward thinkers both pushes me to stretch my own talents and also provides the solutions to my adapting strategies. In my opinion, this symbiotic mindset spread to a tipping point capacity and manifested into the Propelify Innovation Festival. The reason the innovation community is attracted to Hoboken is because Hoboken continuously evolves to thrive.”
FIVE—A lot of room to grow.
“Real estate has really boomed over the last decade to accommodate all the metropolitans eager to be a part of this progressive community. Change doesn’t come easy for everyone, for sure. But, Hoboken flourishes with each fresh breath of life it draws in by transforming the wasted space of abandoned buildings into useful homes, workspaces, and outdoor spaces.
The passion to take another breath doesn’t end here, and empowered by the groundbreakers who’ve made Hoboken their home, the city will perpetually adapt to the needs of its residents, while preserving the traditions of what made it great in the first place.
One day, I may even add the Erie-Lackawanna Terminal to the list of places to take clients. Of course, it’ll look much different by then.”
Here’s the big takeaway
“My best across-the-board business advice—understand the importance of your home base and embrace it. Pick a place, like Hoboken, where home-field advantage means something. Starting a business takes a lot of time, money, talent, perseverance, and near-delusional optimism, and in the end, I think it’s worth it.”