Local entrepreneurs hope to revolutionize workspaces with ‘premium privacy booth’

  • Michael Crigler demonstrates the use of the Bento, a “premium privacy booth” that Crigler and three other local entrepreneurs designed for co-working spaces, such as Greenspace CoWork in Greenfield. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2021 1:35:06 PM

GREENFIELD — With the creation of their new product, four local entrepreneurs are looking toward a post-pandemic world of business.

“The Bento” is described as a “premium privacy booth.” Designed like a phone booth, it functions as a “room within a room,” or a place to make phone calls or video conference calls in a work setting with an otherwise open floor plan.

The product is an offshoot of Greenspace CoWork on Main Street, according to Jeremy Goldsher, co-founder of Greenspace. He developed the Bento in partnership with Michael Crigler, Jeff Sauser and Spencer Sherman.

“It’s been wildly successful for us,” Goldsher said. “We worked with a group down in Holyoke (CoFab Design), and designed it from the ground up.”

Sauser, also a co-founder of Greenspace, said the group began seriously working on the product about a year ago.

“Jeremy and I started the co-working space about two or three years ago, and one of the steps about building out a co-work space … is to provide a place for people to take phone calls, or video calls, without bothering other people,” Sauser explained.

He said there were a few similar booths on the market, but none with “much character” or that matched the feel of Greenspace.

He added that the booth was also developed with video conferencing in mind — and the reality that online platforms such as Zoom are likely here to stay.

“You don’t want to look like you’re in a cage somewhere when you’re hunched over your desk” Sauser said. “We’ve paid attention to the lighting.”

After developing a few prototypes, the four entrepreneurs decided the Bento was more than just a product for Greenspace, and they are in the process of growing it as a business, according to Sauser.

“Regular offices are completely transforming how they operate,” he said, in recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the way people work from home, or from a co-working space. “People are not going to be coming in anymore. Office footprints are going to get smaller.”

So far, the group has sold the booth to Greenspace, a co-working space on Olive Street called Another Castle, and Greentown Labs, an environmental tech startup in Somerville.

“We’re finding initial partners … and now we’re preparing for a larger scale run … and getting customers lined up to support that,” Sauser said.

The group of founders emphasized the local feel of the product, noting that all aspects of it were designed and manufactured within a “close radius” of Greenfield. Crigler said that includes Boxco Studio, a design and custom fabrication company in Greenfield.

Although the Bento is designed for co-working spaces and tech startups with a similar office plan, as well as colleges and universities following a more hybrid structure of education, Sauser believes regular office spaces, too, will likely be in the market in the future.

“Customers increasingly will include more conventional companies thinking about how to restructure,” he said.

In general, Sauser — who works as an urban planner — said co-working spaces, especially in Greenfield, “have a real future in and of themselves.”

“We’ve seen a lot of people … moving out of Boston and into the communities they want to live,” he said. “People don’t have to … be so close to their job.”

For more information about the Bento, visit bentocollective.com, email info@bentocollective.com or call 404-583-8735.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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