By Brianna Rae
Eugenia Podesta and Spencer Hudson have spent much of their lives entrenched and in dedication to their community, and now they are giving back in an even a bigger way.
Both Madison natives, Podesta and Hudson are co-owners of a new co-working space that opened last week called Synergy Co-working, located at 5201 Old Middleton Road where K&W Marketing used to be. Synergy is the culmination of a long-time shared dream between Podesta and Hudson of creating a thriving environment and helping to support people in their community achieve success.
With the increase of freelance workers, people who work from home, and labor that can be done outside of a corporate office, co-working spaces are the answer to the question of how to work productively, efficiently, and collaboratively when there isn’t a designated space for it. They also have the unique capability of being a hub for social and communal activities and resources.
Podesta and Hudson’s combined wealth of experiences, education, and knowledge make them eminently qualified for turning their dream into the space that is now Synergy Co-working, a collaborative work environment that facilitates access to support networks, new ideas, exchange of skills and resources, and personal and professional growth.
This week in part one, we’ll introduce how and where Hudson and Podesta got their start and motivation to create Synergy Co-Working.
How They Got Their Start
Born in Peru and re-located initially to Minnesota where her father pursued his graduate studies, Podesta didn’t move to Madison until age 12. She and her family moved to a very diverse, intercultural neighborhood in Madison, but she felt out of place.
“There were all of these cultural challenges that I didn’t really know how to deal with,” she said. “I was automatically shoved into certain categories that I didn’t feel comfortable in. Schools lumped all the minority kids together, and I got put in remedial class, not because I couldn’t perform, but because no one ever gave me the chance.”
Even despite coming from a highly educated and supportive home environment, after Podesta began middle school in adverse conditions, her academic performance and motivation dropped dramatically. Though her academics may have suffered, she was able to channel her energy and intellect into other positive outlets.
“In seventh grade I became very involved in the Latino community, starting with Centro Hispano, and I also got my first job at Migrant Opportunity Services. That was an eye-opener to me, I knew I wanted to be involved in my community, and that was my saving grace,” she said.
Podesta was so heavily involved in extracurricular and community work, including performing in the Latin dance company, that even though she admittedly barely graduated from high school, she got into UW-Madison through the Academic Advancement Program. She loved and excelled in college, and went on to receive her BA in Spanish Literature and Hispanic Studies as well as Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies.
Unsure of where to go next, she started working as a TA teaching Spanish at UW-Madison and Edgewood College full time, and also began doing interpreting and translating. Later, she worked at United Way of Dane County where she focused on literacy and access to social services, primarily for the Latino community.
“I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but these jobs weren’t my passion, they weren’t my calling. At that time I was set on going to law school for immigration law,” she reflected. Though denied the first time into the program, Podesta was determined to get in, and she finally did. She again chose to double major, and went on to receive her Juris Doctorate and MA in Latin American Studies.
After studying abroad in Peru with her dual degree, she met women that were doing amazing work and inspired her to do what she does today. She moved back to the States and landed a job in D.C. with a global economic development NGO that directs resources and support towards women entrepreneurs.
Hudson and Podesta share a similar early education background. Born in Madison, Hudson was raised in a single-parent home and didn’t like school. In high school, he said, “They put me in remedial classes because of my past, so I wasn’t motivated to go. I wasn’t a bad student because I was dumb, I just didn’t try.”
He initially did not graduate from high school, but ended up getting his GED and higher education throughout his life. “I didn’t have a lot of positive influences early on and nobody I knew went to college. I never had people to structure or help guide my path, there just weren’t very high expectations for me,” he said.
After living for a while doing odd jobs and without any specific goals or ambitions, Hudson had a realization while watching a commercial that showed a dentist whom he had grown up next to. “I thought, ‘We come from the same economic background, same neighborhood, and he’s a doctor and look at me. Why him and not me?’”
He realized that people around him were doing great things, and he needed to decide what he was doing with his life. He enrolled in MATC and earned a degree in Small Business Entrepreneurship. He continued his education through MATC pursuing a liberal arts degree, and went on to receive his BA in Social Work from UW-Whitewater.
“I wanted to work with kids and education, kids who had a background like mine who didn’t do well in school. No one should have to go through what I went through when there’s an easier way to get there. So I want to share my experiences, especially with young people, to help open their eyes,” Hudson said.
Though he eventually realized that he didn’t want to be a social worker, he still had a passion for helping young people. He worked for a while at Operation Fresh Start, primarily as a mentor, and also went on to work for Madison College as an Academic Advisor, Case Manager, and Life Coach before he started Synergy Co-working with Podesta.
Curious about co-working? Call (608-709-5550) or visit Synergy (5201 Old Middleton Road) to receive a one-week free trial and experience.
Next week, we will feature Part II of Synergy Co-Working’s story, including its beginnings, mission, vision, and additional information regarding how to get involved. In the meantime, visit www.synergymadison.com for more information, photos of the space, rates, amenities, and to schedule a tour.