When Nick Robalik found out that a bar was going to be built below his apartment, he had a better idea for the empty space. Last January, after nine months of construction, he opened the doors to Bitmap Creative Labs, an office for creative professionals and freelancers at 300 Graham Avenue. In its four months of operation, Bitmap has filled over half of its quota of clients and is continuing to grow.
Robalik is the creative director at HERO, a design agency, where he has worked for companies like Coca-Cola, NBC/Universal, and M&M’s. He was also employed at ad agencies, but he said he didn’t enjoy those jobs. “I stopped being interested in doing that and wanted to do stuff I felt good about,” he said. “At the bigger places there were a lot of hoops to jump through, [as well as] a lot of politics and bureaucracy. I thought it’d be nice to strip all that away and concentrate on the stuff that matters.”
Nick Ditmore, Robalik’s business partner at HERO, had similar feelings about some of his own projects, and decided to help with the formation of Bitmap. “I met Robalik at a freelance job and we said ‘Some day we should not do this, and we should not do this together,’” he said. “We basically wanted to do things we believed in.”
Bitmap’s rates start at $385 per month and a desk for the day is $35. Workspace memberships, which start at $525 per month, and private offices, which start at $750 per month, include 24-hour access to the building. Amenities for all of the packages come with wireless Internet, reduced pricing on their large format printer, which can be used for materials like fabric, vinyl, plaster, and wallpaper, a kitchenette, and the use of a color laser printer. Their clients are mainly computer based designers and developers who have been in their industries for some time. Robalik is looking for people who already have established businesses, not startups. Ditmore said that Bitmap is for “successful people who want to be more successful.”
In order to set up the technical aspects of his workspace, Robalik enlisted the expertise of Aaron Ray-Crichton, who assembled the entire back end network infrastructure. Ray-Crichton, who runs ARC Systems, laid out the render farm and backup space, connected the computers, and handles any technological troubleshooting. Audrey Molinare, an artist who specializes in screenprinting and ceramics, is the office manager. Phil Kimball is the resident lawyer, and he deals with tech and designed-based trademarking.
Bitmap hosts the Brooklyn Tech Meet Up, which they’re hoping to develop, and Kimball hosted an Intellectual Property workshop on Wednesday, May 25th. At future workshops, they want to teach attendees how to make 2-D animations, and use programs like Photoshop and Unity 3D. “We expect our workshops to be another big community building thing,” Ditmore said.
The workspace prides itself on being an affordable and local option for freelancers in Brooklyn. Bitmap’s team makes sure they can offer everything that a normal office would. “People don’t realize that there are great spaces like this where they live,” said Ray-Crichton. “They think that’s only in Manhattan.”
To Robalik, Ditmore, Ray-Crichton, and Molinare, Bitmap is more than just a place for professionals to gather. “We want resourceful people in here because it’s supposed to be a community of people who can help each other and do business more effectively,” Robalik said. “We’re trying to build a family.”