Entrepreneurs Ideate -- and Eat -- at Pop-Up Lab Design Taco

For creative and non-creative types alike, where they had their last wild and innovative idea played a key role in actually thinking it up.

A team from The Design Gym realized people need to be relaxed in order to be creative, so this week, the idea accelerator is hosting a pop-up innovation lab in New York called Design Taco for the specific purpose of helping people ideate.

Co-founder Jason Wisdom says the team then asked themselves “where is the place where naturally we just have ideas, where is that place that kind of sparks invention and a sense of playfulness?” And the answer for them, he says, has always been taquerias.

The space is open to the public and will function as a creative hotspot for anyone to come take classes, attend panels and share ideas during the week of May 12 to May 18.

The Design Gym’s partners for the event include Made In the Lower East Side (miLES), Steelcase, U-Gallery, Los Perros Locos and Brooklyn Brewery, so from the space to the furniture and art to the food, each piece of the pop-up lab is a form of collaboration.

Entrepreneurship Today

The design strategy company frequently holds workshops, classes and events, and is “very deliberate” about how they create the environment, company co-founder Andy Hagerman says. “We create a sense of openness and willingness and a safe place to just learn and experiment,” he says.

Design Taco is the co-founders’ -- Hagerman, Wisdom and Daniel Stillman -- first attempt at bringing those events to life in the form of a pop-up space.

It is as important for the team to have an “eclectic mixture of people” speaking at the panels as it is for the topics they cover to be diverse in order to reach “interesting and compelling solutions,” Wisdom says.

Panel topics range from “Customizing Your Customer’s Experience,” “Designing a Food Startup” and “Collaborators Not Competitors.” The invited panelists are coming from Etsy, West Elm, Brooklyn Brewery, Chipotle, Refinery29 and the New York City Department of Education. Tickets for classes and events are priced at $35 and each ticket includes 2 tacos and beer or wine.

Music analytics firm Next Big Sound is one of the companies that brought a team to participate in a workshop on Design Taco’s opening day.

David Hoffman, head of product and co-founder of Next Big Sound, says he discovered Design Taco on Twitter, and in addition to eating tacos, the company hopes their team can learn creative skills they can take back to work.

“We want more people [from Next Big Sound] to learn about design thinking so they can apply that to their jobs,” Hoffman says.

As the lab’s hosts, The Design Gym team gets a front-row seat to every interaction and ideation. Hagerman says one entrepreneurship trend they are seeing take shape is a power shift from those with the most funds or best connections to anyone “willing to step out of their comfort zone and exude creativity in interesting ways.”

In light of this shift, “for us, providing the space that can help encourage that, really bring out what’s already innate to people, that’s what really excites us,” Hagerman says.

Next on Tap

Looking ahead, the company plans to launch several products in the next six to eight months including a pocket-sized notepad (“A Problem Solver’s Toolkit”) and a larger sketchbook (or, “sketch coach”).

The Design Gym also recently expanded to Chile and the team sees its future in creating projects that intersect problem-solving and learning.

“Latin America is obviously a huge creative hotbed right now -- there’s a lot of different markets growing in different ways,” Hagerman explains. The team went to Chile with an accelerator program called Startup Chile hoping to found similar chapters in other places.

“The idea is to eventually grow communities in different cities that we can start connecting the dots,” Hagerman says. “Just like Design Taco, bringing people together in interesting ways … across cultures and across cities and countries.”