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Polymathic Looks to Turn Community 'Living Room' Into Laboratory

By Darryl Holliday | May 12, 2014 7:59am
 The Living Room started as a living room business.
The LIving Room
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Polymathic, a research and development consulting firm, started in two Logan Square living rooms in 2010. Today, business is good enough that the company has been able to move to a new location at 2423 W. North Ave.

But the founders haven't left the company's simple sensibilities behind; indeed, their new space has been dubbed The Living Room, a nod to the firm's roots and a theme they hope to continue as the business grows.

The homey name also reflects a unique aspect to Polymathic: the company may be all business during the day but it opens to the public at night as a "community hub, laboratory and event space."

According to Joe Poeschl, a partner and product designer at Polymathic, The Living Room is meant to be a space for the community to experiment alongside Polymathic.

On one warm afternoon last week, Polymathic’s staff could be found inside the office, the door ajar as the sounds of the Top 100 hits from 1966 echoed around the workspace. Polymatic's 10-person staff rehabbed much of the space themselves, including adding home furnishings and a handsome kitchen handbuilt by a Polymathic member who dabbles in woodworking.

The group, after operating out of living rooms on Armitage and on Sacramento avenues, moved to their first official commercial space in January. The company works with entrepreneurs to design, develop and market products, providing expertise on a fee basis.

While the day is devoted to "working on badass products," as the website puts it, the evening has brought cooking classes, yoga retreats, and a math team workshop. Polymathic presents what it calls monthly  “founder therapy” sessions, a roundtable discussion and support group for entrpreneurs.

“It’s a nice break from working out of coffee shops,” Poeschl said while describing one of Polymathic’s community-oriented goals: providing a place for decentralized, creative-class types — one  that appeals to their sense of comfort and productivity.

“We want to keep [The Living Room] wide open to see who needs a space like this,” said Poeschl.

Poeschl commutes from Milwaukee about twice a week to work face-to-face with Polymathic clients, but much of the staff lives in the city — its “a ragtag group,” he said.

In regards to their new community space, the idea is to “hypothesize, test and validate,” Poeschl said — “to find a balance between what’s reasonable and what draws people together.”

Polymathic’s director of "marketing, events and glitter," Annie Passanisi put it this way when introducing the group to the community via Everyblock last month: “By day we are building small businesses smarter ... by night, we’re cultivating a cultural hub and creative outlet for Chicago’s army of programmers, engineers, developers and the artists, tinkers and masterminds that love and support them. But we need you. Your big dreams and pet projects, your referrals, and your social circles — for classes, conferences, bashes or just ordinary business.”

A hand-posted phrase prominent on the Polymathic wall reads: “Work is love made plain.” Explains Poeschl: If work "is something we love then it’s not work. It’s a true passion.”

“This space can be something that brings people together … the first step is to see if people want to use it,” he added. “At this point any [proposal for the space] is on the table — that creative pursuit is what we want.”

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