Here is the answer why I am so passionate about Thriving Communities…

Why did Polish-born, Ivy League graduate turn her back on Wall Street to become a leader of the collaborative economy?

Short answer: For the connections and collaboration with amazing people doing great things in the world, of course! I help local businesses unlock hidden sources of cash and thrive in the New Economy.

See the long answer below.

Jessie and Mark“We have always believed that sharing resources makes business sense, but we did not know much about the opportunity of turning some of our office space into a Coworking area.

“Before hearing Renata’s Coworking presentation, we had already subleased a portion of our office building to seven other small businesses but we still had more unused space available. We wanted to keep our flexible open floor plan, to allow for our company’s future growth, but we were not sure how to maintain that type of layout and still be able to accommodate new tenants. The Coworking office model that Renata introduced us to was the perfect fit! Our office building is now completely full of interesting professionals, and the Coworking members have become part of our sustainable business family here at the Wellspring Building.”

- Jessie and Mark (

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Long answer: Just days after freedom-seeking Eastern Europeans pulverized the Berlin Wall, my plane landed at New York City’s JFK Airport.

IDCard2I was a 23-year-old student at Katolicki Universytet Lubelski in Lublin, Poland. And I was very active in the Independent Student Union and supporting the local Solidarity Committee in Lublin.

Even though I had only $20 in my pocket and spoke three sentences of English, New York City was the perfect place to start my version of the American Dream.

The abundance of opportunity and my desire for success combined with the contagious energy of New York, quickly expanded those meager resources into a comfortable and successful life in the city.

Graduation2One success followed another: BBA in Economics, MBA from the prestigious Columbia Business School, career with Wall Street firms helping build products, systems and organizations, my own penthouse condo in Manhattan.

On the outside my life looked perfect. But on the inside there were panic attacks, sleepless nights and an insatiable feeling of emptiness. No matter what I did, who I worked for, how hard I worked or how much money I made…my life felt meaningless.

There wasn’t a single sign that my 12-hour work day made a bit of a difference for our customers, employees or the community.

I couldn’t understand how my American Dream had become a nightmare.

Burned out, frustrated, without a backup plan, in 2008 I walked away from everything.

OnTheFarmIn the months that followed I reflected on two key lessons while growing up in a country with very limited resources, but an abundance of connection.

Key Lesson #1 – Asking for help builds community.

As a child, I was often sent to a neighbor’s house to borrow or trade for milk, eggs, or sugar. And there, just like here, people were happy to do what they could. It lifted their spirits to be able to help and it kept our community close.

In the United States I’ve experienced the opposite. People will drive to the store for more eggs before they’ll ask a neighbor who would probably be happy to lend them.

Key Lesson #2 – Unused talents are wasted.

For as long as I can remember I’ve heard this message from my father “Your talents are gifts from God to make other people’s lives better. If you don’t use them that way, you’ve wasted them.”

These two lessons helped us survive and thrive despite living in the completely broken economy of the Eastern European block. And I knew they were crucial parts of my new path. I knew I needed to lead business efforts that would build community AND provide opportunities for people to use their talents to their fullest.

I was unwilling to go back and limit my resources, AND I refused to continue to work in systems that that wouldn’t honor those principles.

This passion and commitment led me almost 3,000 miles away from New York, to a new home in Bellingham, Washington – and a new life in which connection and collaboration matter more than anything else.

This Pacific Northwest community reflects back to me the lessons I learned as a child, where trust and connections were the most valued currencies. Three years after Wall Street, in my consulting practice, I partnered with my biggest “competitor” in town instantly doubling our market while making more than $22,000. I helped create the first professional coworking space in our county. We share office space and resources, and my client receives additional revenue of $1,350/month.

We also created a local lending network that supports our local economy not only by buying local but also by making sure our local small businesses have access to capital they need, right in our community. Within a year we loaned out over half a million dollars.

I am committed to sharing everything I discovered along my path so you and your business will thrive in this New Economy, which I call the Collaborative Economy.