Museao evolves from furniture store to eclectic space for startups

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 9:16 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 8, 2014
Originally designed to be a furniture store, the Museao Building's former showrooms have been transformed into workplaces for six different startups. In this unconventional building, work can be done on couches, beds, sheds or even a hammock.

COLUMBIA — The glass-fronted Museao Building on Buttonwood Drive was originally designed to be the nicest furniture store in Columbia.

Putnam's, an interior design firm at 1012 Park Ave., wanted a showroom to display furnishings and aggregate office space under one roof. It was called Pavilion, with the space divided into sections to showcase high-end contemporary home decor.

Who's at Museao

  • Influence & Co.

Influence & Co. is a content marketing company that occupies half the office space at Museao. It was recognized recently by Forbes magazine as the 72nd most promising company in America.

Influence & Co. is an example of how the Museao atmosphere can help a business develop trust among employees.

“Nobodyis following up or checking in on people, making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Heidi Fuhrman of said.

Dave Oster, the vice president of technology, believes that the environment, including the ability to take frequent breaks, helps productivity.

“I really enjoy that I can take breaks in general as long as I get my work done,” Oster said. “I play Ping-Pong at least once a day, and it’s a good 10-minute break to relax and take your mind off things.”

  • Chimaeric  

Chimaeric is a video agency that specializes in postproduction on commercials, music videos and films. The company's work has been at the True/False and Sundance film festivals and South by Southwest. Digital effects director Josh Johnson enjoys working in different parts of the building, including by the windows.

“My favorite design is the front of the building with the big windows,” Johnson said. "It really opens up to the outdoors, and you feel like you're outside a little bit." 

  • The Remarkables

The Remarkables arrange thought-provoking discussions between organizations and experts. They have worked with Veterans United and the MU Trulaske College of Business. They have also used video-streaming technology to produce conversations between niche experts and senior leadership at large corporations. 

  • PeopleKit

PeopleKit is a quarterly subscription service for leaders seeking to develop their teams. The service delivers a kit of tools, including simulation games, challenges and experiments to foster growth of an individual, a team or business.

  • CopyMint

This platform helps professionals become contributors to online publications. CopyMint takes care of all the editing and places the final copy in a curated collection that media partners can review. 

  • MediaCross

MediaCross is an advertising agency based in St. Louis that develops creative brand-marketing services. Its clients include the Missouri Hospital Association, the Better Sleep Council, Golden Heritage Foods, and the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps. One MediaCross employee works in Columbia from an office in Museao.

Designer Ed Cundiff and architect Bill Howell of Renner Howell Architects were hired in 2004, and Pavilion opened in 2006. The building cost $2.5 million and enclosed 16,500 square feet of space, with 19-foot ceilings, wide spans of windows and reflective stainless steel walls and floors.

Then the recession hit. Three years later, Pavilion had closed.

The building stood empty until 2010, when it was sold to, a Columbia-based venture capital and private equity firm that invests in entrepreneurs.

When the building reopened in the spring of 2011, it had a new name and a new purpose. It had become Museao, and had been renovated to welcome startups with an open, playful environment.

Six startups now occupy all the available space in Museao — Influence & Co., Chimaeric, The Remarkables, PeopleKit, CopyMint and MediaCross. One is on the Forbes list of America's most promising new companies, and another does postproduction work for film festivals such as True/False and Sundance. The others are companies in marketing, advertising, team building and human relations.

In the Museao environment, workers are not restricted to desks. They can use couches, beds, sheds or a hammock as a work space.

The laid-back work atmosphere allows employees to take recreational breaks during the day, use a putting green, and play table tennis, video games and board games. A cafe to the right of the front door serves products from Lakota Coffee Co. and Hugo Tea Co.

“In general, we value the idea of people being able to move about, to change their vantage point multiple times during the day so they aren’t staring at the same thing all day long,” Heidi Fuhrman of said.

Museao can also be a special event venue for weddings and receptions. A big event, such as a wedding typically can handle 150 to 200 guests, and outside companies use the building for parties and off-site retreats. The employees at Museao had a 1980s-style prom last spring.

“We don’t want to fall into the same mentality of the rest of the world that work has to look a certain way,” Fuhrman said. “This is like a second home because everyone is friends around here and truly cares about each other.”

A striking feature of the building is the expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows across the front. Cundiff curved them and added two red buttresses that direct the view toward the windows and the front doors.

“You anticipate what somebody for the first time is going through,” he said. “How do they find the front door and what can you introduce them to before you get there?”

Howell helped transform Pavilion into the space for startup businesses. He created more parking spaces in the back of the building by eliminating a receiving area for furniture that was no longer needed.

Howell said the open spaces and micro-environments make Museao a great place for startup businesses.

“The building is more fun to be in than a typical building, and you can have a positive point of view,” he said. “The very tall windows let in a lot of light and give the space a nice feel that is conducive to business.”

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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