Danielle Casey

Design work by Danielle Casey

Danielle’s passion for creating opportunity and shaping communities, brands, and culture took root when she launched her first design and e-commerce business in 2012. Immediately introduced to dozens of Creatives in the South Florida pop-up circuit, she saw the need in her hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida for a centralized Creator Community.

She was presented with an opportunity to help develop and launch Elizabeth Ave. Station; an event-driven shop focused on music, art, and design in West Palm’s Warehouse District. The response this humble little warehouse project received proved that theory viable. ‘The Station’ provided an opportunity for creatives to sell their work in a beautifully designed and curated collective without having the overhead that comes with conventional brick & mortars.

In 2018, another opportunity arose and she set out to help create a non-profit organization that would supply resources, education, workspace, event space, and community to entrepreneurs and freelancers from all walks of life. With a nod to the year Palm Beach County was founded, she aptly named it 1909.

First question: Do you consider yourself a freelancer or a founder?


Let's first kick off on your career path, could you share where you started to where you are today?

My career path was quite unconventional and serendipitous. I was actually doing some work in a prison in Miami, Florida while in school for my Masters Degree in Counseling when I made a 360-degree pivot to go into business with my best friend. We had dreamed about owning a coffee shop since we were in our teens – never once talking about the coffee itself, just the environment of the place (how the interior would look, feel, smell) and the community we'd cultivate. She had recently graduated from art school w/ a degree in graphic design so we leaned into that and created a boutique design studio. Had a few clients but fell more in love with creating for ourselves so we created a line of high-end greeting cards - focusing on custom wedding suites. We got to know the local West Palm Beach artist & maker community by doing the pop-up circuit in our area and realized there was a creator community here and not enough opportunity for them. So, we launched our e-commerce shop to support local artists & makers. –(@locateparadise)

From that, we were offered an opportunity to turn our e-commerce shop into a brick-n-mortar in the form of a 5,000 sqft warehouse in the middle of a run-down industrial area. We launched Elizabeth Ave. Station in 2017 – an unconventional shop & event space focused on music, art, and design. We knew we didn't have the organic foot traffic so it would have to be event-driven. We hosted events every week often attracting up to 1,500 people. Confirming our hunch that there was a creative community floundering around in our hometown. –(@thestationwpb)

In 2018, I was presented with a new opportunity to help bridge the gap between the tech and creative communities in WPB. I wanted to create a resource for people like me who wanted to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, creators, freelancers, small business owners, etc. but also learn how to, holistically, turn their ideas into reality – in a sustainable way. Named after the year Palm Beach County was Founded, 1909 was established in 2018. 1909 is a Non-Profit organization dedicated to the holistic growth and development of small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives. We offer affordable workspace, a business accelerator program, resources, mentorship, and relevant events for the like-minded who give a damn about building a better tomorrow. –(@weare1909)

What did you find the most challenging part of your career so far?

The most challenging part of my career has hands down been myself. I'm my biggest challenge and I stand in my own way more than anyone or anything. Overthinking has been detrimental to both my career and life. I spent all of my 20s and even my early 30s measuring the gap, not the gain, and letting society's arbitrary pressures weigh too heavily on me. I constantly compared myself to others. I'm unsure if it was covid or my husband's cancer diagnosis in 2020 (he's fine now) – maybe it was both – but it shifted my perspective and now when I start to compare myself or look at what I have not achieved yet, I try to remind myself that, sure, it could be better but it also could certainly be a lot worse. It's all about perspective... and knowing that most of society's norms are complete bullshit.

What made you decide to start your own co-working space, 1909?

Well, let's clear the air that we are not your typical 'co-working' space. Yes, our memberships include workspace but they also include programming, events, and resources – and they are far more accessible (aka affordable) than market rate office space in our (or any) city. With membership starting at $75/mo for 24hr access. We started it because we wanted to create something that we didn't have when we first started. Something that would have made a world of a difference – a one-stop shop for community, connection, education, unlimited coffee, a Rolodex of software developers, graphic designers, web designers, photographers, lawyers, marketing professionals, therapists, etc. – everything you need when you're starting your business... all at the palm of your hand and all willing to barter their services!

As we know at Freelance Founders, community is everything. How did you go about building the 1909 community?

We created something very unique and filled a void. It starts (and ends) with the brand. We knew we needed an identity that would attract the like-minded. We knew our messaging had to resonate. We knew we needed a physical space that would feel both inspiring and comfortable. We knew there were a lot of people in our area ideating in isolation. We knew an application process was necessary. We are incredibly transparent with our Community — having quarterly 'Family Meetings' — an opportunity for us to let our Members know what's going on behind the scenes, for them to ask questions and get more involved in certain initiatives. This is just one example of how we engage our community. We've intentionally given them ownership. They take the garbage out, we have no receptionist, this is their home — their community.

You're surrounded by founders, entrepreneurs, and creatives at the 1909 Club. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for them when starting their companies and freelancing careers?

Funding & Motivation. If you don't have funding... it can be insanely difficult to remain motivated. We try to alleviate this by giving them relevant resources, and holding space for weekly events for them to connect, vent, and ask for help — beyond slack channels. Isolation and creating in a silo can be detrimental.

How do you stay motivated and inspired?

This community inspires me. I am constantly blown away by the amazing souls that make up 1909 – they are constantly helping one another, and doing mind-blowing work. Being at 1909 – it's consistently buzzing with great energy. If you've been, you've felt it. We have members fighting gun violence amongst our inner city youth, harnessing the power of the ocean to create clean and renewable energy, building AI technologies, baking mouth-watering gourmet stuffed marshmallows, creating apps to connect dogs with wannabe dog-owners, clearing the path to for overlooked students to get into the best colleges, etc.

It's impossible to be a part of this community and not be inspired.

As for motivation – the real truth in knowing how much more of an impact we can have and how much more opportunity we can provide for those both talented and deserving of it, motivates me every single day.

What advice do you have for creative people who want to pursue their passion as a career?

Get connected to a community that will support you; you need your love bank. Focus on the gain, not the gap. The gap is where people measure progress based on ideals whilst the gain is where people look back and actually measure the distance they have travelled. I still struggle with this as I'm a detail-oriented perfectionist but I believe perspective really is the key to happiness.

What's next for you?

4 years in, we've outgrown our current workspace in Downtown West Palm Beach. We are watching our area grow at an unprecedented rate which is very exciting – but it’s also leading to unattainable rent costs for many small businesses, early-stage entrepreneurs, recent college graduates, and our creative class. We believe ownership is critical for the sustainability of our organization and for our community. We are currently working on purchasing our forever home, so we can continue to provide opportunities for the forward-thinking, independent humans who have consciously chosen to build outside of society’s distorted success paradigm.