Jamie Orr

Jamie Orr is committed to community and to Tahoe, and was part of a project to open the Tahoe Mountain Lab, a large co-working office space and the first of its kind in South Lake Tahoe.

The concept was simple: offer a comfortable place for business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs in which to create and collaborate. Besides providing the option of leasing individual office space or conference rooms, Tahoe Mountain Lab (TML) would offer open-concept desks. This shared space allows members to work communally as opposed to alone in their home or private office.

The memories Orr acquired as a child in Tahoe eventually persuaded her and husband, David Orr, to give their daughter a Tahoe childhood.

“We were looking at a photo album of our daughter’s first year and most of the pictures were taken in Tahoe,” says Orr. That’s when the two agreed they needed to find a way to move to South Lake Tahoe — permanently.

In December 2013, the Orrs left Silicon Valley, their jobs and the security of steady paychecks with only the seed of an idea. Orr held the belief that if there is not an existing entrepreneurial eco-system in place, then you need to create one. And that’s what she did. Along with her husband and Jesse Walker, an urban planning consultant, Orr opened the first Tahoe Mountain Lab on Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe.

These founders maintain that magical things can happen when you put people together in the right environment, that the power of collaboration can help improve a business. And improve business they did. With only four individual office spaces in the original building and about 1,000 square feet of co-working space, the Lab filled up fast.

“It’s important that I’m not the only person benefiting from the work that I do.” – Jamie Orr

“We were quickly outgrowing it. By our one-year anniversary, we had already closed escrow on the Tribune Building and we moved into the renovated space by our second anniversary,” says Orr.

In less than three years, Orr and her new partners’ hard work paid off. Currently, there is a waiting list to obtain an office in TML. The 11,000-square-foot space houses people busy generating everything from a skateboarding blog to a global corporation. It is the sense of community that members seem to find most beneficial.

“There are people here with all different kinds of knowledge and expertise and they are so willing to collaborate. We’ve already used a translation and editing service,” says Carl Ribaudo, who runs his marketing consulting firm, SMG, from his offices in TML.

The success of the space inspired the folks at Vail Resorts to take notice. Along with TML, they developed a ski-in, ski-out co-working space at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The second Tahoe Mountain Lab is located in Heavenly’s Lakeview Lodge on the California side of the resort. Orr believes that co-working spaces are becoming the modern community center and that’s just fine with her.

“It’s important that I’m not the only person benefiting from the work that I do,” says Orr, who is continually offering herself to her community. She recently donated her time and knowledge at a TED Talk on emergent behavior. She has taught at both Sierra Nevada College and Lake Tahoe Community College where she is also a board member. Elementary and middle school kids have benefitted from her 3-D printing workshops. The South Lake Tahoe Economic Development Task Force was led and facilitated by Orr. Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Dorado Country gained a presence in South Lake due to Orr and the donation of office space. Along with nine other women, Orr established the Tahoe Women’s Community Fund. In its first year, they awarded more than $22,000 in grants and now have more than 200 members.

Orr doesn’t just believe in the benefits of a strong community and an all-inclusive work ethic, she lives it. Her many accomplishments demonstrate her belief that one way to make Tahoe better and obtain a sense of community is to work hard at it.

By Lisa Michelle