You know Morgan Thewes is comfortable with you when she begins to season her conversation with a few swear words.
They slip in easily like exclamation points in digital messages; fairly innocuous between friends and completely missing in professional situations.
The 26-year-old is the community manager at LiveWire, Jasper’s coworking space that opened last year on 13th Street.
It’s a gig that has allowed her to become part of the groups who are shaping the way the city will continue to develop. Something her friends in Chicago and Indianapolis would have a harder time doing.
But it wasn’t easy getting there. Morgan left Jasper in 2012 to attend USI to become a dental hygienist. “Yeah,” she laughs. “I realized I didn’t want to wear scrubs every day. Thankfully, my sorority sisters talked me out of it.”
She switched to a degree in marketing and in her senior year she applied to study abroad in Germany as part of a master’s program in international business. “I was declined, unfortunately,” she says.
She was back at home in Jasper at the time and was struggling to find a job locally. Morgan had declined job offers the November before she graduated thinking she was going to be accepted into the master’s program.
“I was very upset. But you know everything happens for a reason,” Morgan said. “I would just sit at home and apply for jobs all day. I don’t think kids realize how many you can apply to and you’re lucky if you even get a letter saying, ‘You’re denied,’ you know, and, but I just kept with it.”
It was while she was in Florida with her family attending a pageant her sister, Mariah, was competing in that she got a call from Mike Elliott at Jasper Group. Elliott is a family friend and he reached out to Morgan to see if she had heard Jasper Group would be contacting her for an interview.
She looked at it as an opportunity to get her foot in the door and begin her career. Now, she says joining Jasper Group was a great decision.
“I don’t regret it. I learned a lot,” Morgan says.
After a few years though, she decided it was time for a change. She wanted to expand from marketing furniture. When she heard about LiveWire, Morgan jumped at the opportunity to be part of a project that was completely unique to the city.
LiveWire is a coworking space on the second floor of the former JOFCO factory building located at the corner of 13th and Vine Streets. It opened last September.
“When I came in here and I saw the space, nothing was done,” she laughs explaining her first reaction to the undeveloped former factory space that eventually became an elegant coworking space.
It was a gut check but she decided to dive in. LiveWire opened last September and now Morgan works with entrepreneurs and creatives as well as area companies who decide to use the unique space as an office or meeting area.
Coworking lives and dies on developing a healthy community, just like the ecosystems of towns and cities. It’s hard to build a community, but Morgan says she’s enjoying the challenge as well as the opportunities the position has afforded her.
For the Ireland girl who hated growing up next to a cornfield because of the movie “ET, the Extra-Terrestrial”, it’s allowed her to become part of Jasper’s future leadership.
She’s joined the Jasper Chamber of Commerce board of directors, lending a younger voice to a group that helps influence the economic and social viability of the city.
She’s also been invited into conversations regarding the planning for the future of the city. The opened doors give her an avenue to bring new perspectives to the table.
She’s looking forward to the area’s future and in what seems a common thread among this generation, she’s excited about the Cultural Center and what it means for the area. Morgan loves the idea of the Downtown Chowdown food truck festival coming in May. She’s excited about the young entrepreneurs in the area investing their time and talents into small businesses.
Morgan has hustle — that immeasurable attribute of can-do combined with go-do. Besides her fulltime work at LiveWire, Morgan also works parttime at Brew. It’s been a great area for networking and with her family tradition of hard work, it seems natural to fill her free time with another job.
And being in the public has also brought to light areas of her community that concern her enough that she wants to be part of the solution. She volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for children removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. She’s been with one set of siblings going through the system for more than a year and it’s heartbreaking.
“I don’t think people know how bad it is in the area,” she says. “I didn’t think about this when I was in high school and I think this is something people should be aware of. You don’t know if the student sitting next to you in class is going through something like this.”
She is also working at the high school with JAG, Jobs for America’s Graduates, where she talks with them about entrepreneurship and local opportunities. Recently she asked the students in the course for a list of three things they would love to see in Jasper so she could bring them to a round table on Jasper’s Main Street program.
They said stuff like a Chick-fil-A but Morgan told them to narrow their focus to more reasonable ideas. “I told them that we don’t get to choose Chick-fil-A, they choose us,” Morgan adds sardonically. “Then they dug in a little deeper and came up with better bike paths, better sidewalks and even suggested a disc golf course at The Parklands.”
All great suggestions for Morgan who has been able to do things in Jasper that her friends in larger cities can’t do. Like buying a house near Gutzweiler Park that’s just big enough for her and her Great Dane, Montee. “My freaking house payment is $600 a month,” Morgan laughs adding that the cost of living is a great reason to stay around here.
Her voice is helping shape the future but cornfields still freak her out a little.
“I am very thankful that I’ve been able to work at a corporation like Jasper Group, work at an amazing little café like Brew, and then help open up a coworking space in Jasper,” Morgan says. “Yeah, who else my age is gonna be able to say that in Chicago or Indy?”