Home Work

How one New Yorker ran a trivia business out of his Queens home for a decade

Tony HIghtower in his Astoria home office.

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Home Work, a recently launched column for Brick Underground, goes inside the homes of New Yorkers who are both working and living in their apartments. "How do they make it work?" you might ask. Well, we find out. Tony Hightower, this week's subject, has run Trivia NYC out of his Queens apartment for years.

Tony Hightower began hosting quiz nights in New York City bars a little over 10 years ago. Since then, the job has gone from part-time to full-time (with employees!), and run out of the living room of his one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a walk-up building in Astoria, Queens —which he says is about 1,000 square feet.

Picture stacks of reference materials (you need a lot of those to write trivia questions), as well as prizes from sponsors. "I have a very understanding wife," he says.

But as the business has grown, he has just decided to rent an office space for the first time. Still, we caught up with him to find out how he handled working from home for as long as he did.

It seems that the trick to making a work-from-home situation work is to not be home ALL the time. Was that the case for you?

Absolutely. I’m in a business where people don’t need to come to my office. If I am meeting with a new bar owner or manager to discuss hosting a trivia night there, it makes sense to meet the people at their bar. Also, I'm out hosting a lot of nights, so it's not like all the work is being done from my living room. 

Astoria is full of restaurants, bars and cafes, so I can always go there, too, to meet with my employees. But sometimes I make them a cup of coffee and we sit on my couch and meet. It's not always the most profesional atmosphere but it works.

What are some of the pros and cons to working from home?

At some points, in the beginning, I felt like I wasn't getting enough human interaction. On the flip side, you couldn't beat the commute. Plus, you can make your own lunch, and you have all the comforts of home. 

If you’re doing most of your work by yourself or with one or two people, a home office is great, because even a cheap office is not zero. As a startup, I was able to save a lot of money by not having to pay for an office.

But now we've gotten to a point where my employees need to meet with each other and with clients, and I don't necessarily have to be there, so it makes sense to rent an office space (they're leasing in a shared space in Long Island City). But I hung on for as long as I could, doing it full-time out of my apartment for about five years.

And now you're about to have a lot of extra space in your apartment!

Yes, it feels like the biggest apartment in the world already.

Any advice on using your apartment space as a workspace?

The temptation is to have things pile up, but the more organized you can be, the better. Your workspace reflects the inside of your head. You don’t realize how true that is until you spend every day staring at the same thing.

For a very organized person, I'm sure working from home is a breeze, but I’m a very scattered person. The more you can keep yourself organized, the better you’ll be and the more time you’ll have to do what you want to do. Which is why you’re doing this. Otherwise, you’d get an office job and make more money working for someone else.



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