Suite deals catching on in Wilmington

Upstairs, over the business storefront, there’s now a different kind of starter home. Not for young families, these are for fledgling businesses.

More and more, start-ups and small businesses turn to office-sharing in spaces like EntreOffices at 727 N. Market St., Wilmington, which was opened last week by Suzanne Kloud over her Market Street Chiropractic and Rehabilitation practice.

She spent more than $100,000 on the conversion and got $25,000 from the donation-funded Downtown Visions Facade Improvement Program, a grant provided by World Financial Network Bank. The grant let her fix the exterior, which had hit a point of dangerous deterioration, and save her capital for the offices.

She and contractor Mike Marinelli, who did past work on her building, collaborated on the transformation of a second floor she couldn’t rent.

It was easy to lease before the economy soured, Kloud said, but then, "everyone who looked at it wanted smaller offices."

Now, she said, EntreOffices offers 10 suites "for as little as $525 a month, turnkey-ready." That includes an office, conference space, post box, bathrooms and kitchenette with complimentary coffee and tea. Longer service agreements add use of a bigger conference room, its 42-inch plasma TV and 24/7 access to the floor, decorated with old maps and photos from nonprofit Delaware Historical Society’s Fine Historic Reproductions.

Beyond start-ups, Kloud said, the space was designed to suit corporations and law practices that need a presence in the city.

EntreOffices creates a new type of business real estate in the city, says Martin P. Hageman, executive director of Downtown Visions, a nonprofit committed to a safe, clean, attractive downtown.

Will Minster, its business development director and Main Street program manager, said, "it’s exactly what we need."

Mayor James M. Baker said EntreOffices is and helps small business, and it is economic recovery that political pundits don’t understand. "One business at a time is going to make a difference as to how the economy grows," he said. "Real recovery … is up to us."

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Such office space "is the wave of the future," Hageman said, and fuels a city goal of being an entrepreneurship hub.

Home-based and start-up businesses increasingly turn to shared space to cut costs of leasing and equipping offices, and it keeps them more focused, says Michael Tentnowski, who manages New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s incubator, the Emerging Enterprise Center.

Unlike shared space, the incubator has mentors and support services for revenue-producing businesses with full plans, he said, but sharing space at a "pre-incubator stage" can spark synergy and shared issue-solving.

Space-sharing began in 1959, when small businesses filled a manufacturing plant closed in Batavia, N.Y., he said, but "didn’t take off until … the early ’80s."

Its Wilmington debut was the 2009 opening of The coIN Loft at 300 W. Ninth St. It shares space for entrepreneurs just starting business — $50 for five visits a month or $200 unlimited use with bennies like Wi-Fi. After a slow start blamed on the idea’s newness, it now has more than 25 members.

Debating her second floor’s future, Kloud and Marinelli visited The coIN Loft, but opted for a niche between it and full-fledged corporate offices.

Before its grand opening on Thursday, it had two tenants — Marinelli Construction and the insurance firm of Kristin Marinelli, the contractor’s wife.

Business coach Paul Manieri of Achievement Unlimited, a performance improvement catalyst, hopes to move in soon.

An EntreOffices suite would grow the business from three offices in Pennsylvania and a Delaware business center address by providing a Market Street site that clients will trust and find comfortable, he said, adding, "a lot of my potential clients are right here downtown."

Kloud also eyes growth, envisioning more suites elsewhere in her building. When EntreOffices is financially self-sufficient, she plans to add virtual offices.

Even less costly than shared space, they offer as little as mail and messages — a way of doing business Trend Magazine says "is gaining momentum."

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