Community: The secret ingredient to co-working success?

Co-working communities
Co-working communities

Boosted by the growth of mobile working, the co-working space industry is blossoming. Behemoths such as Servcorp and Regus are spearheading the movement from a business centre perspective, while an onslaught of independent co-working spaces are springing up in towns and cities all over the globe.

With ever-growing demand from mobile workers and freelancers for flexible workplace, business centres have much to benefit by introducing their own co-working spaces. cites that there are almost 1,800 co-working spaces worldwide, a number which has doubled over the past year.

So what can business centres learn from independently-run co-working spaces?

One thing in particular that many thrive on is the value of community. Meet Jenifer Ross, founder of [email protected] in Tarrytown, NY. Like many co-working spaces, [email protected] is a shared office environment that allows users to rent space by the hour and more. But what sets [email protected] apart is its outreaching community ethos and ‘togetherness’.

Jenifer describes [email protected] as everything an independent worker needs, both physically and emotionally, under one roof. Desk space and practical facilities aside, users have the “immeasurable bonus” of community – including “knowledge-sharing, networking, unexpected collaborations, referral opportunities and that boosted daily energy that can only come from a shared space.”

In the community stakes, [email protected] goes one better. It runs various schemes including a collaboration with local schools to offer internship programmes for members, and work experience for young people. They run a series of educational workshops covering various business topics. And they also run a programme called ‘Unemployed Monday’ where individuals “in transition” can work at [email protected] for free, once a week.

Of course, another key driver of the co-working movement is the undeterred ambition of its founders. For [email protected], Jenifer is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to grow the brand. As a suburban-based facility, one of  her aims is to become “the poster child for boutique co-working in the burbs”.

Another forward-thinking co-working organisation is BLANKSPACES. Founder Jerome Chang created the first official co-working space in Los Angeles back in 2008. Today BLANKSPACES has just filed a record month for sales and has enjoyed near capacity throughout the summer.

“BLANKSPACES has progressed quite well in leading the wave of co-working spaces nationally, and in the past year, locally within LA,” said Jerome.

In the early days, the success of BLANKSPACES relied very much on Jerome’s ambition. “We had very difficult challenges from late 2008 through 2009 as we all adjusted to the massive hit of the recession,” he said. “But sticking to our guns, our model persevered the way we had planned all along.”

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Jerome believes that while the market is still in its infancy, more and more start-ups are helping to “pull the trigger” and ramp up the co-working market. “It’ll take a few brands to race ahead and really put co-working on the public map, much like Starbucks did for coffee in the 90s,” he said. “We’ll see who does that.”

It certainly seems that co-working is here to stay. Deskmag estimates that the number of co-working spaces has doubled over the past year. If co-working spaces continue to provide quality environments with those key ingredients of community and ambition, who’s to say the market can’t double again this time next year?

So, business centres take note. If you want to benefit from this growing niche, pop along to your nearest independent co-working facility and find out for yourself what makes it so special. If you can replicate their success you’ll not only help to put the co-working market on the map, Starbucks-style, but you could do wonders for your own business centre prospects too.

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