- Niche coworking is taking the industry by storm as operators continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition
- Emerging industries, like the cannabis sector, benefit from niche spaces but also have the potential to help power the growth of these sector-specific spaces
- Allwork.Space spoke with Jessica VerSteeg, CEO of Paragon, to learn how their workspace enables entrepreneurs within a stigmatized sector to identify new growth opportunities
In an interview with Allwork.Space earlier this year, Steve King from emergent research, said that even though we are seeing more consolidation happening in the industry at the high end, “with the overall growth of coworking and the recognition of the value of coworking (…) you are going to start to see more and more niche spaces.”
King argued that these types of spaces “make enormous sense”. For one, niche spaces provide an obvious differentiator from the competition and, for another, the strength of communities in niche spaces and the opportunities that arise as a result offer clear benefits.
Last year, we saw the first example of how niche coworking is catering to the cannabis industry. Though that venture didn’t come through, the concept does have the potential to be a profitable business, at least in regions where the cannabis industry has been legalized.
Last week, Paragon — a cannabis blockchain platform — announced that it would launch its first Paragon Space this coming Summer “to encourage collaboration within cannabis and blockchain industries.”
Through its platform, Paragon’s goal is “to legitimize and provide transparency and regulatory solutions to this fractured industry (cannabis).” Their online, blockchain powered platform provides a transparent system through which growers, suppliers, doctors, and consumers can interact and do business with one another.
Yet, Paragon’s founder realized that an online platform wasn’t enough. Jessica VerSteeg, CEO of Paragon, spoke with Allwork.Space about the need the cannabis industry has of having a safe, supporting space to do business. This is the main motivator behind VerSteeg’s decision to open a coworking space.
Unlike Podwerks, which aimed to provide a space for people to grow their own cannabis plants, Paragon is focused only on providing actual workspace.
“A few years ago I had my own cannabis product company called AUbox. The issue was that I had a really hard time finding office space. Even though I wasn’t growing cannabis myself, landlords were reluctant to let me inside their properties. If they agreed to let me lease the space, they usually asked for more money as they believed my type of business would put their entire property at risk.
“Because of the stigma that comes with the cannabis industry, you can’t just work from your garage like most startups do in their early days. Depending on what exactly you are doing, people in the cannabis industry need to look at green zones where they set up shop.
“What we are hoping to do with Paragon Space is to give cannabis entrepreneurs and startups access to a safe, affordable workspace, and to provide them with a place where they can network and meet other people involved with the industry.”
Having first hand experience of dealing with landlords skeptical of the industry, VerSteeg knew that the only way to make Paragon Space work was to own the building themselves. Other than workspace, Paragon Space will give members access to mentoring, legal and business advice, access to industry information and best practices, as well as networking events.
In order to make sure that only people seriously interested in the cannabis industry use the space, Paragon Space will require members to pay for everything with PRG (Paragon’s coin). According to VerSteeg, this will also bring transparency to their business, as their coin allows them to track who buys what and from whom. “It’s a verification process so we make sure that everyone in the space is operating and acting in line with the law.”
Paragon’s online community is global, but due to laws and restrictions across state and internationally, it doesn’t make sense to have a “global vision” for their coworking spaces. As a true niche space, Paragon is focusing at a local level, at least for the time being.
“We definitely want to grow and create more of these spaces, but this is up to the Paragon community. Before we expand our footprint, we want to see how the community feels about the space and whether it truly benefits people before deciding on a second location.”
Niche coworking spaces are racing ahead of the competition, and we recently learned that local, independent operators make up 93% of the US market. Emerging industries, like blockchain and cannabis, provide the flexible workspace industry with more opportunities for growth and local impact.