Workbar’s CEO Sarah Travers Talks National Expansion And The Suburban Market Gap

WORKBAR
New Workbar CEO, Sarah Travers, reveals her plans for the growing coworking brand.
  • New Workbar CEO, Sarah Travers, is wasting no time growing the coworking brand and expanding its footprint
  • Travers plans to launch more locations in Boston next year before taking Workbar outside Massachusetts for the first time
  • Travers is also focusing on suburban markets, which she feels is currently under-supplied and “a very big hole in the industry”

Boston-based flexible workspace operator, Workbar, recently announced the upcoming opening of its 9th Massachusetts location in Burlington. Founded in 2009, Workbar has dedicated itself to catering exclusively to the Massachusetts market. Four months ago, founder Bill Jacobson stepped down as CEO and Sarah Travers, industry veteran and former Regus manger, stepped into the role.

Allwork.Space spoke with Travers to learn more about the upcoming Burlington location, what her plans are for the coworking brand, and why the company has so far focused on one market.

Allwork.Space: You recently stepped into the role of CEO at Workbar. Can you tell us about the transition and what you’ll be focusing on?

Sarah Travers:  I joined the Workbar team back in November of last year as Head of Business Development. Late January of this year I became General Manager and shortly after, in April, I was named CEO.

My focus for Workbar will be to continue to expand our footprint in Boston, as well as to expand geographically into the national arena. Before we move into other markets, I want to focus on growing our existing locations and adding three or four more Boston locations in 2019. Once we have Boston healthy, we will tackle our expansion beyond Boston.

Allwork.Space: The majority of large operators are focusing on entering new markets. Why has Workbar opted to focus solely on Boston?

Workbar is Boston’s original coworking space. Our locations are very popular and really full; we even have a waitlist in some of them. We want to truly perfect our geographic density in Boston before going to a new market. Once we have perfected our model, we won’t be entering a new market with one location, we will infiltrate with 5 or more Workbar locations. We want to have a dense amount of workspace locations in a new market from day one.

Allwork.Space: Sounds like we’ll see a lot of Workbar in the near future. Tell us a bit about the new Burlington location.

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I believe we are the first coworking space in the area. Although Burlington is known for being highly industrial, it’s really close to residential areas and it’s an untapped market.

We’re taking up two floors of a building and what’s exciting about this new location is that it’ll be our largests location to date with about 20,000 square feet of space; almost double the size of our Back Bay location. We’ll have large event space that we will rent out to members and non-members, and although we won’t go through the WELL Certification process as we did with Back Bay, the center will incorporate the same WELL elements as Back Bay.

One unique aspect of the Burlington location compared to other Workbar locations is that this will be the first center to offer enterprise suites for larger teams.

Allwork.Space: Why offer this workspace option now?

We didn’t have the footprint to do it before. But we knew that going forward with our locations, this was something that we wanted to offer. It’s based mostly off of a growing need from our existing members who have asked for more space and we have unfortunately not been able to provide it. We want to to able to accommodate our members’ growth, and the Burlington location — being so big in size — allowed for it.

Allwork.Space: Other than focusing on Boston, Workbar has also been looking at tapping into suburban markets. What’s behind this decision and where do you see suburban markets moving forward?

Yes, this is one of the factors that differentiates us from our competitors. We don’t just focus on opening locations in the downtown area. Workbar’s goal has always been to provide a place for people to work 20 minutes or less away from where they live.

We see a very big hole in the industry where we are not providing enough solutions in the suburban market. Which is surprising, given that the way people work today, they don’t want to go downtown, they want more flexibility and proximity. This is one of the reasons why we chose Burlington, though it’s an industrial area, it’s 20 minutes away from residential areas.  

To a certain extent, suburban markets are the future. People don’t want to sit in their car or in a train. We need to start thinking about creating solutions for people who don’t wish to commute.