Is Your Community Ready For Coworking?

Coworking provides a way for the mobile workforce to gather, support each other, and grow without having to commit to pricey private office space. Although coworking spaces tend to flourish in urban centers where independent professionals are the norm, new facilities are popping up all over the world.

But how can you know that there’s enough demand for a coworking space in your town without personally polling each and every remote worker or freelancer in a 20 mile radius? Three space owners share their ideas for gauging interest, and knowing when both you and your community are ready for a shared work space.

No One Else Is Doing It

“I'd say that quite simply there were other cities in similar size and geography that had multiple successful coworking spaces and our region did not have a single one,” said Gerard Sychay, owner of CincyCoworks, “That was a good sign.”

Many space catalysts, amazed with the simplicity and potential benefits of a coworking space, are often surprised to learn that no one is trying something similar in their communities. It’s common for those interested in opening a space to start a Meetup group or Jelly to spread the word about coworking to other independents that might be frustrated with the coffee shop scene, but unaware that there are affordable alternatives.

You’ve Outgrown Every Temporary Space Available

“We knew our small town was ready for a coworking space when the local coffee shop would no longer hold all the mobile workers trying to work there simultaneously,” said Joel Bennett, Chief Dreamchaser at Veel Hoeden, a gathering place for small business people from a variety of different backgrounds in Pella, Iowa.

This is a common refrain among new and established space catalysts. Most are overwhelmed by the interest they find in their communities, and are quickly able to arrange semi-frequent gatherings for mobile workers to connect and commiserate.

“We had people sharing booth outlets while others strung extension cords across the upstairs loft.  It was then that someone said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a place of our own?’ We immediately got to work on finding a space of our own, and in a few short months, opened our space half a block from the coffee shop,” Bennett continued.

People Are Willing To Provide Financial Support

“If you have 20 people that are willing to crack a checkbook for you, you’re in good shape,” said Angel Kwiatkowski, curator of Cohere Coworking Community in Fort Collins, Colo.

Most, but not all, coworking spaces aspire to be profitable, member-based businesses as well as nurturing havens for freelancers and entrepreneurs. While you might be anxious to establish a storefront, it’s important to make sure the members are behind you all the way.

“I only had six people ready to pay when I started,” Kwiatkowski continued, “which meant there were a lot of unknowns for the first few months. But since we were quickly outgrowing our temporary space and the group indicated that they didn’t want to/or couldn’t make the leap to another temporary location, I knew I had to act fast.”

If you’re not sure whether your community can sustain a coworking space, it might help to look for a middle ground between completely homeless, and completely permanent.

Alice Kaerast, catalyst for a micro-coworking effort in the UK, knows what it’s like to exist in this location limbo, but isn’t pushing something that’s not there yet. “We're not a ‘proper’ coworking space in that we don't market ourselves as such - we can't given our limited space - but we certainly operate along similar ideas,” said Kaerast.

Kaerast’s space started with two people in a little office, and nearly 12 months later she invited a friend to hang-out and use the spare desk. “We still don't know if we're ready for our space to be open for coworking, so we're just making things up as we go along,” she said. In the mean time, Kaerast is helping meet the demand for temporary coworking space in the form of Jellies. She’s running one in a nearby city regularly and planning another regular group in her own town.

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