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Beyond the Coffee Shop: Creative Startup Workspaces

Leo Welder
Leo Welder

Creative entrepreneurs think outside the box when trying to find places to work without spending a lot of money. Here are some ideas.

For many of us, going to work means commuting to a traditional office space.

But for startups, sole proprietors, and freelancers, the definition of "workplace" can vary quite a bit.

From libraries to lobbies, here's a look at some of the creative spaces where people get work done.

The Restaurant Office

While spaces like a home office save money and commuting time, some entrepreneurs say they need a different type of workspace to meet with clients or just be around other people. And many go beyond the local coffee shop to find unique arrangements that work for them and their employees.

Jessica Harrison, who founded Zeus Legal Funding, says that while she's worked in public libraries and even in her car, she's found she can focus best at McDonald's, which has an advantage over working in a library because she can answer phone calls plus, eating is obviously a possibility.

A.J. Saleem, owner of startup tutoring company Suprex Learning, gets even more specific with his choice of working space.

"Buffets are excellent places to work as long as there is free Wi-Fi," Saleem says. "The environment of free food and drinks combined with light environment allows my team to work together quickly. In fact, Golden Coral knows us really well and often offers us the party room whenever there are no reservations. This allows my team to work efficiently and have lots of fun."

Back to School

Another spot many business owners turn to for Wi-Fi and a guaranteed quiet environment is the library. For Ian Crueldad, the university library was a natural place to start working, since he was still a student at George Washington University when he started Even though he's since graduated, Crueldad still uses the library as a workspace.

"By being able to work at the GW Gelman Library, I am able to understand how much my company has expanded in the University and in Washington D.C," Crueldad says. "Also by being surrounded with younger people like myself, I feel as if I am not working just solely on expanding my business but feeling that I am helping other millennials with their future careers."

Susie Wyshak, a food business writer and marketing consultant with Good Food Jobs, also found her way back to her alma mater library to work. "Recently I deviated from my long time cafe-writing habit and started walking to the UC Berkeley campus, where I went to college eons ago.

There's a world of libraries on campus, and the energy of panicked students working on projects and papers full of creative ideas and critical thinking inspires me to focus as well. Plus, I get in a great, long walk to my destination."


Even a hotel lobby can be an effective place to conduct business, says Vikram Pradhan, co-founder of SuiteStory. SuiteStory used to have an office, but Pradhan said that venture capitalists are tightening their purses, so he needed to as well. To save money, the business gave up its office space.

"Now we're parked in a spare room in my house," Pradhan says. "But I'm in New Jersey, and so there's a dearth of startup talent this side of the Hudson River. Many want to be in New York. So now if I need to meet with anyone or work with someone temporarily, I always use the lobby of the ACE hotel (Broadway and 29th).

If you go into the lobby of this hotel, you'll feel like you've entered co-working space. The entire lobby is occupied by startups either conducting temporary business there or full business. The first time I was there, I took a couple of photos because it was so amusing to me."

Co-Working Space

As more and more people launch their own businesses or work as freelancers, co-working has become a market of its own. Some are independent spaces in only one location, and others have offices all over the world, allowing workers to plug into an international office of sorts no matter where they go. For many business owners, co-working spaces also lead to fruitful networking opportunities.

"I used to work from home and felt like I was going crazy bound to my small little apartment," says Ryan Chan, founder of UpKeep Maintenance Management. "While I do have to pay a monthly fee for the co-working space it is 110 percent worth it. I find myself more productive, and it is a great way to meet other people and cultivate new ideas for my business."

Jessica Jobes, founder of marketing agency OnTheGrid, says co-working space is especially valuable for early stage businesses and startups because it provides them with opportunities to brainstorm, learn, and network with sources they may have never considered before.

"In addition, having the logistics taken care of (facilities, safety, technology, etc.) by the space owners, allows me to focus on my business goals instead of errands," Jobes says.

All of the Above

Sometimes the perfect workplace is a combination of environments. Many entrepreneurs are taking advantage of productivity tools and the Internet to mix up their work environment. Regina Aneajionu, founder of, says a combination approach has worked best for her team.

They split their time between her apartment in Austin, Texas, a co-working facility in downtown Austin, coffee shops in cities they travel to, or hotel and Airbnb spaces during workcation trips. Anaejionu says they make the combination office solution work with Slack and cloud-based productivity tools.

"This system, which some would certainly call disorganized and perhaps even frightening, works insanely well for us because the changes in environment, the non-dependence on fancy tech, and an appropriate emphasis on play help us to create very original and helpful content consistently.

Honestly, the frequent changes help the quality of our communication and cause us to work even more efficiently than we used to when we all worked from my house as our only office. I wouldn't change our weird combination office solution for anything."

Josh Steimle, CEO of digital marketing company MWI, also uses a combination of spaces in Hong Kong to get work done. While Steimle often opts to work from his home office, on days when he goes into the city he uses a Wi-Fi hotspot to work during his commute on the ferry.

In Hong Kong, his company uses a co-working space because of the pricey office market. And when he's on the go for meetings, he takes advantage of Wi-Fi to set up in a coffee shop.

"Because I often go to meet with clients at their offices, I might arrive in the area an hour or two early, and work from one of the many Starbucks in Hong Kong. The Wi-Fi is free, it's one of the few public places that have power outlets and a restroom, and they don't make me feel guilty about setting up and working for a few hours in their space.

I'm not the only one, Starbucks is the defacto office for many Hong Kong startups, and in five minutes at some of the busier locations you can hear all sorts of business deals, job interviews, etc. taking place."

Image Credit: AndreyPopov / Getty Images
Leo Welder
Leo Welder Member
Leo Welder is the founder of, which guides entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business. Using How-To's, Comparisons, "STARTicles" and a community forum, the site helps people choose cost-effective, scalable and easy to use tools to launch, build and grow their business.