Coworking spaces provide extensive opportunities to small businesses.
If you're a small business owner and you need an office, coworking spaces can provide you with a business community, enterprise-level perks and a versatile office space. If you're based in or near a city, there are likely some, if not hundreds, of coworking spaces you can join. Think of coworking spaces like renting a home instead of buying one – you can set up a "lease" with the company for six months, a year or longer. The company you join will handle the nuts and bolts of your office; all you have to do is show up and work on your company.
Coworking spaces provide some serious advantages when it comes to networking and creating a positive culture for your small business. As with any business decision, however, there are some cons. If you need privacy and a lot of space, you may be better off finding an office specific to your company. Before you decide whether joining a coworking space is right for you, it's important to understand the different types of coworking spaces, the value of a coworking community, standard amenities coworking spaces provide, and some current examples of coworking spaces.
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What you need
Picking the right coworking space is all about what you, your coworkers and your business need. If you run a fledgling company, joining an industry-specific coworking space can expose you to like-minded people. For an established small business looking to get out of a drab office, some coworking spaces offer amenities like free coffee, beer, food and activities for employees. If you need a cheap alternative and a short-term lease, some coworking spaces are designed for high turnover. Your needs are important in deciding where to move.
After assessing exactly what you need out of a coworking space, it's important to know what standard coworking spaces offer.
WeWork, which is a national organization, offers its members Wi-Fi, printers, fruit water, coffee, tea, refrigerator access, microwaves, onsite staff, phone booths, cleaning services, lifestyle perks such as gym membership discounts, business benefits, free food events, and access to community events where
speakers address relevant business topics. WeWork is one of the most popular and best coworking spaces in the world, with 400,000 members and offices in 100 cities. When choosing a coworking space, look for ones that provide high-speed internet or Wi-Fi, basic kitchen access, and cleaning services as a base for amenities. You should also have access to conference rooms. This will ensure you won't have to worry about upkeep and can instead focus on your business.
Accessing a network of other business owners can be very valuable, and working with like-minded individuals can help you grow your business. Coworking spaces give small businesses the opportunity to collaborate and push each other forward. Whether you attend a community-designated event or strike up a conversation with a stranger in the kitchen area, coworking spaces can be breeding grounds for creativity and collaboration.
When you visit a coworking space, ask about the community and take note of the office's vibe. If people are chatting and connecting, it could be a good indicator that the office is a relaxed environment where spontaneous interaction is natural. If the atmosphere is cold and partitioned offices feel like iron curtains instead of designated cubbies, this could mean that the coworking space doesn't prioritize the community aspect. Once again, WeWork's model is built around its community culture. It has an app that functions almost like a social media network for WeWork members. It also hosts events at its offices that any WeWork member can attend.
Great coworking spaces have beautiful, open common areas. While your office may be a little tight, these common areas can serve as a place for your employees to stretch out, eat lunch or take a quick break. Common areas can tie into the coworking space's community aspect, as they're often some of the main areas where you collaborate with fellow business owners. They can also tie together your floor or building, which is especially important in large coworking spaces like WeWork or Regus.
Just about every major city has options for coworking spaces. Even if you live near a midsize or small city, there are often coworking spaces to join. Rochester, Minnesota, for example, is one of America's top midsize cities. It also has a coworking space where entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers and nonprofits can set up shop. Mojo and Hatchworks Coworking are two coworking spaces in Asheville, North Carolina, a growing city with a population below 100,000 people. You don't have to live in a major metropolitan area to enjoy the benefits of a coworking space. Find a location that works for you and your employees.
There should be some basic safety features at whatever coworking space you choose. For example, there should be a lock on the door to your private office (if you elect to have one). There should also be a front desk or check-in station for newcomers and visitors. Busy coworking spaces often give ID swipe cards to ensure only their members can access the building and its features. If you're concerned with cybersecurity, talk to your prospective coworking spaces about network security and options for setting up your own secure router.
National vs. local coworking spaces
Once you assess your needs and understand some basic features to coworking spaces, it's important to decide whether you want to join a national chain (or international one, for that matter) or a local coworking space. Both have their advantages. Big coworking spaces like Regus, WeWork and Spaces have massive communities, thousands of offices and enterprise-level amenities. It also means you'll be partnering with a large company where not everyone knows your business and its presence in the community. Smaller coworking spaces may provide a more intimate customer service experience but lack some of the big features of a WeWork. As with any business decision, it's all about balancing your needs with what you can get from the coworking space.
Industry-specific coworking spaces
While many coworking spaces are general, accepting all businesses that would like to partner, some are for specific industries. This can be valuable for businesses in highly technical areas looking to build a network, or for businesses looking to tap into a specific type of community. In Chicago, Coalition has a coworking space focused on companies creating renewable energy solutions. La Cocina, in San Francisco, is a coworking space for food entrepreneurs solving problems of equality in business ownership.
3 examples of coworking spaces for small business
While coworking spaces exist in small and midsize cities, we'll focus on major cities to showcase some examples of coworking spaces throughout the nation.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Alloy26
Alloy26 is a 50,000-square-foot coworking space located in the heart of Pittsburgh's North Side. It provides free snacks and drinks, coffee, private phone booths, conference room access, and a ping pong table. It also has a deal with a local gym. It offers an active community of entrepreneurs, with nine companies already working in the office. You can view pricing here.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – Industrious
Industrious has two locations in Minneapolis, one in the North Loop and the other in the Downtown district. As a national company, Industrious has offices in almost 30 cities in America. Companies that partner with Industrious in Minneapolis have access to Wi-Fi, printing, wellness rooms, member events and parties, coffee, fruit, and snacks. There's also an active community of members. You can read more about its North Loop space here.
San Antonio, Texas – Geekdom
This coworking space focuses mainly on startups and even offers an accelerator program. Members have access to coffee, happy hours, free events, startup workshops and monthly business lectures. As a startup-focused community, this coworking space can help new businesses get up and running. You can read more about the opportunity at Geekdom here.