When my business partner and I founded our company ‘ZinePak in 2011, there was no immediate need for an office. We design and create custom entertainment packages for celebrities. In the beginning, we needed no equipment, no staff, and no permanent location. Working from home seemed like the logical (not to mention fiscally responsible!) thing to do. We took turns working from each others’ living rooms, making a quick trip on the 6-Train between our Manhattan apartments.
Fast-forward about 18 months, when we knew we had to get an office. While having multiple interns and project managers work with us in our homes was still convenient, it was starting to seem a little bizarre. We had almost $2 million in sales and close to 1 million ‘ZinePaks in print and were beginning to hire full-time employees.
Clearly, we needed to mature past our squatting phase.
Manhattan commercial real estate can be intimidating for anyone—especially a growing business that’s still young enough to be “guessing” a bit on things like monthly cash flow. We didn’t know where to start. We called a few real estate brokers, asked some of our entrepreneur friends, and even looked on Craigslist. Finally, our art director asked if we had considered a co-working space. “Co-working?,” we asked. “Is that where you pay for a space at a huge desk in one of those loft places? Or is that when you sublet from another company who is trying to fill space?”
Turns out, it’s not exactly either. Co-working, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those co-working are usually not employed by the same organization.” There are several corporations around the country (and around the globe, for that matter!) that specialize in offering attractive, affordable office space for companies of all sizes.
There are varying degrees of co-working spaces.
Some offer built-out, dedicated spaces for small teams to work within, and others are more “freestyle,” featuring open space areas that entrepreneurs work from on an as-needed basis. We looked at a few offices in Manhattan from various co-working companies. We ended up choosing space in a WeWork building in Midtown. WeWork is one of the fastest-growing boutique office space communities, catering to entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other creative individuals. Their buildings have a strong focus on community culture, providing a collaborative and creative environment for businesses and relationships to flourish.
What initially attracted us to WeWork was the idea of having a professionally-maintained office space without any of the work. While the perks we were expecting (like unlimited gourmet teas and coffee, daily housekeeping, and back-end office support like printing and internet) are fantastic, it’s the ones we weren’t expecting that make the experience so rewarding.
By far the best part about co-working is the proximity to so many other smart, ambitious entrepreneurs.
We’re literally steps away from dozens of companies doing innovative things in every sector imaginable. It’s like a built-in support system for advice on the things all business owners face: hiring and onboarding new employees, building advisory boards, dealing with regulatory restrictions, etc.
We’ve made dozens of new friends who work at interesting companies and are facing the same challenges we face. We’ve also found a treasure trove of creative resources. When we need quick help from a freelance designer, coder, or writer, chances are we can find one in our building in less than an hour. WeWork has a social network site for just that reason, so finding—for instance—someone who can professionally photograph products same-day to fulfill a request from a reporter, is as simple as posting a message online.
Additionally, WeWork’s flexible terms are perfect for a growing company. We initially rented a four-person office, but quickly grew out of the space. Because every lease is month-to-month, we were able to move into a larger space in the same building three months later. WeWork is set up to accommodate growing business, with office spaces ranging from single-person rooms to rooms large enough to accommodate eight or more employees comfortably, so switching offices was a breeze. The entire “move” took less than two hours, and our phones were back online five minutes after we plugged them into the wall.
Moving our company to a co-working space not only allowed us to hire new employees, but also played a paramount role in helping to shape our company culture. Our new employees almost always remark that coming to work feels more like coming to hang out with friends. Common areas featuring comfy couches, a gaming area with a big-screen TV, and even a “nap room” (yes, really!) are more reminiscent of a college dormitory than an office.
I highly recommend that any business owner interested in unlimited networking and awesome amenities consider co-working.
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