In the 70’s, my dad had a small business in New Orleans called Choctaw Industries where they did non-destructive testing of pipe for the oil industry. He handled sales, always dressed in a suit, and had lamb chop sideburns and a leather box briefcase with the stains and spots of decades in use. The office was typical industrial — a type of commercial space with a few offices attached. On Sundays, we would clean, take the trash out, and vacuum. I learned to file in their wall-to-wall cabinets, type the alphabet on a manual typewriter, and clean a weeks worth of coffee stains from the coffee pot.
One evening, my dad needed “to stop by his office,” but when we arrived it wasn’t his office. He explained that the office we cleaned didn’t have the space for him and the sales people, so he rented space down the street. I can remember being confused, much like when your friends know your stepfather as your dad until the day you introduce your real father.
My dad’s borrowed office was a professional palace. There were no file cabinets on site, the typewriters were powered by electricity, and there was an urn for coffee made fresh every day. Janitors made their way through the space as we toured dads other office. It was my first experience with Executive Suites.
In the 70’s, executive suites provided small businesses with flexible lease terms, minimal overhead expense, and a more luxurious office than what they could afford on their own. Sharing resources, you were charged for copies, mail, and using the secretarial pool. You had your own office and could schedule a meeting in the formal boardroom.
Over the past 30 years, business centers grew out of executive suites, allowing small businesses to work from home yet still have a formal business street address, copy machine, and postage readily available. Universities continued the trend with incubators for students wanting to launch start-ups. Georgia Tech was one such innovator, having one of the first University incubators, and in 2013 was ranked second in the world in a benchmarking study of incubators in 22 different countries.
Now, community workspaces are popping up across the globe. Companies like WeWork and Hera Hub have revitalized the executive suite of the 70’s and turned shared workspace into stylish and motivational work environments. Besides short-term leases and affordable desk space, coworking spaces allow entrepreneurs to be a part of a like-minded community. Individual offices are available, as well as desks in a large community-shared space.
These community workspaces, also known as co-working spaces, assist start-ups in launching their business without the investment of rent, copiers, servers, and cleaning service. They also keep entrepreneurs from being tied to one geographical location to complete work. Co-working spaces provide options, flexibility, and transience for a new wave of adaptable business.
Co-working spaces have been shown to improve the likelihood of business success four times over, which is particularly good news for start-up woman-owned business enterprises (WBE). Only 45% of WBEs currently survive, despite growing at one and a half times the national average. As co-working becomes more accessible, it will increase the survival rate of WBEs and contribute to their success.
Co-working spaces offer multiple options for those who want to join the community, from the occasional visitor to the daily frequenter. Memberships can include limited workspace, event access, and networking opportunities with other members. Packages go up in price from there depending on whether you want a basic desk in a common area, a dedicated desk, or even a private office.
The atmosphere and amenities provided by these co-working spaces appeal to entrepreneurs and start-ups nearly as much as the convenience of using them. Dr. Gretchen Spreitzer said in a Harvard Business Review interview that community workspace users “see their work as meaningful… have more job control… [and] feel part of a community.” Co-working is as much about the community feel as it is about having a place to work.
Surrounded by other entrepreneurs, start-up companies, and business executives, community workspace users have the opportunity to pick the brains of others who are passionate about growing their business. Some frequenters report that using co-working spaces also provides them access to many potential clients and even business partners.
Female-focused co-working spaces like Hera Hub tout “hundreds of female entrepreneurs who support one another through collaboration, resources, referrals, feedback and mentoring. From our platform, new businesses have been spurred, funding secured and life-long friendships built.”
Beyond the 24/7 accessible workspace and high-speed internet, co-working communities may also provide:
Co-working spaces provide much more than a convenient desk and, beyond amenities, create aesthetically stunning workplaces. Business Insider published a compilation of the “17 Coolest Coworking Spaces in America,” and WOW – some of these are incredible.
My daughter, a senior in computer science planning to attend graduate school, doesn’t plan to enter my company or her father’s technology business, AuthenticID, but wants to make it on her own. It is exciting to think of the thrill, challenge, and experience before her. My Dad’s executive suite is now my daughter’s co-shared community, and both create opportunities for small businesses as they climb their way to the top.
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