Face Time: Building the coworking community

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Alex Hillman of Phildelphia coworking space, IndyHall, about finding your niche as an owner of coworking space and than reaching that niche. Coworking spaces vary greatly in their audience. While coworking is about openness and community, each space has its own character and appeals to different groups. Alex wisely pointed out that each space has to build its community in order to be successful.

The face time is absolutely key to the success of any coworking community. There have been several posts recently on the google group about advertising, running events and building membership. To create the community that gets people in the door, you absolutely must put in the faceup. Alex tells a great tale about all the meetups he went to for a month or two before he even signed a lease. In his words, he was looking for “cool, interesting people who might also work from home.” He spread the coworking idea, got interested members, and then signed the lease and got up and running. Of course, we all want successes like Alex.

Finding that niche that is the right audience for your group requires more than just connecting through blogs, online groups, and cyberspace, you need to talk to the people you think will use your space. And you may discover that you don’t always know who will use your space. I was confident our primary members of Cubes&Crayons would be entrepreneurs. As of today, our membership, with the exception of myself, completely lacks entrepreneurs. We have freelance workers in all walks of life from medical translators to biotech researchers to recruiters to professors. It had been a pleasant surprise to find that the common thread comes from the atmosphere we have created more than their careers. We provide a professional and inspirational coworking space. We have new members come in because they are impressed with how much they get done and how much they enjoy working at Cubes & Crayons. And of course, one of my personal favorites is the praise for the free gourmet chocolates available in our kitchen.

In building our community, although word of mouth has been tremendous and we have had some good press (more to come…look for it this weekend), the best marketing has involved simply a conversation. Whether I am talking about coworking to fellow volunteers at a board meeting or hosting a meetup or event at Cubes & Crayons, or going out to meetups and organization’s events, the best marketing is when I tell people about our site, my story, and/or our clients. People are interested in people. Forget that you are “selling” your service. It is about getting people connected to other people in a great community that somewhere has a common thread. We are hosting a blogging day on April 11th to encourage bloggers to come and blog in our space as well as share blogging stories and ideas with each other. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Coworking: A Generational Thing?

I recently read a post about coworking being a generational thing for the millenials.  True, maybe?  But for those of you hanging out in the coworking places, is everyone a millenial?  Not even close.  The founders of most of these coworking sites are smart entrepreneurs who are beyond the millenial age, at least chronologically.  Just look at the photos from events at places such as IndyHall and Citizen Space and you notice that coworkers have embraced a common philosophy regardless of birth age.  At Cubes&Crayons, we have coworkers, coworkers with young kids, and coworkers whose kids have long out grown our space.

What occurred to me is that coworking is generational if you change your definition.  Coworking is about this “generation” of people altering the perception of “professional,” “work environment,” “colleague,” etc.  It is about hip people writing their own ticket for work.   Coworkers are skilled individuals who are prepared to be part of the global community.  They are interested in programs that are developing like PACTFund, where they can exchange their skills with other people’s skills.

And businesses need to be aware of and adapt to this changing workforce. I have been researching this avenue quite a bit and as much as “coworking” is hip and trendy, it is smart and necessary in our changing economy.  When software engineers end up doing business with colleagues halfway across the world, what’s to motivate them to come into a traditional office?  Isn’t it more interesting for them to be in a coworking space where they can meet people in all walks of life?  Businesses will be getting educated if they want to survive and stay competitive.  It is just a matter of time before this “generation” of coworkers changes the way businesses do business.