Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Coworking Space

by Marian Schembari on June 9, 2011


While Sara Bacon may have designed by blog, my obsession with her started when she contacted me out of the blue via LinkedIn. We may have only met in person once, but I love her long time and couldn’t have been prouder when I heard she was starting up a coworking space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In just a month she was featured in publications like The New York Observer and design*sponge. This girls knows her stuff and is one of my favorite people on the planet. She taught me to love coworking, convinced me to join my first space in Auckland and is here today to share with us how we can start our own coworking space. Like I said… Genius.

ummm… how adorable is she?

Thinking About Starting a Coworking Space?

One of the things that most drew me to the concept of coworking is the attitude of transparency the community embodies. I’ve always been a truth-seeker –I’ve long fantasized about days when we lower our armor and truly embrace the collective conscious on all ends of the life spectrum. Bringing this concept into the business world, where we’re taught that “professionalism” means being proper about language, attire and the divide between work and personal life, requires a radical shift in perspective. But I’m curious about what happens when we do just that, and that’s one of the main reasons coworking appeals to me.

In thinking about this post, I realized that becoming a coworking space owner is just as much about who you are and who you want to be as it is about the logistics of creating the space. Opening a coworking space is a pretty radical statement about who you are. Here are some characteristics that might make you a great space leader:

  • You believe the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.
  • You believe the way we do work is, and should be, changing. That the idea of professionalism should not deny reality and transparency.
  • You like people and are passionate about creating a positive work environment.

Yes? Great, then we can move forward. Logistics. First things first, familiarize yourself with the coworking community. The Coworking Wiki and the Coworking Blog are good places to start. Research other coworking spaces in your area and visit them, spend a day there.

What sort of space do you want to create?

Each coworking space has its own unique vibe, so it was a priority to create a space that was going to work for me. It’s so important to take care of ourselves in order to be of service to others. So I knew I had to create a space that I was going to enjoy working in day after day and I had a hunch that if I created GPCW from this perspective, it would work for others too. I didn’t want to create a huge space, but instead a smallish environment that lent itself to fostering relationships with my coworkers.

As a space owner, here are some other things you’ll need to think about?

Community building. Familiarize yourself with some community building basics. A successful coworking space will be built upon a foundation of trust and openness. All members should feel heard and like they can express what they need from the space. Think about the local neighborhood and what kind of people make up the community. Hosting events and workshops that support and appeal to that community is a great way to get people into the space.

Financials. As soon as you have an idea of the size of the space you need, you can begin breaking down costs. A clear budget is essential in any business, as well as in coworking. It will help establish your pricing plans and how many members you need to meet costs and begin to profit.

Marketing. How do you plan on getting the word out? Consistency with marketing is important. If possible, start building the community and hype before you open so when you do, you’ve already got some members lined up. Reach out to local press–the press we’ve gotten at GPCW has hugely contributed to getting butts in chairs.

I could go on and on, but this is a good place to start. Have questions? I’m happy to discuss, so feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a line at sara@greenpointcoworking.com.

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  • http://www.stephauteri.com Steph Auteri

    Hey there Sara – As you drew up your own budget, what costs — aside from mortgage/rent, furnishings, wifi, etc. — popped up that you hadn’t necessarily thought of at first?

    And thanks to Marian always running posts exactly when I need them! :)

    • Sara

      Coffee. Lots of coffee. Coworkers love their coffee and drink a ton of it. Aside from that, our other largest expenses are insurance and other general office supplies. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

        Aaahahahaa! It’s so funny you mention that as the first coworking place I joined implemented a “coffee fee” of something like $40 per month to people who drank a cup per day. And the NEW place I’m in now has an Honesty Box where people drop in a dollar if they drink espresso. Think you’re not the only one who’s experienced the coworkers-love-their-coffee phenomenon ;-)

        • http://www.greenpointcoworking.com Sara Bacon

          Thanks for sharing that, it’s super useful to know what other spaces are doing… and confirming to know we all face the same issues!

      • http://www.stephauteri.com Steph Auteri

        Thanks Sara! (she replies, days later… ) I shouldn’t be surprised by the coffee. In fact, I think I’d need to amp up the budget just to have enough coffee for myself. ;)

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  • http://twitter.com/kimberlykinrade/status/78964024787738624 Kimberly Kinrade

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