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In recent years, co-working spaces have been popping up across the state. Cities, universities and community business leaders have embraced this new type of workspace that promotes collaboration among new entrepreneurs—a place where ideas can be shared and businesses can grow at a fraction of the cost of traditional office space.
But how do you know if a co-working space is right for your startup? Follow these tips from industry experts to decide if a co-working space is up your alley or if you should steer clear.
Escape the Basement. Sometimes getting a startup off the ground can be difficult, especially if you’re starting out in your basement. That’s where co-working spaces can help. “Entrepreneurs can come in and get out of their basement or Starbucks, and instead come to a professional-looking place where they can invite clients in, work and network,” says Ever Gonzales, founder of Outlier Labs in St. George.
Wide Open Spaces. Alex Lawrence, vice provost of innovation and economic development at Weber State University, says the general concept of a co-working space is an entirely open area with few doors and rooms. Desks and dedicated work spaces are scattered throughout the open room to encourage collaboration.
Money in the Bank. Gonzales says most co-working spaces offer low monthly rates for entrepreneurs—typically between $50 and $100—to rent items like a desk and chair, plus the use of conference rooms, classrooms, lounges, high-speed internet and access to any workshops held at the space. That price also includes the use of the facility’s utilities, restrooms, locker rooms and bike racks. “The monthly fee has everything kind of wrapped into it,” Lawrence says. “One price covers everything, so you can come in with your laptop and go.”
Collaboration and Commiseration. Lawrence says the biggest benefit to setting up shop in a co-working space is the ability entrepreneurs will have to collaborate and commiserate with other entrepreneurs. “They can help each other, cheer each other on, cry on each other’s shoulders and work together on projects,” he says.
Devereaux Smith, managing partner of Innovation Network in Provo, says brainstorming is one of the most frequent types of collaboration in a co-working space. “Our tenants will join together to have discussions on how to make one company’s product better,” he says. “They sit there and have idea storms, and the end product is typically something great.”
Mentors Aplenty. Smith says when entrepreneurs are just starting their businesses, they can be immensely influenced by best practices from other companies, which in turn could make their company better. In addition, startups will “have other company’s clients and contacts coming through the office, so they’ll be getting access to resources they couldn’t normally get access to just by being there,” Smith says.
Gonzales says most co-working spaces also have several business professionals who come in to offer advice on topics like business plans and funding through free seminars or workshops.
No More Secrets. In co-working spaces, privacy is not a top priority. “Sometimes you’ll yearn for an office with a door to close,” Lawrence says. “Otherwise, it could be difficult for meetings or talking on the phone. Some people prefer to have their own private space.”
Unwanted Noise. Talking on the phone, frequent workshops and classes, and clients walking through the space can make things pretty noisy, Smith says. “You have to come into a co-working space understanding your team’s handicap with distractions,” he says. “People are talking, on the phone, typing, collaborating, and all these different clients are coming in. It could be easy to get distracted. If you don’t have a great pair of headphones, that might be a downfall.”
Lack of Individuality. “Some people will want the freedom to decorate their offices themselves, while others will want their company to have a specific brand or look,” Lawrence says. In a co-working space, because desk space is rented monthly, it’s hard to get settled in or give your area the “brand” you may want your company to portray. “You might want to have your own environment that’s unique and specific to your company,” he says.
Feel it Out. Overall, Smith says it’s a good idea for all entrepreneurs to visit a co-working space to get a feel for what it’s like and if it’ll work for their company.
“You need to look at the details,” he says. “Ask the space if you can spend a day or a week working there and feeling it out. Try it on and make sure it fits you, just like you’d do with a pair of shoes. Nothing is worse for a startup than spending money on something you don’t need or something that impedes your development.”