Finding The Perfect Coworking Space For You
As I write this article, I’m wearing a perfectly respectable blue business blouse… with cut-off shorts. The shirt is for Skype calls with marketing clients. The shorts—well, no one’s going to see them, so why suffer in chinos?
Working from a home office has its perks: a casual wardrobe, zero commute, opportunities to multitask between loads of laundry, calls, and deadlines. But it also has its downsides: my closet demographics skew dangerously toward tee shirts and jeans; the no-commute thing means limited opportunity for camaraderie and connections; and the unmatched socks call to me like a procrastination-siren, wooing me from the grind of writing the next round of ads.
And yet, what if freelancers and home-based entrepreneurs could trade the home office for a swanky business space a few days a week? Might make for a nice change. To try it out, I went to a number of Salt Lake City’s coworking spaces, here’s what I found out.
Where To Spark Creativity
First stop: Kiln. Situated near the north end of The Gateway in Salt Lake City―where a fresh blend of business, entertainment, and shopping is reviving the former outdoor mall―Kiln is pretty darn impressive. Its contemporary-casual beat starts an energetic rhythm the moment you walk through its floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The blonde woods, industrial accents, and natural elements pick it up from there, adding a cool, urban syncopation.
In the lobby, you’re greeted by a very friendly receptionist and Kiln’s open concept design carries throughout the entire space. Here you find your first and most affordable coworking space dubbed, The Club. A few rows of tables and shelving provide convenient, temporary workspaces. The walls are flanked by “phone booths,” which provide privacy for calls. Also up front is Voro Café, which treats Kiln members and the public to a menu designed by Chef Marco Niccoli.
From there, the Kiln office gets even vibe-ier. In the massage room, you can sink into a massage chair or squeeze in some light therapy between meetings. A mural by Utah native, Chuck Landvatter grabs the eye while walking through the Resident and Private workspaces, which are complemented by furry rugs, couches, cozy chairs, small tables, nap pods, a parents’ room, game room, and conference rooms. “We want everyone to be inspired by the surroundings, and we understand everyone has a different working style,” says Anne Olsen, a Kiln community associate.
On my way into the theater/event space (think indoor amphitheater), I ran into an inflatable unicorn, beach balls, and party detritus from the summer mixer the night before. “We do tons of panels—we’ve had Silicon Slopes, and Women in Tech here,” says Ms. Olsen. The event space is part of the Kiln’s mission to be the “optimal place to help companies grow.”
With upwards of 40 professional events a month (between its downtown and Lehi locations), Kiln members―most of whom work in tech―can also interact via the Kiln app and inter-office access to Slack. Activities like yoga on the patio and Friday snacks in the well-stocked member kitchen bring Kiln members—and their ideas—together.
Where To Find Feminine Energy
Something is also happening at The Wave, where the suffrage movement meets Time’s Up in its storied halls on Exchange Place. It is slated as “Utah’s first coworking space for women and marginalized genders. The Wave is a thriving community built by women for women.”
That mission starts from the ground up, literally, as The Wave is located in the historic Commercial Club. Established in 1909, the social club was originlly created exclusively for men, where tycoons, mining magnates, and bankers schmoozed in its grand ballroom. The few women who visited were required to enter through a side door and were relegated to the “women’s parlor” or the service elevator—no women were allowed in the grand ballroom or main elevator.
Today, that women’s parlor serves as the primary conference room where The Wave salvaged the original flooring to honor the soles (and souls) that once graced its parquet floors. The room is named for Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for US President. “All the rooms are named after women we admire,” says Cristina Rosetti, General Manager at The Wave.
This includes women such as Ellis Reynolds Shipp, one of the first female doctors in the 19th century West, and Marilyn Loden, American author and diversity advocate who coined the phrase “glass ceiling.” (On that note, The Wave is planning an art installation where the first 200 members will gather to shatter a glass ceiling in affirmation of women-in-business success.)
To nurture that success, The Wave members receive “service credits,” which can be redeemed for everything from in-house accounting and legal services to massages. An art space enables professional artists and dabblers to explore creativity, while a podcast studio furnishes the tech for those with streaming ambitions. “We’re also a social club. We have a book club, where we fly in national bestsellers.” says Ms. Rosetti.
With amenities such as a child care center staffed by a licensed child development coordinator and a nursing mother’s room, The Wave ensures women can maintain a balance between work and family. The Wave’s goal to help “women thrive in environments where they are surrounded by other driven and accomplished women” is evident in every nook of the coworking space.
Where To Find Collaboration
A little further south in Sandy, Salt Mine is similarly focused on the success of its coworking members―albeit with a more masculine vibe. In addition to its synergy-inducing floorplan, Salt Mine partners with the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce and others to produce a Business Accelerator Academy. “It’s a 13-week cohort. We provide the space free, and we sponsor tuition for one participant each term for someone who is a woman or minority,” says founder David Edmunds.
“There’s a lot of that cross-pollination that occurs here,” he adds. “We’ve been here three-and-a-half years, we’re the base for the Sandy Chapter of Silicon Slopes and we’ve become a hub of activity for tech to connect with talent, and talent to connect with entrepreneurs.”
That collaborative mission is pervasive at other coworking spaces, like Impact Hub Salt Lake. Impact Hub is the largest coworking network, with more than 100 locations and 16,000 members worldwide. Located downtown, Impact Hub offers three levels of membership and a strong calendar of events designed to encourage business growth, including weekly start-up community discussions and maker’s meetings with global Impact Hub thought leaders.
Church & State’s historic downtown location is headquarters for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s mission, which is “focused on building a close-knit community of innovators, mentors, policymakers, financiers, and funders who share our belief that collaboration is the key to business success, at every stage and every level.” Church & State touts five years of results, including two foreign companies and 17 local companies who have launched in its 22,000-square-foot space, 50-plus jobs created by resident companies, and 500-plus entrepreneurs served.
While each coworking space has its similarities and differences, perhaps the most striking resemblance is the strong sense of purpose. Along with business support, they’re dedicated to making people feel part of something bigger. As I was leaving Kiln, I noticed a flower arrangement with a note sitting on a Club desktop. Ms. Olsen explains it was for one of their members who would be returning from a funeral—a “we’re thinking of you” touch that’s rare for freelancers to receive.
These opportunities for meaningful connections, professional energy, and fiscal growth are spurring the expansion of coworking spaces. And dangit, they’re tempting me to don chinos and join the ranks of Utah’s coworking entrepreneurs.