The Cool Biz of Coworking

shared workspace

Turn unused space into profitable space

Since the term “coworking” was coined a decade ago, the shared workspace movement has been redefining where and how people work all over the world. As always, with new trends and new ideas come new opportunities for the entrepreneur.

Big companies like Google and Samsung are jumping on the coworking trend by turning private offices into communal workspaces to induce worker creativity and collaboration.

On the other side of the coin, entrepreneurs are taking unused space and turning it into shared workspace, renting it out at affordable and flexible rates for small businesses and startups.

From 2011 to 2012, the number of coworking spaces nearly doubled to 1,779 spaces in dozens of countries.

shared workspace

A workspace in the CO-OP, a shared workspace building in Baltimore, MD.

Nearly 550,000 small businesses get started each month in the US. Any business was, at its beginning, a small business. Jeff Bezos began running Amazon from an office in his garage. The first Apple computer was built in Steve Jobs’ parents’ spare bedroom.

Instead of a garage or a bedroom or a cafe, small businesses and startups can access office space that is flexible, affordable and where they can connect with one another within an inspiring business community.

You can rent services a la carte, such as a single desk, meeting room or virtual office services. You can rent desks month-to-month with no contract or lease.

In 2013, a Baltimore-based business valuation company, looking for new office space, bought a building in Baltimore City for its 10 employees to occupy and for others also looking for flexible office space.

The founders named the building the CO-OP and don’t see it as a coworking space or an incubator but as a community, said Ted Davidson, the company’s chief marketing officer.

“It struck me how we were, in a sense, offering small companies the chance to become part of something larger, and not just in terms of the physical space, by being in this community. That’s what a “co-op” really is. In essence, you get out a lot more than you put in,” Davidson said.

Over the past decade, Davidson said many large companies have shrunk and combined office space by almost half in efforts to enhance employee creativity as well as cut costs.

While Davidson agrees shared workspaces do enhance creativity and collaboration, it can also lead to distraction.

“So we’re offering people what we see as the best of both worlds: private offices to buckle down and get work done, but also the common spaces that allow for these fortuitous interactions throughout the day,” he said. “I hope that we can be a kind of model for how a really modern workplace can operate.”

According to a survey, 72% of coworking spaces become profitable after two years. Privately run spaces, not run by non-profits or government agencies, have a profitability rate of 87% after two years. About 60% of revenue comes from desk rentals.

“It’s a gamble and it’s a lot of work, but it’s tremendously fun to see our vision turn into reality,” Davidson said. “A community is sprouting before our eyes.”