Is my area too rural?

Hi there - wow, what a wealth of information! So excited to be here!

I’m in the early stages of researching/ starting a coworking space in my community – I know fullwell what its like to work from home and yearn for alternative options and to be around people, hence my push to open a space!

One of my main concerns is that the area I live in is too small - My town and surrounding towns (within a 15 minute drive) has a population of about 20K people, which about doubles in summer months with tourists and folks with 2nd homes. We’re a very popular spot for folks from the Chicagoland area, big tourist spot. I do know that a lot of year round people work from home and I also know that there are some professionals & tourists alike that are in my area especially in the summer months whom need a place to work when they are at the lake - My question is, can I fill my space with my population being so small? Please keep in mind there is nothing like this w/in 50 miles.

What is your general experience & feedback? Can an area be too rural to support such a concept? I’d like to think no but would love to her thoughts from the group.

Thank you.
Jackie

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Jackie,

You are not too small. Rural coworking is needed! We are remote and our city boasts a population of 3,500. We have 80 coworking members!

Check out https://10belowcoworking.org/

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Hi Jackie,
Where two are gathered to work together, coworking is there.
It’s not about the size so much as the experience. Even if you only find four or five people that enjoy coming together in a shared space, that’s better than each of you working alone. In some sense, the intimacy and operational simplicity of coworking in a small community can be better. You don’t need a big marketing campaign or to accommodate 130 people’s demands on a coffee machine. Your group can focus on small, easy solutions that perfectly fit you. So yes, you can fill a space; you can fill it with exactly as many people as you can find.

p.s. @alex and I did a podcast a while ago tackling the idea of coworking in small towns. Your town’s smaller than Erie, but the idea of “right at any size” applies. http://listen.coworkingweekly.com/c0c0ae39

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Hi, there. I agree with the comments about size not being the most important consideration. We are working on a flexible office space in rural Kent (UK). The population is pretty sparse but there are a lot of people who work from home for some or part of the week and there are lots of small businesses working out of leaky farmer’s barns who would like the simplicity of a single bill a month and the flexibility to downsize or take on more space, depending on their business’ fortunes.

While we build our permanent home, we’ve been running pop-up coworking days at a few local hospitality venues. Since we started marketing in June, we’ve got 75 members, not all of whom have visited yet. It’s allowed us to start connecting with people and to get a better handle on what people are looking for. The biggest competition is with people’s home offices and many people have a really good set up. So far we’ve struggled to get many people in our pop-up spaces on the same day so we’ve yet to create that real buzz but it’s definitely growing.

We’ve sure that we need a space with private offices and meeting rooms to give us the revenue balance we need to succeed.

I think one of our biggest challenges is raising awareness of what coworking is and then awareness of what we are doing specifically. We’ve yet to really push our message to the small businesses we want in our spaces as we’re still at the early stages with our plans for a permanent home. At the moment, our pop-up offering mainly suits individuals and there are special challenges working out of hospitality venues that don’t suit all businesses.

So, to answer your question, I don’t think it’s impossible in a rural area and I think there will be a lot more spaces in locations like yours over the next few years, but I do think it will take longer to get going and you might need to think about other revenue streams (like private offices) if you are aiming to make it sustainable financially.

Good luck with it all!

In addition to the great responses already in this thread, I’ll add that in more rural areas, it’s a common misconception that it’s hard to find people because they have larger homes with home offices, vs people who live in cities who don’t always have the spare room to turn into a workspace.

Since people aren’t leaving their homes to work from cafes, your best bet is to explore other third places.

Churches, synagogues, mosques, as well as other more secular community centers have existed (and thrived!) in small towns and cities for centuries.

The way they do it? They find and connect the local community. Start by figuring out where people already go, what they already do, where they already hang out. What existing business networks and resources exist, if any?

Whether you’re in a rural area or a big city, you have to figure out where the people are at meet them there.

As always, my advice is to work on organizing gatherings for the people you find before you start pushing to open a space at all.

Thanks Sean, I just listened to the podcast - good stuff.

What I really need to focus on now is getting the community interested and understanding what coworking even is…so that’s what i’m doing now. one step at a time :slight_smile:

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thanks Richard, this is great -i’ll check out your spot!

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I so appreciate that you asked this Jackie. I just signed up for this community 5 minutes ago and this would be my question too. I live in a rural community outside San Diego, population 15,000 plus surrounding communities. We however are not a vacation spot.

From the answers so far, I can see that there is some discovery and steps that I can take right now to create right now and build from. Grateful I stumbled into the conversation. Thank you all.

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Welcome, Rachell! I just joined yesterday, so we’re in good company! I hope to collaborate with you as we go on this journey together!

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@alex Your advice about organizing gatherings before starting is SPOT ON!

@jackiechanson This is one of my favorite topics! Full disclosure, I’m one of the founders of Proximity.

Our company is based out of (rural) western Colorado and operates 3 coworking spaces as well as a software company that works with hundreds of coworking spaces throughout the country. Like us, many of our client spaces are located in rural communities.

To answer your question, we are seeing loads of successful coworking spaces open in rural communities. Richard is right, rural coworking is definitely needed. It is viewed as the “new” economic development tool for small communities, and there are a lot of programs out there looking to support entrepreneurs and public organizations starting coworking spaces in rural areas.

We’re hosting a public Coworking Community Call next Wednesday (11/6) titled “How do I pay for this?”
During this call we’ll be talking with USDA, grant writers, as well as other professionals, who are helping coworking space operators with non-traditional funding.

If you have any other questions or would like to be pointed towards any additional resources please feel free to reach out!

I think we’re some way behind in the UK when it comes to rural provision. There’s definitely potential here but it’s heavy going. There’s also very patchy financial support at present.

At GCUC UK in September, we had a really interesting discussion about this, but it was clear that the info here in the UK is limited, but we’re trying to link up with other operators in our county to help grow awareness about coworking and alternatives to the rundown converted barns that small businesses have to lease.

A lot of our members work in London for part of their week and from home for the rest of it. They don’t want to be stuck at home but they hate the commute into London. They’re generally older (and our mix is probably 65/35 women/men) than in coworking communities in London. They’re used to the kind of nice working environment they have experienced in London and that’s certainly what we hope to build (assuming we can build our community effectively first). I agree with Alex’ point about finding where people already gather, and that’s definitely what we’re trying to do.