So, in advance, this is going to be long. If you TLDR; this, I will understand. That said, I know there are many in this group who love coworking as a whole, enjoy cultivating it globally, and care enough to hear the stories and give the advice.
So here goes.
If you've been keeping up with me, you know that I felt the call a little over a month ago to begin the very first coworking space in Gloucester, Virginia. Gloucester is a tiny town of 30,000 people, located between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. We're growing, and the dynamic and culture are shifting and moving in a very cool direction. I've always loved Gloucester, but it has been a town for older folks, most of whom are very blue-collared, who work in industrial and labor specific jobs. The young people have traditionally either gone to college and moved away, moved somewhere else for jobs, or stayed here and followed in the family business footsteps. Tech jobs and entrepreneurship did not have a place here 10 years ago. But that is changing and doing so rapidly.
It started for me the way it started for many of you. I worked for myself and needed a better place to get stuff done. And though I'm pretty introverted, I did miss opportunities to share and collaborate. At that point, I was completely unaware of what coworking even was. (I live in Gloucester, remember? ) So, I started Googling for solutions, and that's when I found it. I feel like my life will never be the same. I Googled more. I found this group and voraciously read as many posts as I could. I read entire books. I watched hours of YouTube videos. (I believe I've seen almost every video on YouTube that has anything to do with Coworking, and I'm not kidding at all.) I've read/studied business plans, had conversations with other space owners, and tried to learn as much in a little amount of time as possible.
I focused on finding "my people," heeding the wisdom of Alex and the many others who said the same. I started a FB group for local entrepreneurs. I started having regular conversations and meetings with local business owners and people who work for themselves. After a couple of weeks, it became clear that there was a need for a coworking space in this community, and that it appeared it would be well received.
So, I created a second FB page -- this time one just for the coworking idea/space. Not all in the entrepreneurs group were interested in or needed a coworking space, so I wanted to go further and isolate on the target market I wanted without cluttering a channel for those who did not want/need it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by some long-time friends of mine who had recently purchased a building on Main Street in the heart of our County's downtown area. They purchased it in November and had kind of been in a quandary over how to use it. They had seen my posts on FB and were interested in the idea. After a few days of talking/thinking it over, we were sold on working together, and they decided they wanted to let me use the first floor of their two-story building for coworking.
They have committed to doing all of the furnishing and upfitting, based on my recommendations. They are going to be leasing the second story out to tenants who need office space, and that will operate separately from the first-floor coworking space. With that said, they have also said that they are only going to allow one-year, max leases for upstairs because they want to leave the possibility open for the coworking space to blow up and end up needing to take over the second story as well. This would be great because it would give us a chance to grow, get our feet wet, and then in a year, we can offer private offices too, plus another large room for more coworking. But that, of course, depends on us doing a good job and the community rallying around this.
The space is currently being renovated, and the plan is that when we get it looking fit enough for viewing (finish up painting, get all the walls patched and presentable, etc), we will host a meet and greet/walkthrough for the community. We will promote it on our website, FB, our email list, and also through the local newspaper and radio (I have connections at both media resources and get this advertising for free).
I've recently reached out to the ones who have expressed the most serious interest in the space (my email list -- 13 of them to be exact) and have asked them for their input on several items -- most important of those being the name of the space and the pricing of the membership tiers.
So far, "The Hive" has been the overwhelming favorite. I know. There are a ton of coworking spaces with that name. I've heard you guys loud and clear on that. However, I have not pushed for it. The community wants it. Beehives have a very specific significance in this area, and I'm not even sure I could talk them out of it at this point. I know I can call it whatever I want, but I don't want to be a dictator. We'll see.
At this point, a concern of mine is that I haven't totally worked out the business arrangement between myself and the building owners. It didn't bother me at first. I trusted (and still do trust) their benevolent spirit and the fact that they want to see me and this idea succeed. However, I know a firm lease agreement needs to be worked out, and it needs to be clarified that they are the building owners, and this is my business.
What I'm considering doing is going ahead and forming my own LLC through LegalZoom, then suggesting a lease agreement that is heavily slanted in their favor for the first portion of it so that they can get their investment back (front loaded), then would shift/even out towards something regular and not based on what I'm bringing in. Advice on this appreciated.
While rushing to launch can usually be death (or at least ailment), in this instance, there is not much cause to delay, as the building and upfit are secured, and the longer it sits unused, the owners are losing money. So, my goal/hope is to launch by June 1st.
All encouragement, tough love, feedback and words of wisdom welcomed and appreciated!