The office space problem. If you’re not in a home office, starting a company within a company, in your car or in a cart on the street (no, I’m not making light of homelessness, I’m talking about coffee carts and dessert carts and hot dog carts), then one of the steps in starting a business is getting the office space.
Which brings up An Office Space of One’s Own for Entrepreneurs in yesterday’s New York Times. In Good Company Workplaces is a group of women building a membership organization solving the office space problem for women entrepreneurs.
“They are onto something here,” said Nell Merlino, founder of Count Me In, a nonprofit group that makes small loans to female entrepreneurs. Ms. Merlino, who had never heard of In Good Company, said that the idea made sense in light of the research she had conducted. “Seventy-three percent of women business owners work by themselves, so community is very important.”
Like many interesting new startups, this one started with a need that had to be filled.
Within a few months of starting In Good Company Consulting, a business to advise female entrepreneurs, Amy Abrams and Adelaide Fives discovered that they shared something with many of their clients. They, too, needed office space that was well-located and professional with a place for private meetings. And they wanted to be near like-minded entrepreneurs.
They tried subletting space from another firm. They rented space at the corporate office suites HQ (now the Regus Group) and BevMax Office Centers and visited virtually every flexible and temporary office space in Manhattan. But they were disappointed with what they regarded as the often cold and impersonal qualities of those places, not to mention the shared restrooms that never seemed to be clean enough. “And nothing had the energy and buzz we were looking for,” Ms. Fives said.
So they designed it. And last September, In Good Company Workplaces opened in the Flatiron district of Manhattan with its first 39 members. Their company website speaks of “the three essential elements every successful business needs: productive workspace, powerful connections and effective ideas.” By many accounts it is an unusual hybrid: equal parts business incubator, co-working and learning space and members-only networking group.
So far, so good. Things are looking up. What started as a consulting practice is now aiming for a lot more volume than what just consulting would have allowed.
They said they also wanted to build something that would offer a model of a certain type of entrepreneurial behavior to their target market. “Our plan,” Ms. Abrams said, “is to be much bigger than one space, and to build a bigger business for many years to come.”
Interesting idea. I’ve seen incubators work and not work. This one seems to have a distinctive difference that makes it much easier to understand. And sell.