Co-working: A Popular New Option For Solo Entreprenuers
Written by Kelly Watson
For years, coffee shops and libraries were the only affordable options for small business owners, freelancers and solo entrepreneurs who needed a public workspace. Now the co-working movement is changing that.
Co-working involves shared office space and resources by small business owners, freelancers, students and others who want the benefits of a traditional office space without the high rent or the isolation of working from home. I recently heard about the idea when two friends of mine opened their own co-working space in downtown Lancaster.
Co-working in Amish Country
Tired of running their graphic design business from local coffee shops, Anne Kirby and Max Phillips recently decided to open a space where collaboration with other creative types would be easy. That led to the creation of The Candy Factory, a co-working group based in an old candy factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“I heard about co-working in the news,” Kirby says, “and I thought, This is a great business model. People who can’t have a space of their own can join a community.”
Kirby and Phillips got the inspiration from other co-working establishments in the area. Since the first co-working space was created in San Francisco in 2005, thousands more have popped up in countries such as Latvia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
“Co-working is a successful model throughout the world. We didn’t make it up,” Kirby says. “Everyone’s into connecting, networking and collaborating. Everyone shares information. They even have a visa program, where if you’re a member of the Candy Factory but you’re in Philly for work, you can come to their space for free because you’re part of this visa program throughout the country.
“It’s a great way for people to get out of the house, see a different environment, and receive access to resources you don’t have access to on your own.”
Co-working Costs and Perks
The Candy Factory has a high-definition TV, a Mac Mini with a web cam, a lounge, a laser printer, a resource library and office supplies. Other co-working groups have perks such as video games, espresso machines and even pets.
The only thing co-working doesn’t offer is cubicles. That would detract from the collaborative atmosphere of the group. Instead, people rent desk space by the month or the day, depending on their level of membership.
“Premium” Candy Factory members pay $300 for round-the-clock access, while “lite” members pay $100 a month for three days a week. The Candy Factory also offers a $10 day pass for those who want to drop in. Other co-working spaces have similar arrangements.
So far, the Candy Factory has sold 25 memberships, about half of its capacity and much more than Kirby and Phillips had anticipated. Other co-working organizations, including Independents Hall in Philadelphia and Project Sandbox in York, have experienced similar success.
With the recession showing no signs of ending and the number of one-person businesses growing from 16.5 million in 200 to 20.4 million in 2005, co-working may indeed become the wave of the future.