Happy 4th Anniversary Cohere! Let’s Play Alumni Catch-Up

happy anniversary Cohere

That’s right folks, it’s already been FOUR long, wonderful, coworking-filled years since our community officially opened! It’s hard to believe. We started with just a handful of independents working in the loft space on Jefferson Street, and now, Cohere has almost 50 members, we’re charging full steam ahead with Cohere: Bandwidth (our effort to bring shared rehearsal space to the local music scene), and (fingers crossed!) opening a new Midtown location soon.

Thinking about all that’s happened since we became Fort Collins’ first coworking space got me thinking about our alumni. Those members who were there in the early stages, but have moved on to other things or places because of life or work or both!

So I decided to play a little game of Cohere Alumni Catch-up (aka Where are they now?!) Enjoy catching up with your colleagues below, and thank you for supporting this small, woman-owned business. YOU ARE ALL MY FAVORITE!

Cohere Alumni Catch-up (aka Where are they now?!)

suzanne-for-cohere

Suzanne Akin

1. What type of work were you doing when you joined Cohere?
Freelance graphic design and working on my clothing line, Akinz

2. What are you doing now-work/life?
I’m running my clothing line full time and opened our flagship store in Old Town last August.  

3. What is your favorite memory of Cohere?
Lots of them. Either power lunging to Kilwin’s to make up for the salted caramels we were about to eat or the very first Custom Beanie Creation Station setup :)

Member Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane Griesemer

1. What type of work were you doing when you joined Cohere? 
Freelance.

2. What are you doing now-work/life?
Work- I am the Director of Product for the Global Accelerator Network, an organization of technology seed accelerators located in over 50 countries. 

Life- I married Eoin, a guy I met on OK Cupid, a dating website I tried because Alex convinced me I should during an afternoon of coworking. I am incubating our first gremlin, due June 2.

3. What is your favorite memory of Cohere?
Getting laid off from my shitty, shitty job and driving directly to Cohere to celebrate my new found freedom and bright future. And the people. I love my Coherians.

beth-knoxville-instagram

Beth Buczynski

1. What type of work were you doing when you joined Cohere?
Freelance copywriting/environmental blogging (for WAY too little).

2. What are you doing now-work/life?
Living in Longmont and coworking at the Armory Workspace in Loveland. Still copywriting and blogging about the environment (for MUCH better rates), doing a little editing, and promoting my new book about the sharing economy, “Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resource through Collaborative Consumption“!

3. What is your favorite memory of Cohere?
Night coworking! Cupcake runs. Publishing the coworking ebooks. Hanging Holindaise decorations with Angel and Kevin U.

Lindsay

Lindsay Ogden

1. What type of work were you doing when you joined Cohere?
When I joined Cohere, I was working as a freelance Drupal developer. I had been in Drupal for a little over a year and was still pretty green.

2. What are you doing now-work/life?
I am working as a technical business analyst and product manager in web technologies, unfortunately no longer remote :)

3. What is your favorite memory of Cohere?
Learning from other professionals who became my friends. Getting to work with such different people, expand my network of colleagues and friends was invaluable and treasured. A particular memory that stands out is walking to the hot dog stand with friends for lunch.

beanie

Alex Chiang

1. What type of work were you doing when you joined Cohere?
Working remotely for Canonical.

2. What are you doing now-work/life?
Living in San Francisco, eating $4 toast, and paying way too much to live in a twitter-sized apartment. On the plus side, it’s always sunny and in the 60s.

3. What is your favorite memory of Cohere?
Culinary camaraderie, whether it was helping the sweet toothers find the perfect gelato or on a more personal note, discovering that Big Al’s would stack as many 60/40 bacon/burger patties on top of each other as you wanted.

Image via macrj

 

Why Being Social Is More Important Than Social Media

I’m often asked about the best way to market a coworking space, or how to attract new members to the community. Many space catalysts assume that because coworking is a natural fit for digital professionals, social media must be the best way to generate interest in their target audience.

No brainer-right? Find computer people on the computer. I decided to do the math and see if the Cohere community supported this obvious theory. To my shock and awe, it didn’t.

According to my stats (and the snazzy pie chart above), over half of all Cohere members gave it a try because a human told them about why they should. Even more surprisingly, Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounted for only 11 percent of all day pass requests. Combined.

What does this mean?! Just tweeting your blog posts and creating a Facebook event won’t automatically attract a community of awesome independents who live to stop, drop, and collaborate. If you want to help grow a strong, vibrant community of self-starters, you’re still going to have to talk about how much you want it. A lot.

Building a community is, among other things, about building trust. Establishing a reputation. Creating a place of security, respect, and intense creativity. Although there are many things you can like, thumb, & tweet, these actions will never usurp a smile, cup of coffee, or recommendation from an old friend.

My advice? Spend time talking with your community about why they cowork. Discuss the ways you interpret and implement the five values. Ask them why they’d rather share a desk instead of renting a private office. Create an atmosphere in which every member of the community can share the message of coworking–in their own words.

Then, you’ll probably notice that they begin to generate an online buzz organically (the way it’s supposed to be!) and people will start to take notice without ads, pitches, or kooky discount promotions. In my experience, social media can be a powerful tool to strengthen and solidify the community, but can’t make it materialize out of thin air.

Do you know where your members come from? Have you had a different experience? Share it in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Phil Hawksworth

Why Private Offices Crush The True Spirit Of Community

Private Office Keep Out

Several years ago, I asked my mom where she keeps the plastic wrap for leftovers. She replied, “I don’t believe in it.” My initial reaction was that she was crazy! It obviously exists! You can buy it and lots of people use it every day. She said, “well, I don’t really care about those people, it has never worked for me.”

Mom, I love ya.

When people ask me where our private offices are at Cohere I now reply, “I don’t believe in them.” Sure, hoards of coworking spaces have cropped up that provide a mix of private and open spaces. They probably make a nice rent from those boxes with doors, but private offices impede collaboration and crush the idea of community that coworking is designed to foster. Here’s how:

Physical Barriers To Creativity: Let’s start with the simple stuff- doors and walls make it harder to innovate and be creative with any sort of spontaneity. Think back to your office job…how did you feel when a problem or question forced you to knock on the boss’s door? Intimidated? Unwanted? Annoyed? While not so pronounced, private work areas in a coworking space conjure up the same feelings. Instead of allowing the physical density of true coworking to encourage ideas and natural sharing, doors and walls require people to knock, schedule meetings, and sit on opposite sides of a desk from one another.

Mental Barriers To Collaboration: Did you feel like you could collaborate effortlessly with your boss when he or she sat protected and alone in their corner office? Probably not. Will the brand new freelancer feel like he or she can collaborate effortlessly with the experienced independent or small business sitting in that protected corner office? Probably not.

Status Symbols: The beauty of coworking at Cohere is that no one has a corner office,  a special rare-wood desk or a gold plaque on their workspace. Seasoned freelancers sit right next to broke freelancers who are still trying to decipher a LLC from a sole-prop. Independents making 6-figures are free to ask questions and toss around ideas with newbies that are still looking for their second client. Sure, the established freelancers could probably afford their own office space, they’ve just acknowledged that that the richness of their community experience would diminish because of it.

Have and Have Not Mentality: The traditional workforce has conditioned us to believe that “when you make it, they give you a private office.” The oak desk, brass nameplate, and corner office are no more than the white collar equivalent to a dick measuring contest. Do private offices really make the people who sit in them more productive or professional? Doubtful. While it might not be so pronounced, this damaging mental caste system is resurrected in coworking spaces that segregate the work area.

I’ve visited more than a few spaces where true coworking was surrounded by private offices. Those who could afford it scurried away to their cubbies and closed the door, completely ignoring the potential for collaboration, creativity, and hell– just general socialization, that was swirling around in the middle. Likewise, coworkers in the middle sections kept to themselves, knowing that they were a different “class” of worker and feeling like their work wasn’t important enough for a door… which leads me to:

Doors are bullshit: We only have 3 of them at Cohere, one for the phone room, one for the conference room and one for the toilet. Doors are made to shut things out, and/or protect you from what’s on the other side. So unless there’s gonna be profanity, a power-point, or poop involved, it doesn’t need a door.

What do you think about private offices? Are they evil or necessary? Do they crush the true spirit of coworking or provide a place for the community to grow? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Image Credit: Flickr – annette62

Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Small Table With Laptops

Most humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Read more insights from the survey:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Flickr – #96

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