Community Cultivators: Cohere Coworking

I want to take a moment to recognize the FIVE Cohere members who make Cohere run smoothly. Adding several cultivators has really taken our community to the next level. While I still do much of the broader organization for Cohere (see also: Amazon Prime Orders), having this capable crew on tap has made all the difference in my sanity and has distributed responsibility across many people rather than everything landing squarely on my plate.

Alaina Massa: Team Tidy

For those of you who are really paying attention to details, my Cohere Bandwidth staff person is Tim Massa. These two are married and having both on the team is infinitely better than just having only one. Alaina recently took over the big task of keeping Cohere’s space in tip-top shape. She comes under the cover of darkness each week and when we arrive the next morning, everything is sparkling. If you are in need of some clean, contact Choice City Cleaning.

Carrie Lamanna: Copy Editing Magic

Carrie is a writer/editor/professor by trade and I’ve recently had her start copy editing all of my coworking consulting resources. I *know* I’m an average writer and having Carrie as my secret weapon helps me deliver more consistent content that makes more sense. She did NOT edit this post so don’t blame her for my flaws.

Andy Brown: Tours & More

Andy is an expert in e-media analytics and pretty much the nicest human ever. He cares for the basic maintenance around Cohere: finding rare light bulbs for old fixtures, minding the recycling and alerting me when supplies get low. He also does the bulk of our tours and orientations for prospective and new members. Book a date with Andy here. 

Jenny Benton-Fischer: Tours, Sarcasm and Therapy for Angel

Jenny and I have been running into each other for something like 15 years and she’s been a remote member of Cohere for YEARS. Her recent move back to graphic design freelance finally freed her up to be here in person. I knew she was “The One” when we both said a swear in her interview. Book a tour with Jenny.

Kim Kimball: Rocket Ships, Math and Jokes

Kim wanted a way to spend more time in the coworking area vs. his neat little office downstairs so he came on board to help out too. Kim works remotely for the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena under the guise of IT but usually just does hard math a lot. He’s also super good at scrubbing the kitchen sink (which, honestly, is why I had my eye on him to Cultivate anyway). He’ll be giving tours and delighting the members with his quick wit and Roomba jokes.

I do sincerely hope you’ll come visit us and meet our amazing team of Cohere Cultivators. They are equipped to help you meet other coworking members, find a fork or recommend a lunch spot in Downtown Fort Collins.

Honorable Mention: Harvey Wallbanger

Named by member Julie Sutter, Harvey is the unsung hero of Cohere. Between the tree seed pods, the cottonwood fluff and spilled coffee grounds, Harvey fires up at midnight each night and keeps our floor spotless. He also often gets trapped or stuck and we have to rescue him. It’s a labor of love though.

 

How To Keep Momentum After Startup Week Fort Collins

As Startup Week Fort Collins nears its epic end, let’s make a plan to keep the momentum into next week and beyond. Whether you got your first taste of coworking, got your mind blown by a musician or felt a much needed boost in motivation as a freelancer, it’s important to not let this enthusiasm dwindle.

Step 1: Outreach

Reach out to everyone in that pile of business cards you collected. Mention something that they said that really resonated with you. Invite them out for a coffee or beer just to talk and get to know one another better.  Ask to take a tour of their company. Mine through the Sched again and pull out company names or people you really enjoyed meeting. Follow them on twitter, like their Facebook pages and read their websites.

Step 2: Digest Your Notes

Did you take as many notes in your awesome FCSW17 notebook as I did? Now is the time to go back through all your notes. Check out the books, blogs or resources that you wrote down. Pull out action items and put them on your list to tackle next week. This post you’re reading right now was actually a footnote in my notebook. Look at me! Taking action!

Step 3: Participate OR Amplify

My key takeaway this week is a new awareness of how many people are doing AMAZING things in our community. Now is the time to participate in those activities by attending meetings or helping to push us forward as a group. If you can’t possibly take on another task, then please be an amplifier. Tell your friends and coworkers about the great progress that is being made. Awareness is the first step to Amazeness! Here are some things I learned about this week:

What are you going to take action on next week? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Tiny Coworking Spaces Around the World You’ve Never Heard Of

Every so often, the Cohere Coworking team deploys a set of bots (it’s just Angel) into the world (the coworking google group) to find the coworking communities you’ve likely never heard of. They are the ones you never see listed on the “Best Of” lists and the ones quietly doing amazing things in tiny towns or tiny spaces. We recognize you, tiny spaces. We salute your wee stature and appreciate you!

CoWorking Mullumbimby | Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia
This place is tiny by comparison to most – it will cap at 18. “I’m growing extremely slowly – in a small town/village so at the moment we only have 4 permanent members and the day/week guests. The coworkers were all strangers until we met here. They like it… because it’s a bit different. It was an old community hall converted into an artist’s residence with studio gallery and now a coworking space with 2 bnb rooms. So it’s still set up like a home with comfy lounge-work areas, full functioning kitchen and vege garden plus the large gallery-office area. It’s a coworking home-office away from home. We walk 3-minutes down a quiet dirt laneway into the centre of town… what else. We have a play room with a drum kit, PA and amps, guitars etc. and a punching bag.” -Kerry Gray

Bonus points from Cohere: hosting a yoga photo session with kids.
Mullumbimby

 

 

Valley.Works | Waitsfield, Vermont, USA
“Valley.Works opened on march 1st in central Vermont. My space is about 350 square feet but accommodates up to 9 members at a time with 2 printers and 2 permanent creative work stations. It was a challenge to make the space as productive as it is, the bookcases and couch are on wheels, and the desks can be re arranged into a conference table. We are brand new an membership is low but our small rural community of about 5,000 people is almost 50% telecommuter and has a large community of creative entrepreneurs and working artists, so I am hopeful that the Valley.Works membership will grow!” -Samantha www.valleyworksvt.org.

Bonus points from Cohere: trees in the view!!

Valley Works

Scribble Space | Windermere, Florida, USA
Our space is surrounded by dense rural apartments, townhomes and single family homes – lots of families so our space gets used for professional uses as well as kid, family and mom events and there’s even a farmer’s market now on our doorstep as well as vendors setup inside. We are adding a fresh coffee vendor inside at this week’s market. Our Facebook is full of photos and links to the events and the market – can find it easy searching for ScribbleSpace. :)

Bonus points from Cohere: discussion over catered lunch!

ScribbleSpace

 

Frontal Lobe | Howell, Michigan, USA

Frontal Lobe is Livingston County’s first coworking space and hosted their anniversary party in the alley. Also, I think this space is directly next to a Dairy Queen. WHUT?!

Bonus points from Cohere: This space reminds me of OG Cohere. Tiny, brick and a couple people hunched over a monitor. Good work Frontal Lobe!

Frontal Love

 

Shhared | Hamburg, Germany
If you’re ever in Hamburg, head over to Shhared. They have pictures of people on their website! You guys are crushing it.

Bonus points from Cohere: their website and Facebook page featured the most pictures of their members and people in their space. Good. Job.

Shhared

Coworking: Must-Have Supply List

Five years into running a coworking space in Fort Collins, I’ve finally compiled a list of the most game-changing items you can purchase for your coworkers. From desks to dishes, Cohere has the scoop on everything from power strips to parchment papers.

We’ve had our fair share of desk iterations at Cohere. From highly customized and huge curvy desks with integrated power to bomb-proof dorm desks, I’ve finally found the best option for us and they are $99 each. Sweet. Please raid your IKEA accordingly. (IKEA is not paying me for this post. In fact, I was so wary of yet another desk that would fail me, I only bought two so the coworkers could test-drive them for several weeks).

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The IKEA THYGE desk measures an ample yet space saving 24″x 48″. Its legs attach with some effort but the overall effect is one of total stability and feels high end even though you’ll be giggling over your frugality. The legs ADJUST from 23″ to 35″ making it comfy for even the most stubby-legged members. Once our desk transition is complete, we’ll have 2 short, 2 medium and 2 tall desks for members to choose from.

The smooth uncluttered surface provides lots of spare room for your flex-deskers like remote software developer, Ian, above and enough room for the permanent dual monitor setup of remote software developer, Kevin, below.

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The thing we’ve missed most from the early days of Cohere is the integrated power we had in our custom desks. IKEA finally solved this problem for us by creating a clamp-on mount ($10) and pairing it with their power/usb strip ($14.99). Add their cable storage under mount basket for a nearly seamless office experience. For those of you doing math, that’s just $128.99 per workstation (you only need 1 cable storage basket per two desks).

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Cons: these desks aren’t on wheels but the feet of the legs are smooth enough that they are easy to slide around on carpet. If any of you have found a wheeled desk option that is this high quality for the same price, I’ll eat my bank statement.

Now that we’ve got your members working productively, they’re going to need snacks. Member Laurel casually asked me one day, “hey, for the next version of upgrades, can we get a toaster oven?”

Seven clicks and two days later, we unwrapped this beauty ($24.95). Laurel originally thought it would be a nice supplement to our stocked PB&J bar but I doubled-down on the idea and bought cookie dough.

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I’d love to say that we have exercised restraint and reserve warm cookies-on-demand for Fridays or Mondays but we don’t. Someone bakes goddamn hot cookies every damn day and it is spectacular. I highly recommend these mini break-aparts by Nestle. Pair your new baking members with parchment sheets ($5.89) for easy cleanup and an adorable mini-spatula ($8.99). Ignore the review where the lady says the spatula is “too tiny.” She is absurd.

Last but not least, I give you the thing that a member bought and put on my desk with the note, “Angel, this dish brush will change your life. Trust me.” -Lucinda

We’ve never had a dishwasher at the Old Town Cohere locations so we soldier on by hand-washing; never quite satisfied by other dish brushes, sponges or scrubby things.

The OXO brush not only takes the cake, it obliterates the cake with a swipe of the wrist and the push of a button.

I know you are super stoked to read about the features of a dish brush. Here they are in no particular order: it sits up in a stand that collects its own drips (I wish my baby did this), it only dispenses soap when you press the button on the handle, it never gets smelly and it really cleans the dishes!

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Bonus item: a little whiteboard above our sink. This has been the most effective message to date. It’s also a decent reminder to me that even if I have to wash a couple of spoons every morning, I’m doing a job that I LOVE alongside people I LOVE. No dirty dish stands a chance against that kind of happiness.

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How to F^ck Up Your Second Coworking Location

angel gcuc speaker

I recently got invited to present FAILURE at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Toronto, Canada. I take spectacular pride in my ability to fail with flourish and since the GCUC crowd always likes a good train wreck among stories of 43 Billion Dollar valuations and epic expansion stories, I indulge them. Below is the narrative of the failure and here is a link to my slides.

 

falling down

https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixtsao/4909753834/

Near the end of 2013, 4 years after Cohere hit the coworking scene in Old Town Fort Collins, I had to start turning away would-be members. We were full, things were great. So naturally, I would make a series of unfortunate mistakes that would lead to the 2nd space’s death in early 2015.

To be clear, I did SOME of the things right. In fact, all early indicators would point to Cohere’s second location being a raving success.  Here’s what went right:

  • I had a wait-list of members who wanted to join Cohere.
  • Cohere was nearing auto-pilot. Systems helped manage the behind the scenes tasks, 3 members had a strong hold on the day to day in the space and I was getting bored.
  • I selected a location that was near to OG Cohere but further south in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Midtown where rents were still affordable and the housing market was blowing up in all the right ways.
  • I took many, many members through the building pre-lease and they steered me away from one suite into 3 other suites they were much more excited about.
  • The members lovingly name it Cothere. It sticks. It’s perfect.
  • Natural light, windows, trees and parking were in abundance.
  • After we got into the space, the Coherians partied to clean up the parking lot and build furniture. It was spectacular fun and had all the trapping us Veterans look for in budding communities.
  • I paint everything, repair broken door knobs and make our entrances more safe. I pour all my love into this physical thing that will allow Cothere to grow and flourish.
  • I met and offered up our space after hours to our brand new Girl Develop It chapter. We love each other so much.

Things start to take a turn for the worse:

The landlords fail to make improvements to Cothere that are in my lease: working windows, safe stairs for our private entrance (my mother-in-law almost falls 2 stories after the railing breaks away during move-in) and cleanliness issues in the common area start to clog my inbox

And A LOT worse:

  • Nearly every day, concerns about lack of health and safety in our parking lots and common area restrooms begin to flood in.
  • My repeated requests for help from the landlords are met with either silence or passive aggressive notes in the common-area bathroom saying, “PLEASE KEEP THIS RESTROOM CLEAN!!!”
  • I become mortified when new members ask where the restroom is. The members say, “this building is dicey but Cothere’s areas are NICE!”
  • I spend 3 hours cleaning bathrooms just to prove to myself that I’m right about how dirty the bathrooms are. I am right. I get pneumonia 5 days later.
  • The restrooms are dirty again. ALL. THE. TIME.  I have to explain WHY we need more toilet paper. Sarcasm floods through my veins. “We have explosive diarrhea!” “All the women are synced up this week!!” “We are STEALING it because we are terrible people!!”

Piper

The last straw:

  • The landlords tell me in an email that goes out to all the other tenants of their building, “you don’t pay enough to have the right to complain.”

I check out. I resent the space. I no longer care about it. I do the bare minimum that an office space rental agency does. Paper towels? Check. Vacuumed? Check. Coffee? Check.

I bring on a friend to help the Cothere community and she tries really hard but we are broken. Midtown is broken, the gross restrooms are broken, our parking lot is an ice skating rink in winter and a mixed-media nightmare of dead squirrels and fallen tree limbs in summer. I refuse to pay more for basic tenant rights.

I stop coworking at Cothere. I repeat. I STOPPED COWORKING AT COTHERE. <—-really important warning sign

I spend all my time at Old Town Cohere. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I cross the threshhold and see the man that takes care of our lawn. I run into the landlord and he inquires about my well-being and asks if everything is okay in the building. He compliments Cohere, the members and how proud they are to have us as tenants. They are always a text away. Quick to fix and utterly un-involved in our day-to-day ops.

I get out of my lease free and clear on their breach of contract. After an extremely polite email exchange requesting the termination of my lease and having them agree, I feel this:

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Down from a high of 20 members, the 3 remaining Cothere members join Cohere and love it. Just. Love It. “It’s so happy here!” “Everyone talks to me!” “I thought I wouldn’t like Old Town but I DO!” Several private office members at Cothere REMAIN in Cothere’s space after we leave. <—-this blows my mind.

So Really. WHAT went wrong?

As a veteran of the coworking community, I was raised up to always put the people first and see the physical space as a useful container that merely facilitates connections between people. Sure, I always made sure that Cohere’s container was lovely, cared-for and well-tended but none of my spaces until Cothere had ever existed inside a larger shell of a bigger building that I had no control over.

I began to think like a member as I approached the larger shell of Cothere’s space. Unkempt parking lot, dead bugs and leaves in the lobby, outdated decor in all the wrong ways, a soul-less, colorless hallway and then finally, the mecca of entering Cothere’s suites.

But sometimes the journey to mecca is just too far.

Post-hoc, I realize that Cohere has a really important value as a company and as a community that I had never said out loud, never consciously thought about and never wrote about. And this value includes the entirety of our physical container from the grounds around the building, to the entryways and all the way to the inner sanctum of our coworking areas.

To BElong to Cohere you must BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it.

Because Old Town Cohere has always had a loving landlord (we actually call him the Innkeeper) who tended to our grounds and common areas we had never truly felt the pain of a building owner who literally could not hold our container with positive regard. That, in turn, caused me to spend all of my Cothere energy trying to help the landlord learn how to hold the container that held US! He made it clear that he couldn’t hold the container. Won’t. Wouldn’t even pick it up and try.

As the community manager, I had nothing left to give the people of Cothere. My usual zest for connection and energy to give and listen was tapped out. My arms, my heart, my brain, were overwhelmed by TRYING to figure out how hold a container that didn’t actually belong to me. To us.

After asking the members what I should do about Cothere, all but one say a version of this, “we’ll follow you where ever you take Cohere (as long as it’s not in THAT building). Do what is best for you.” So I laid down the container. Permanently. After 14 months I gleefully get out of my lease and bring everyone back together at Cohere. The community is overjoyed that the saga is concluded.

As if the universe was bulging with abundance while it waited for me to sort out my shit, its fabric rips open and pours forth a rush of people who want to join Cohere. Tours are joyous again, filled with people and introductions and I don’t have to make excuses for the common areas. Each day we border on being full. Full of members, full of laughter and connectedness, donuts and lunches out together.

Cohere Social Event Hotdogs

A hot dog potluck marks the closure of Cothere and the revitalization of Frank Friday

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I immediately refine and add our values to our membership page:

BE yearning for interaction

BE willing to introduce yourself, make friends and help

BE ready to participate in impromptu and planned events

BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it

BE prepared for abundance (work, laughter, goodwill, and more)

Key Learnings

When considering expansion, don’t look for a building. Look for people.

  • Look for a community helper who is invested, excited and willing to put in the hours needed to bring people together.
  • Look to your existing members for feedback and talk about what expansion means for both communities.
  • Find a commercial Realtor who can add very specific language into your lease about maintenance and responsibilities.
  • Look for a landlord who is capable and willing to hold a container for you. MEET your landlord(s) in person before you sign.

Brave enough to share your epic failure? Post it in the comments or email it to me!

Happy Holidays From Cohere: Thanks, Reflection, Future

As the year comes to a close I wanted to take some time to thank you, reflect, and give you a preview of what’s coming in 2015.

Thank You.

I never say it often enough but you make Cohere possible. You choose us. You work with us. You laugh with us. You grow with us. Maybe you’ve been a member for 5 years or for 5 days. You matter. You are important.

Without you, Cohere is just an empty shell, a real estate transaction and a line item on someone’s budget. WITH you, we become a community, a pivot point for new friendships, and a platform for personal growth and change.

Let’s Reflect.

In December of 2009 we started out coworking in a donated reception area once/week. On the 5th week we ran out of chairs (14 of them) and broke the internet.RMI2 coworking test In March 2010, we opened our first location in Old Town with 4 members. Coworking-Cohere

In January 2012 we moved to the Howes location. Last December we had 39 members and 1 location. This December we have 75 members and 2 locations. That’s double. That’s huge. And we’re set to double again in 2015. Whether you told a friend about Cohere or posted an update on Facebook, many of our new members come from word of mouth and it makes a difference.2014-11-07 13.17.06

What’s Next.

2015 will bring Cohere to its final space frontier: Cohere Bandwidth, shared rehearsal space for musicians inside the amazing artist ecosystem that is the Downtown Artery. We’re looking forward to creative new connections between the artists of the Artery, the musicians of Bandwidth and the nerds of Cohere.

While Bandwidth may be located at the intersection of Linden and Jefferson we’re really at the crossroads of combining art, music and brains in brand new ways.

Here’s to 2015, may it bring you meaningful connections, amazing independence, kindness and love.

Love, Angel

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Ps. Hat tip to Julie who’s been with us every step of the way from our first pre-community meeting to today.

 

Building Coworking Communities: No Sailboat Required

It’s easy to make connections and get to know one another inside a coworking space. We take that for granted and just assume that we’ll meet someone new in the course of our day to day to-dos. A recent retreat to Seattle taught me how vital and AWESOME a planned group activity can be especially when that activity is way outside our “normal.” So when our organizer asked if we’d like to go SAILING, it seemed a little scary but we would be doing it together so surely it would be okay.

I tentatively agreed to a sailboat ride and bummed some Dramamine off a fellow coworker. Little did I know that it would be scary and exhilarating and that it would change Adam’s life forever.

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By getting us a little out of our comfort zones and putting us in cramped quarters we were able to learn something (sailing) from new friends (the captain and his crew) and experience our location (Seattle) from a whole new point of view. Andy and I even did the most terrifying thing and crawled out to the front of the boat while we were experiencing maximum “reaching” aka, the boat was really at an angle to the water and we could have fallen out at any moment. But we didn’t.

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In order to bring a similar experience home to the Coherians of Fort Collins, we’re going to stay up late and sort canned goods. Yep, I plan to use up as much if not more adrenaline during our Food Bank Shift at the CAN Jam on November 6th from 11pm-1am. Heck, it meets all the criteria: new location, new people to learn from and we’ll get a different point of view on where we live.

Has your coworking community done activities outside of your space? Tell us in the comments!

ps. my “crew” on the boat:

Aaron from Rapid City, MI, The Factory

Tony from New York City, New Work City

Adam and Alex (not pictured) from Philidelphia,PA, Indy Hall

Susan and Jacob from Seattle, WA, Office Nomads

Ashley from Toronto, Canada, The Foundery

Andy from Columbus, OH The Salt Mines

 

On A Break? Gift Your Coworking Membership To A Friend In Need

invitation, coworking, gift, membership

Are you going on an extended vacation? Need to work from home while the kids are out of school? Just don’t feel like coming in when the weather outside is frightful?

The winter months are notoriously slow traffic times for the Cohere community. Some members simply use these short days to take a well-deserved vacation, while others just don’t feel like venturing out as much when it’s cold and icy. Although this dip in attendance makes for less fun at the office, it’s yet another benefit of coworking–we’re flexible and designed to work with your schedule, not the other way around.

You might feel like canceling or suspending your membership during this time, and that’s fine, but recently member Carrie V. came up with a different solution.

It may seem like a small gift, but this is a huge idea!

Although we don’t have too many visitors that decide against membership because of the price, there could be some who don’t even sign up for a day pass because they’re not sure coworking is a worthwhile expense. The sad part is that at one time or another, almost every member has said that it was visiting the community, actually being here and working beside us, that showed them how useful coworking can be. This type of sharing is also a basic principle of the coworking lifestyle, which seeks to be open, collaborative, and supportive to those in our immediate community and beyond.

If you can’t think of a freelancer or small business owner that would take advantage of a gifted membership, don’t worry. Just let Angel or Kristin know that you’re interesting in giving someone else your spot for a week or month, and we’d be happy to extend the invitation a freelancer who needs a break from the coffee shop office!

Top image via dan hodgett/Flickr

Valentine’s Day Giveaway: Here Are The Winners!

Valentine's Day Candies

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’re sweet on coworking, and we thought you might be too.  

We had so much fun with our Valentine’s Day giveaway!  Congratulations to Alice Ashmore, Vicki Wilson Conley and Suz for winning a free three-day pass to Cohere!

We look forward to seeing you around the “office” for some coworking, collaboration, and fun.

Image Credit: Flickr – butterflysha

We Love It (Co)Here! Win A Free 3-Day Pass To Try Coworking

Valentine's Day Latte

It’s February, and that means Valentine’s Day is on it’s way! No, I won’t go on a rant about the silliness of this Hallmark holiday, instead, let’s focus on the spirits of the season–love and affection. I feel a lot of that for each and every one of the marvelous mobile professionals that call Cohere home!

If you’ve been meaning to give Cohere a try, but haven’t had time, energy, or just keep forgetting, we love you too…and we want you to come experience the myriad of benefits coworking will add to your life! We’ve got a great new building and lots of talented freelancers for you to rub shoulders with.

Because we think this place is pretty neat—the first three people that comment on this post will get a free 3-day pass to try it out for themselves.  Sweet, huh?  (Does not apply to current members—offer valid through Feb. 13).

Comments can be as simple as “I really want to win!” or you can tell us your entire freelancing life story. We like stories.

Current members, please tweet and post this to Facebook so your self-employed friends and neighbors will have an opportunity to win!

Image Credit: Flickr – WordRidden

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