Coworking: Solution for Moms to Grow Small Businesses

Enjoy this guest post from member Kristin Mastre on how Cohere Coworking Community gave her much needed balance between being a stay at home mom and a small business owner.

Having my cake and eating it too.

Member Kristin coworks every Wednesday night while her husband hangs out with the kids.

The other day, my kids and I were attending a birthday party for one of my older son’s preschool friends.  As the kids were running around jumping in bounce houses and sliding down slides, another mom and I had a chance to chat.

“Congrats on all of the progress you’ve made with work!  You deserve it.  You’ve worked really hard.  There are quite a few moms around town who are envious that you have it all.  You have a balance of staying at home, but still working in a career both at the same time.  A lot of people wish they could do the same.”

It was an incredibly flattering compliment, and it wouldn’t have gotten it without the help from my membership at Cohere, where I can live that double life while night coworking.  I do have a great balance with home and work.   I get to take my boys to everything they want to do – karate classes, attend school field trips and park days;  I also plan meetings, collaborate and grow my business and passion.

I get to have my cake and eat it too.

Being a work-at-home-mom is isolating and frustrating, often times feeling like you’re talking to yourself (or the walls).   When I was at my lowest point in motherhood, I joined a moms group and became an active member, essentially saving my sanity.  When becoming an entrepreneur, it seemed like a natural step to join Cohere to network with other Fort Collins professionals.

Fortunately, Cohere had the perfect membership for me where I could still keep my flexible work-at-home lifestyle and cowork with other local freelancers at the same time.  It’s great!  One night a week I leave the boys at home with their dad so they can have “boys party”, watching movies and eating popcorn.  They enjoy sharing their special bonding time together.  I get to pack up and head off to Cohere where I get an incredible amount of work done while forming business relationships that are taking my career to the next level.

Without my membership at Cohere, my business growth would take a lot longer, not having those vital professional connections.  Also, my kids would be missing out on some important one-on-one time with their dad.  We really do have the perfect balance that way and it wasn’t difficult to obtain, thanks to night coworking at Cohere!

Try out a free night of coworking any Wednesday on us!

5 Ways Coworking Could Save Your Small Business

A lot of people are talking about coworking. But does it really make that much of a difference?

Starting a business isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Most entrepreneurs are so interested in keeping the bills paid, they forget how vital things like fresh air and conversation can be to their business’ success.

If you’re debating whether or not to give coworking a try, here are some compelling reasons to experience work outside the home office:

1. Motivation

Joining a coworking community is like getting a double shot of motivation right in the ticker. It might surprise you to know that there are people that will find your ideas/talents/products impressive and constantly encourage you to reach for more. They are called coworkers, and they are waiting to assure you that there is a reason to keep going.

2. Networking

Aside from those special souls that were born for cold calling, have you ever met someone that really enjoys networking events? There’s all that awkward glancing between face and name tag, painful small talk about the catered food, and the inevitable fumbling for the business card.

When you’re a coworker, networking ceases to be a traumatizing monthly event and instead becomes a natural part of your daily conversation. Each day, you’ll be sitting next to someone new, with a whole set of talents, ambitions, and business contacts waiting to be discovered.

3. Bartering

Money tight? Working in a community of small business owners and freelancers means that everyone can relate to clients who ignore invoices and struggling bank accounts. But instead of breaking down, coworkers barter. Chances are, within 20 feet of your laptop you’ll find someone that’s willing to trade you graphic design work for some help with marketing, or new head shots in exchange for a snappy press release.

4. Outsourcing

(No, not like that terrible show that replaced Parks and Rec). If you’ve got more work than you know what to do with, there’s no need to give up sleep or force your family into indentured servitude. As a coworker, you have a built in pool of talented, motivated people all around you that will probably be interested in picking up your slack for pay or barter. Not only will your clients think you’ve developed super human powers because of how fast things will get done, you’ll gain major karma points in the freelancing community.

5. Creativity

Traditional businesspeople swear by “location, location, location.” For coworkers, the mantra is “ideas, ideas, ideas.” Writer’s block, brain farts, and design paralysis are no match for a community of creatively endowed people. If a problem project has you stymied, try shouting it out to the built in focus group seated all around you (check to make sure they don’t have their headphones in first).  You might be surprised at how quickly you’ll have more ideas than than ever.

Wanna give coworking a try? Claim your free day pass to Cohere Community and prepare to be wowed!

Flickr Image Credits: KHawkins04 | ShashiBellamkonda

Employees choose community over cubicles

Courtesy TBD… for full story

Talk IS cheap

Talking is easy and basically free.  I’ve heard the phrase “talk is cheap” a lot lately. Most often, people are referring to the idea that it’s easy to talk about something but entirely different (read: more difficult) to actually DO something.  I’d like to make the argument that talk is a cheap solution, especially when this basic tool nets your company an extra $15 million in productivity gains!

Source: MIT Human Dynamics Lab

Source: MIT Human Dynamics Lab via Forbes magazine

Thumbing through the August 30th issue of Forbes today was enlightening. Normally I’d be reading The Oatmeal on a Friday afternoon but inspiration struck as I leafed through what I refer to as the “millionaire’s guide to making me feel poor”.

MIT did a ‘reality mining’ study by placing sensors around subjects’ (employees of a call center) necks.  The sensors recorded who each person talked to and for how long. The results yielded some interesting patterns in human behavior and productivity.

The employees who “talked to MORE coworkers got through calls faster, felt less stressed and had the same approval rating as their peers.”

In an effort to capitalize on these results, the company made a simple shift. They allowed employees to take coffee breaks at the same time rather than staggering them throughout the day.

What happens between employees on a coffee break isn’t just office gossip. They talk about customers *gasp* and those customers’ problems, which creates a very large, very useful database of information that is not stored ANYWHERE else.

“Informally talking out problems and solutions…produced better results than following the employee handbook or obeying mangers’ e-mailed instructions.”

One simple change: allowing employees to talk to one another over the water cooler increased productivity to the tune of $15 million in one year.

You don’t need to fully understand a phenomena to implement it or benefit from it. And that’s why we cowork. Every member of the Cohere Coworking Community has come to realize that “coworking” together offers a set of benefits that are quite impossible to get at home or in the coffee shop. We increase our stores of readily available knowledge of technical tools, social networks and every day problem solving by talking, asking questions and sharing information. Together, we can solve problems more quickly and find answers more easily all day instead of waiting for a mandated coffee break.

The message from this story is simple.  Get more work done faster by leveraging social networks and talking to a wide variety of people every day.

What have you learned today?

Read full Forbe’s story.

Humanity through pants by @_achiang

Cohere member Alex Chiang circa 1996

When I left $GIANTSOULSUCKINGMEGACORP for a kinder, gentler startup, one of the perqs I was most anticipating was workingfrom my home office all the time. There are few things more enjoyable in life than a gentle breeze wafting through the mesh of a Herman Miller Aeron chair, cooling your nether regions while you write exquisite, elegant code.

I mean, let’s face it — your home is your castle, and if the king doesn’t want to wear pants, well, it’s good to be the king.  For the first few months, I reveled in the glory of the home office: a 10-second commute, bacon and coffee on demand, and I’d never miss the FedEx guy again.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the insane asylum. I found myself compulsively ordering completely useless tchotchkes from Amazon just so I could talk to the FedEx guy, who was becoming increasingly nervous about coming to my door, even after we both agreed on a pants policy.

I was discovering that extended periods of time cut off from outside human contact made Alex something something. It was about this time that my colleage, Paul Hummer, mentioned this rad group of people at his coworking space, Cohere. At first, I was mildly surprised that my beloved cow town of Fort Collins was progressive enough to support a real live coworking space. But then I remembered that everyone here drinks two quarts of jawesome juice for breakfast every morning and thought to myself, “of course Fort Collins must have a coworking space; something sweet must have happened by now and I’m missing out on it!”

I tagged along with Paul for one visit and I was hooked. Here was a self-selected group of savvy, motivated, and let’s be honest — just darn attractive people — with a diversity of talent and a shared love of lolcats. A chorus of O HAIs! greeted me and I knew that Cohere was my cure for the subterranean stircrazy blues brought by a basement office. The synergies are subtle for me; I’m a computer plumber, after all, a low level bit banger who still insists on 80-column text terminals for email. Unfortunately, computing plumbing abstractions leak from time to time. The coworkers at Cohere cover a diverse swath of backgrounds, but they all tend to be sophisticated technology mavens, and observing them cope with broken software is like being in the world’s greatest real-time useability lab. So it works. And in return, they put up with my strange obsession of the platypus.

My company’s flagship product, Ubuntu Linux, is named for a Bantu word meaning “humanity towards others”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of it: We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

To me, that captures the essence of coworking and Cohere. Freelancer or not, you can’t work well all by yourself. You owe it to yourself to plug into a community, leaving it better than when you found it, and maximizing yourself both professionally and personally in the process. We’ve got a great community at Cohere. Come check it out. We’ll leave the wifi on for you.

Read more of Alex’s musings on twitter and his blog.

Who’s in YOUR Petri Dish?

The Power of Connection

Connection means different things to different people, but in reality, it is at the core of our DNA. It’s something I knew from a science perspective, but never truly “got” at a lifestyle level until now.

I recently sat in on a presentation by Joan King, a Ph.D in Neurosciences and Psychology, who also served as the Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology for the Tufts University School of Medicine. Her talk was short, but left an impact. She focused on the neurology of connection, explaining the basic function of cells and how they work independently and as a unit.

She pointed out that when cells are separated in a Petri dish, they immediately start searching for other cells to connect with and form a bond. If unable to find a connection, they die.

This is why I feel Cohere is a great alternative for dis-connected workers. As a writer who works primarily from a home office, I often spent long days alone, especially while working on deadline. My in-person connection to like minds faded quickly in exchange for purely digital relationships and writing deadlines. Even though I couldn’t put my finger on it, I always felt a little something was missing.

Transition to More Fun and Enhanced Creativity

As I transitioned to showing up at a welcoming, laid back place to work, I realized just how much I missed the energy of buzzing minds and spontaneous creative collaborations. I find it extremely helpful to share and exchange ideas with others who are not directly tied to my project, but offer incredibly valuable insight on new approaches or solutions.

Its even MORE fun to blow off steam and be silly in the middle of the day for no reason other than to decompress and have a good time. My membership is a great reminder that as a human being I can give myself permission to infuse light, laughter and play into my day at a moment’s notice, but the choice is up to me.

The Cohere “Workday”

From left: Julie, Katrina and Suzanne discuss a marketing problem.

I get work done as efficiently, perhaps even more so at Cohere because there are others  working right alongside me; people focused on their passions too. My fellow Coherians also remind me that I am a human being allowed to take breaks.   I’m not just some content machine always chugging towards the next deadline.

Cohere Madam, Miss Angel, is fantastic about organizing collaborative events, and my workmates also create spontaneous opportunities to grab lunch, snacks or entice me to delve into a fun, five minute video diversion.

I want to take this opportunity to applaud the core values and culture of Cohere, as well as those I cowork with on a regular basis. I have met and connected with amazing people, people who not only inspire me in my current business, but really activate me to take my company, Buzzword, to the next level. More importantly, the like-mind connections I am creating help me craft my very own kick-ass Petri dish.

Area man discovers freelancing not what he expected

Matt brushing his teeth--usually he does this at home, not at Cohere.

When I started “freelancing,” I had a lot of expectations as to what my life would be like setting my own schedule, picking my own projects, etc.  My life would be ultra-flexible and I would be spending my time doing something I loved, coding.  I wouldn’t have anyone to answer to but myself, and that would be the ideal work environment.

It turned out that while there are many benefits to freelancing, for me, the flexibility and lack of direct accountability were not so high on the list.
Working from home, I could pace for hours before starting a project.  Most of my days and nights consisted of over-planning, procrastinating, and then a 10-12 hour block of anxious, frenzied coding, and I was exhausted.  My work life had lost its boundaries.

I would pick up projects that required me to work on-site from time to time.  While working in an office, there was an expectation that I would spend my paid hours coding, so I would dive right in.  I would take things in smaller chunks.  The solutions to small problems would seem to roll right out of my fingers.  I wasted far less time by writing, adjusting, redirecting, tightening, than I would trying to pull everything together in my head and then drop it into code as one solid system.  So that seemed to be a solution.  Stop over-planning and getting excited, and just sit down and code.

A little social pressure helped reduce my coding anxiety, helped me be more efficient, and helped me to do something that I really loved to do, write nice code.  Coworking, working in a social setting, provided just enough social pressure.  So my expectations of coworking were simple: Social pressure would keep me efficient.

People coworking (not at Cohere but this is kind of what his screen looks like)

While coworking has done wonders to keep me efficient and reduce my coding anxiety, I’m starting to realize that “social pressure” is really one of the very smallest benefits of working in a more “social” environment.  I’m starting to realize that my work exists within an ecosystem of other projects, built by other people like me, and networking is an essential part of the freelancer’s life.

It’s becoming increasingly important as more people are becoming freelancers.
The best projects I’ve worked on, I’ve found word of mouth.  I’m getting more interested in sharing my ideas, in blogging, in building my projects open-source and contributing to other open-source projects.  I’m starting to think of my work as less of a “job” and more as a part of an ecosystem that will sustain me as I contribute to it.
I’m also starting to realize that “making money”, while it’s a necessary and much appreciated part of “what I do”, it’s no longer the end goal.  It’s just one of the outcomes of how I spend my time.  Taking a step back, I could say that capitalism is a useful tool for getting parts of the economy and people in general moving and productive, but it’s not always the best tool.  If you look at the thriving open source community, some of it is funded and paid, a lot of it is built and shared without the money changing hands directly.
Maybe these ideas will spread to other areas of the economy.
Maybe they have in ways I don’t know about.  This web of inter-connectedness can support our endeavors to ends that used to require rigid hierarchical managed workplaces.  If we can get rid of some of this bulky scaffolding and work together more organically, that would be great.
**Matt is on the Neighbor plan at Cohere and can be found writing copious amounts of code daily whilst surrounded by other passionate freelancers.  He also volunteers to make coffee most afternoons.  FTW.

Coworking: this is your brain on creativity

I’m always amazed by the stuff that ends up on the whiteboards at Cohere.  The coworkers have particularly vivid brain dump sessions late at night or when plagued by tough decisions that need to be made.  Last week’s work filled an entire board on how to promote a headless pig keychain with client instructions to  “make sure the tagline is borderline inappropriate.”  How fun is that!?  I wasn’t able to capture that session in a photo but here are some more that will let you peek under Cohere’s hood to see what’s happening.

Left: I’m not sure what problem they were working on here but it appears to be a mashup of a merchandising problem for our resident fashionista Suzanne and Zachariah’s take on that problem using some PHP coding.  Who knows but it sure does look neat.

Right: Here we have the random happy thoughts board that took shape during Cohere’s grand opening.  Several people tucked away in the library nook to write words of encouragement or funny quips like “I want to play madlibs here.”  How cute is that!?

Left: The phone room is Paul’s favorite place to work out Python coding problems and #inappropriatecorner is host to any number of random quotes and methods of mockery to keep things light hearted.

What is the moral of this visual journey through Cohere’s collective brain?  Don’t judge our weirdness and propensity for silliness, come be a part of it.  There’s a blank board waiting for you.

The Creative Genius

At Cohere’s #frankfriday lunch and learn session today, the Cohere group of coworkers had a stimulating discussion about the creative genius. Several of us had already seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity which caused me to look it up and share it with you. Does the creative genius have to destroy the artist or can artists learn to engage in a conversation with the genius and become a conduit for it?

Coworking fits drug addiction criteria

Coworking has become a drug to me.  I love coworking so much that I think about it constantly. I found a list of drug addiction signs and I think coworking fits the bill.

  • Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain. (yes, we have all gained weight b/c of Kilwin’s/Walrus/Starry Night/Mary’s Cookies and then lost it doing group lunges on the way back to the office)
  • Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness. (yes, yes and yes especially when @imnickarmstrong is in the house)
  • Change in overall attitude / personality with no other identifiable cause (yep again, we all experience extreme happiness before, during and after coworking).
  • Changes in friends: new hang-outs, avoidance of old crowd, new friends are drug users.(nothing could be truer..we’re in new places, meeting new friends and we are all on coworking)
  • Change in activities; loss of interest in things that were important before.(yes, I have lost interest in a 9-5 job, crappy bosses and tedious meetings and structure for structure’s sake)
  • Skips or is late to work. (we don’t care if you’re late or miss a day but it has happened)
  • Unexplained silliness or giddiness. (I’m not even going to comment)
  • Change in personal grooming habits (yes, we usually get dressed to come to coworking whereas we normally work seminude or in pjs at home aka “pants optional”).
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia. (yes, we’re all packing laptops, travel mugs and smart phones…guilty as charged).

**in case it’s not obvious, I might have tinkered with the graphic, but for having ZERO graphics skills and using Microsoft Paint (I know!, <barf>) I think it looks pretty good.

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