Cohere: Working without walls-NCBR

Cohere: Working without walls
Old Town space brings freelancers together to collaborate, connect
By Jessica Centers
Published May 7, 2010
Source: Northern Colorado Business Report
As a freelance copywriter working from her Fort Collins home, Julie Sutter found herself craving human interaction. She’d heard about the concept of coworking, but she didn’t get it at first. In her experience, working in office suites wasn’t much different than working at home. The climate of working in coffee shops was a little better, but she still didn’t feel like she could lean over to her neighbor and ask him what he was working on.
Now that’s exactly what she does at Cohere LLC – a membership-based coworking community that opened its doors in Old Town Fort Collins in April.
“It’s more about collaboration and getting to know the people who share your space,” she said. “Being happier makes for better work. I’m getting more done and the structure is helping me create balance between what’s work and what’s life.”
Cohere is the brainchild of curator Angel Kwiatkowski. It was just last December that a friend – Kevin Buecher – introduced her to the concept of coworking.
Kwiatkowski calls Buecher a community organizer; he calls himself a platform builder. He’s been an organizer for conferences like Podcamp, Laidoffcamp and Ignite Fort Collins, and says the concept of coworking grew out of barcamps. The network of conferences use a many-to-many communication approach rather than the traditional method of one person, such as a politician, keynote speaker or CEO, talking to an audience.
But coworking is a movement for people who want to have that many-to-many collaboration every day, according to Buecher. There are no walls, no private spaces. Coworking is a mindset that embodies the Internet’s method of communication.
“I decided to research and found a global community of coworking,” Kwiatkowski said. “I decided that was definitely what I was supposed to do with my life.”
She started a meetup group to pilot coworking in Fort Collins. Freelancers met once a week to test it out and see if they liked working together.
She was working with the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative at the time, and RMI2 donated space to the group. After just five weeks, they had grown to 15 people, all crammed into a reception area. Kwiatkowski found Cohere’s current home, upstairs at 215 Jefferson St. in Old Town, and planned her business with the help of a mentor, RMI2 COO Kelly Peters.
Space historical, sustainable
The building was built in 1890, and it’s sustainable, with wind credits and a 40-foot skylight that eliminates the need for artificial light during the day. It has great character, with exposed brick and an open floor plan. Its 1,100 square feet include 12 work stations, two smaller areas to get away to make phone calls or have meetings or brainstorm sessions, a lounge with couches and comfy chairs, a loft called the tree house that’s good for meeting deadlines.
They’re even in the process of testing out reclining work stations, where programmers and others who work at night can actually lie down with their laptops on big circular work pods.
The 16 current members pay dues ranging from $48 to $249 a month depending on the level of access they want. There is a $19 pop-in rate for those who want to test-drive the idea before joining, and non-members can rent the conference room for $15 per hour, depending on availability. Sutter went to full, unlimited access after just a week because she knew she wanted to be there all the time.
“The two primary draws are being around other likeminded people; they come here to be happier,” explained Kwiatkowski. “They have been isolated and bummed out at their home office maybe for years. Other people come here to be more productive; they feel like their work life and home life now have a separation for the first time. Many freelancers lose the ability to separate home from work.”
Sutter comes from that camp. Now she relishes the days when she leaves her computer at Cohere and decides she’s done working for the day. Before, she would tell herself she was just going to check her e-mail in the evening and before she knew it she’d been working for four hours.
People connector
The other draw for Sutter has been Kwiatkowski herself.
Coworking is the perfect marriage of Kwiatkowski’s experience in management, career counseling and organizational development. “I created a company where I just get to be around awesome people all day long,” she said.
“What separates Angel and Cohere is that she’s there,” Buecher said. “Her role is to connect people and help people be themselves. Most (coworking spaces) don’t have this connector person there, someone there who cares about you as a person.”
Already, Sutter is finding opportunities to collaborate with people in the Cohere space who are working on projects that also call for a copywriter.
“My main mantra about coworking is not about office space,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s not about a physical thing. It’s people coming together and building community and working collaboratively and being passionate about their work and sharing that with other people.
“We don’t have any walls; we don’t have physical walls or mental walls here.”
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