As a small, bootstrapped coworking space in Fort Collins, Colorado I’m used to being passed over for national press. A sub-10,000 square foot non-niche space run by a single founding woman for almost 10 years as a non-sexy LLC doesn’t turn ANY heads in the national media. I’ve never asked for or received funding of any kind.
So when a writer from the Wall Street Journal emailed me to say she was writing not only a coworking story but a coworking story ABOUT FRIENDSHIP I really thought our story would be compelling enough to tell. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It probably never will be.
Here’s how her request read: “I’m a reporter with the Wall Street Journal and I hoped to talk with Angel Kwiatkoswki about coworking spaces. I’m trying to learn more about how people find the right coworking buddy, the etiquette involved in those relationships and the issues that come up in finding the right match. Thanks for your time and hope to hear from you.”
I left her a voicemail with some times to call me back. She didn’t. So I penned a pretty long email that gave her a bunch of context on our space and community, our approach and quotables on friendship from members. Here it is in its entirety:
I’m writing a few (it’s actually a lot of) thoughts down in email while the baby is sleeping since I’m an unreliable phone partner these days.
My coworking community is unique in that we’re smaller both in terms of square footage and number of members. There are 90 members sharing 3,500 sq ft of space. That means about 20 people are in the building at any given moment so no one feels overwhelmed by our size. We also have 5 levels/floors in our space so the number of people you are sitting next too is about 6. This setup allows people to both see and hear one another, which has obvious advantages to getting to know one another. One of the biggest challenges I hear from people who join very large coworking spaces over 10,000 sq ft is that it was extremely difficult to form relationships due the sheer size of the buildings. They could never find the same person twice!
Our other advantage is longevity. I founded Cohere in 2010 so we’ve been at it longer than almost any other space in the US. Because we were founded in the coworking *movement* vs the coworking industry, we leverage the 5 core values of coworking found at http://blog.coworking.com/core-values/
. These are the values that the US founders of coworking identified back in 2005.
It’s easy to be a friendship-based coworking space when we follow the 5 values of coworking. If I were doing this for real estate investment purposes, the last metric I would want to hear about is “number of members who went on walks together this week” or “members who remain friends after they leave Cohere.” These types of things don’t garner ANY national press and they sure don’t get me millions in VC either. In fact, our valuation is lower than ever https://coherecommunity.com/blog/believe-it-or-not-cohere-coworking-is-now-valued-at/
(read that like it’s an Onion article). Feel free to mention our valuation at the end of the article as so many real estate focused coworking articles like to do 😉
When you work from a coworking space, you are guaranteed to run into the same people over and over again. The great part about coworking is that the experiences are varied and sometimes random. You might work alongside someone in your field all day and then the next day, go to an industry meeting together or yoga on Saturday.
Cohere members tend to stay at Cohere an average of 18 months so they have ample opportunities to connect either in shared industries or over their hobbies. We have one member who hosts her knitting group at Cohere and another who will gather all the sci-fi lovers for a spirited chat over lunch in our living room. The great unifier though? Clients who don’t pay their invoices on time. Nothing forges bonds quicker in a coworking community than shared hand-wringing over invoices that are sitting unpaid.
When it comes to etiquette, there is probably a list somewhere about how to be a good human. I think it boils down to being able to listen… asking how someone is and really absorbing their answer and then taking the time to attend to them if they are having a spectacular or terrible day. I think people want, more than ever, to be *noticed*. We make an effort to look up and greet people as they come and go. This is a rare delight in life these days. I think humor is a key ingredient. There is laughter everywhere at Cohere but we also let people grieve. We’ve had members who receive news of deaths while they are at work and we drop everything to make tea and sit with them.
So much of life is actually lived in between what’s scheduled on our calendars. It happens when you’re on your way to a meeting and you hold the door for someone or as you’re going to warm up your lunch, you trade parenting tips for toddlers. I think that’s the power of coworking…living life together in a shared space vs alone in our respective homes.
I wanted to get the members’ perspectives on friendship and here’s what they said,
“The best [friendships] come from what makes any relationship great: caring about the other person and having a focus on giving instead of taking.” -Carson Block
“I agree with Carson – the etiquette doesn’t differ much from other friends. Sometimes, due to different schedules, friendships develop in fits and starts or over long periods of time, through shared meals, long walks, and companionably click clacking on your keyboard while sitting next to each other. Over time, you form a bond. And then the friendship or sense of knowing someone spills out to the world beyond Cohere’s walls. You get a mountain bike lesson from a fellow member, see another one at a bike race, meet for brunch with another, and join Toastmasters with another few. This is a great container for meeting people–one of the best as far as making friends as an adult.” -Abby Lowe-Wilson
Personally, 97/100 of my new friends in the last 10 years are a direct result of Cohere. The other 3 are my next door neighbors.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t have any dramatic stories to tell of friendships that went awry in our community. We foster goodwill and laughter and delight and have very little interest in relationship theatrics in our coworking space.
I hope some of the above is relevant to your article. Please do ask more questions. I’m loving the intellectual stimulation after two months of maternity leave!
She would go on to publish an article that highlighted drama. I’m thrilled that we weren’t quoted in that piece however I do think that she could have used Cohere’s examples as a counterpoint to the theme of the story. Seeing as how we are the only “friendship-based coworking space” in the world (that I know of) it seems to me that we’d be viewed as the gold standard in how relationships work in coworking.
Maybe she’ll write the piece I was hoping for one day.
Curious about what friendship based coworking looks like? Come visit us this week!