Shared work spaces cater to mobile workers, entrepreneurs
ST. PETERSBURG -
Dean Capone can take his office anywhere.
With a laptop and smartphone, he manages clients in the music industry from Nashville to the United Kingdom.
When he’s in town, rather than hole up in his home office in downtown St. Petersburg or find an empty table at a noisy coffee shop, Capone can be found on the 12th floor of the Wells Fargo building, where he can chat with small business owners and freelancers or partner with a web designer on a project.
He’s one of the first people to become a member of CoCreativ, a drop-in office that opened last month offering flexible, low-cost, no contract space for professionals without a permanent workplace.
Over the past year, several “co-working” offices have opened around the Tampa Bay area to meet a demand from entrepreneurs and start-up companies for low overhead, part-time space.
For Capone, it’s about more than cheap rent, which runs $20 per day or $150 per month at CoCreativ. People can become members or just drop in for the day – or even just an hour. For varying prices, people can have access to everything from a small cubby desk to a large conference room.
“It’s almost like the encapsulation of social media, only you have real people sitting in front of you that can do things to help your business and vice-versa,” said Capone, who first encountered a co-working office during a business trip to Nashville.
CoCreativ’s founders say they’re getting a jump on a growing trend of workers who are tied only to a Wi-Fi signal, not to a physical office.
They are freelancers, small business owners, remote workers for big corporations who don’t have a local home office and especially entrepreneurs who don’t want to spend a big chunk of investment money on a lease.
They are CoCreativ founders Joseph Warren, Jason Stoll and Heather Young Kendall, who found themselves bouncing from Starbucks to Panera Bread as they ran their previous nonprofit consulting group in Tampa, Brainstorm Weekly.
“We ran into things where the A/C is on too cold, there are no outlets to plug in to, it’s noisy as all heck in there,” said Warren, CoCreativ’s CEO.
There are traditional options to address this dilemma. Regus, the global leader in leasing high-end executive suites, has several locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg’s biggest office parks.
What struck a chord with Warren and his team was the concept of co-working, which has enjoyed popularity for several years in West Coast tech capitols such as San Francisco.
The office at CoCreativ is informal, even playful, with lava lamps, candles, a lounge with zebra-striped chairs and small sandboxes on the desks with pebbles and a tiny rake to help workers find peace in the stressful workday.
The workspace also gives younger, creative workers a more stable, professional spot to maintain a business address, host meetings, network, or just find a quiet spot to work for a few hours. There are also sweeping views surrounding the office of Tampa Bay and downtown St. Petersburg.
Leaders in the business community say co-working space such as this one is critical to the Tampa Bay region’s growth as a friendly environment for budding tech companies and other entrepreneurs.
“It’ll help serve the pent-up demand from those seeking a professional, creative and welcoming environment to work – from the many faces of our startup entrepreneurs to our business traveler and everyone in between,” said Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
The owner of what’s considered the original co-working office, Citizen Space in San Francisco, says the concept has caught on across the country because it drives the creation of new companies.
“People don’t have a problem quitting their job and taking a risk working out of a space like this for six months to try it out,” said Toby Morning.
Several co-working offices have popped up in Hillsborough and Pinellas County in recent years. The Tampa Bay Innovation Center in Largo and Tampa Bay WaVe in Tampa operate co-working offices to help entrepreneurs in turning their ideas into viable businesses. CoWork Lab opened in Clearwater last year.
In West Tampa, media marketing company Uhsome started renting out part of its unused office space in the historic Garcia & Vega Cigar Factory on Armenia Avenue last year to local individuals and small businesses.
Warren said CoCreativ’s goal is to create a self-sustaining business model that caters to every type of mobile worker, which he hopes will expand regionally and nationally.
“Anybody that can setup an office anywhere and do business, and with the technology, now you can do that,” he said.