We held our very first brainstorm event (yummy breakfast photo below!) to gather ideas for our new CoWork 414 shared office space in Bethlehem. Those present included small business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs. They represented the construction, legal, auto, financial services industries and even — another cowork site! We took a deep dive into what coworking is and how this space is set up. We asked, “What more could we or should we do here in this cowork community?” What we found out is the “more” people are seeking is joining forces. Community means collaboration.
Coworking is still a new idea in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley, even though there are several sites, and some of them, like SoBeCoWorks, have been around for quite a few years.
What’s changed is that more people are seeing and understanding the need for spaces like these. Cowork sites typically offer a fully equipped office with desks and work tables, plus shared spaces like the Conference Room, kitchen and lounge; and amenities like high speed Internet and printer/copier privileges.
When we asked brainstormers, “Why does this matter?”, there was one and only one reply: “More independent workers and collaboration.” That says it all. Everybody knows by now, you can’t achieve a lot all by yourself, right? Books like “Better Together” show that. At the same time, there are more and more freelance workers all the time.
Cowork bridges the gap between working independently and needing to be around other people. Not only are we social creatures (most of us, anyway), but also it’s good business strategy. Coworking makes referrals, problem solving, connections, networking and marketing easier.
So, back to the breakfast (don’t worry, we’re getting to the menu):
First off, there was a lot of excitement because, as one person mentioned, cowork is something the big cities have! This is not so common in smaller cities, though it’s a growing movement.
As for what more to do with this space, here’s what our community brainstormed:
- shared marketing strategies
- hang out area
- suggestion and bulletin board spaces
- team meetings can be held here
- skill blending — play it up!
- work out discounts for cowork members at nearby restaurants
- special pricing among members when they engage each other’s help
- coffee house
- professional coordinator.
Notice that at least half of these ideas have to do with collaboration — how can we get more value and impact from our marketing, our meetings and working side by side … even co-branding (we love that word!) and coordinating amongst ourselves.
What if the services of two members overlap? Wouldn’t they be competing against each other, not working together? And isn’t that a problem? Well, as a prime example of what’s possible, two days before this brainstorming session, Santiago Rivera of SoBeCoWorks returned our call. Santiago is a great guy, very supportive and we are happy to call him a new friend. (He later admitted to taking two days to call back because of these very same competition concerns.) But then we talked it out …
When you drill down to what you are offering, it’s not just the product. It’s the process, it’s the place, it’s your people. It’s what makes your business unique. One cowork space is not going to be the first choice of every one; some want more people in the room, some want fewer. Some want West Bethlehem, some want the Southside. We can refer people to each other!
Because we all want a good fit among coworkers, we want coworking to take hold, and we especially want our city and region to prosper. We can work together toward this shared goal.
Santiago tells us a lot of the people at SoBeCoWorks make things, it’s more physical, there might be paint spatters on the floor (or not, depending). Luckily, Santiago joined us for the Brainstorming event and shared a lot of great ideas. He invited us to his place next week; we are super curious and can’t wait to see it.
Okay, we promised you the breakfast menu, which included chile quiche (fresh made at 5:30 a.m.) and a fruit platter (cantaloupe and blackberries, mmm!). And here is Jen’s specialty, called tea ring. Great with coffee and friends!