Niche Co-Working Spaces

Co-working is an inevitable topic is the workplace design industry. While much of the conversation is primarily focused on large providers, there’s a burgeoning crop of niche co-working spaces that have unique points of view on what shared workspace is all about. Work Design caught up with three diverse businesses, each offering a different perspective on how co-working space is evolving.

A Co-Working Space Tailored to the Legal Profession

Last Summer FH+H, a D.C. area law firm, relocated to a new office space. While the move sought to provide employees with upgraded facilities and expanded amenities, the firm also sought to make the most of the expanded space by offering a shared workspace option for non-traditional, entrepreneurial lawyers outside the firm. From this idea emerged Chisel. It has since become a thriving workspace for the firm’s existing staff and has also created a community of lawyers who network and share ideas in the collaborative space.

chisel co-working space
Welcome to Chisel – a co-working space for attorneys – Image courtesy of Chisel.

Two of the firm’s senior partners Francis (France) Q. Hoang and Tom Craig worked closely with the designers at Arris and all subsidiary consultants to ensure that the design encompassed their vision and met the needs of the firm as a whole. As ideas were shared and the plans were developed, they were approved by the entire partnership. The overall design of the new space adheres to the specific work requirements of the legal profession. Chisel features a selection of enclosed offices, secluded and semi-secluded workspaces, and shared, open workspace. The space also has private phone rooms and various sized meeting spaces that are reservable for client meetings and depositions. There is even a large a large kitchen, bar and lounge area, dubbed “the Forge”, which is used for community activities and classes and can be rented by outside events and speakers.

The Forge is a large kitchen, bar and lounge area, used for community activities and classes and can be rented by outside events and speakers. – Image courtesy of Chisel.

Integration of technology was also a significant consideration during the design process. To ensure that printing remains secure throughout the office, they have utilized the PaperCut MF application which requires a unique 5-digit code to print. The program also tracks printer usage enabling accurate billing for the firm and co-working members. The Chisel team also uses Nexudus to manage the space. The software is used to book conference and phone rooms, either online or on a tablet mounted adjacent to each meeting space.

The increased amount of communal space has gotten people out of their offices to work in multiple locations – Image courtesy of Chisel.

Overall, the firm is very pleased with the move and integration of the co-working space. Employees are adjusting to the open workspace and management has worked to ease the transition and address any concerns.

A Community-Based Space for Female Entrepreneurs

When Julia Westphall decided to embark on a new business venture, she was intrigued by an article in the New York Times about Hera Hub, a co-working space for women in San Diego. The concept resonated with Julia, and several meetings later, Hera Hub founder Felena Hanson agreed on the license for the first Hera Hub in the Washington, D.C. area.

hera hub dc
Hera Hub D.C. offers open, collaborative workspace supported by enclosed meeting spaces – Image courtesy of Hera Hub.

A visit to Hera Hub on a weekday afternoon offered a glimpse into the life of this busy, shared workspace. Julia believes that the concept has traction and emphasized that there is a need for co-working space for many types of businesses.

While providing a comfortable, welcoming space for women, Hera Hub also offers the opportunity for networking and collaboration. It’s more than a place to hunker down with your laptop. The business types of their members range from tutoring, beauty product development, financial advising, and even international environmental infrastructure development. Julia sees her position as CEO and director of the D.C. location as an opportunity to be a trusted advisor and mentor. Hera Hub D.C. hosts a plethora of events which help members with the business development plans and brainstorming ideas. The space also offers other frequent events including a writer’s lounge, educational workshops, book clubs, and happy hours

hera hub dc
The main conference room at Hera Hub DC – Image courtesy of Hera Hub.

While providing the space and infrastructure to support the members work, building a supportive community of members is a more substantial goal and one that Julia is most committed to. 

One of the most exciting events on the schedule is the monthly ‘Business Boosters’ discussion group. Members who are experts on various subjects share ideas with other members on pertinent topics that have ranged from accounting to video marketing. Exposure to and leveraging each other’s skill sets is one way the community is growing. Julia takes a hands own approach to nurturing the talent within the community – on a few occasions, she’s even helped members find new jobs or connect them to people and resources to help grow their business.

Most co-working endeavors tout the value of community, and Hera Hub D.C. offers many opportunities for members to interact and learn from each other. Further outreach to the community is being provided by displaying local artists’ work on a rotating basis. The artists often give workshops related to their artistic medium.

Coming Soon: A Co-Working Space Geared to the Outdoor Industry

We recently spoke with Will Blount, president at Ruffwear, an Oregon manufacturer of outdoor gear for dogs. Ruffwear is planning to convert their former manufacturing and warehouse into a new co-working space to accommodate the burgeoning outdoor gear businesses that are gravitating to the Bend, Oregon area. To find out more about this venture we called Will and to learn more about this project and why he thinks this concept will work.

Ruffwear employs over 34 two-legged employees with over 30 four-legged associates! The company was founded 24 years ago, with a niche product – a collapsible water bowl for dogs. As they outgrew their warehouse and manufacturing space, they decided to re-purpose the area after they moved.

A very important meeting at Ruffwear – Image courtesy of Will Blount.

Central Oregon is brimming with outdoor amenities ranging from the high desert, rivers, mountains, and lakes. Being so immersed in nature, there is a natural fit for the many outdoor activity related businesses that are gravitating to the area. Will and team realized that Bend is growing rapidly. Realizing the potential for synergy, they decided to push forward with the idea of opening a co-working space where passion for the outdoors could build the broader community of those committed to nature and the outdoor activities.

Additional business realities provided more impetus for expanding the community. With a low employee turnover rate, they think the co-working space will provide an injection of fresh new ideas and expose their team members to others with shared values.

Image courtesy of Will Blount.

Planning criteria included making sure the layout of workspace and amenities would raise the vibe and energize both the staff and co-working members. The new workspace must reflect the mission and values of the company and support the well-being of the building occupants.

Making sure the space would work for their canine partners was also given careful consideration. There is a practical protocol for engaging with this sector of the woof–force! Dogs need extra space around their people, and that was factored into the design. In public areas hitching posts will be installed, and dogs will need to remain on leashes. When new team members are hired, all dogs are socialized outdoors and off-leash. There will also be a dog-free zone in the new space as well as outdoor space dedicated for exercise and play.

The Ruffwear design team at work – Image courtesy of Will Blount.

Will was surprised at the amount of outreach and interest in the planned co-working space and anticipates that it will be full upon completion. As the community grows, he predicts that there will be changes, but he wanted to create an iconic space that will draw others from the outdoor industry – a workplace that was mindful of the living planet. Much thought was put into the design and selection of natural material, wood, concrete, and use of glass to bring natural light into the space. The project architect is Stacey Stemach of Stemach Design and Architecture in Bend, Oregon.

A rendering of the common area in the future Ruffwear space – Image courtesy of Will Blount.
A rendering of the front lobby in the future Ruffwear space – Image courtesy of Will Blount.
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