It is often said that a coworking community is started before there is even a leased signed. That’s because coworking happens when a group of people working on a variety of projects come together to work, share ideas, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s when these people start getting together on a regular basis that someone suggest they should get their own space and make coworking a regular part of their work life. In the mid to late 2000s Jelly advocated such gatherings that eventually lead to the first large growth of the coworking movement around 2009.

So how does a coworking community often start?

The most popular beginning is the top two and it is highly discouraged to start a coworking space with the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy.

  1. A group of friends that often work from home get together at coffee shop or at someones house to work. They start inviting their friends to the work group and the group continues to get bigger. This was the inspiration for Jelly and their Wiki pages.
  2. A small team or startup need space but want to be inspired by others and get an extra large building for others to join. They sign the long-term lease with the expectation to grow and invite others to cowork with them.
  3. A local entrepreneur starts a coworking space and brings people together.

Buddies and partners creating the community together.

According to Deskmag’s Global Coworking Survey, a coworking space commonly has between two to three founders – no matter the size of the coworking space. Since a coworking space is often a second job to many people the spread of responsibility and risks is an important consideration when opening a coworking community. It can also be important to have multiple founders as members because it signals that a group is personally involved in the local coworking movement and excited about its potential.

Plus, by opening with a group or existing company you know when the doors open that there will be a consistent group of friendly people filling the energy of the space. Since coworking is about people as much as it is about the space this can be an important element when starting a coworking community without many members.

A community is here, but who puts it together.

So the easy answer is to get the community involved: Get them talking. Let their voice be heard. Build the space together.

When starting Creative Density in Denver I created a survey so potential future members would have a voice in their new work clubhouse. Over 65 people voted on their favorite neighborhood, critical amenities,, style of rooms they wanted, and let me know a bit about themselves. I got the community involved in the creation of the space and it was a fantastic experiment that offered invaluable insight. Other coworking spaces from Spain to San Francisco got the community involved in their expansion plan or initial design before unlocking the doors and had found that it made the commuter tighter and formed new relationships.

If your coworking dream does not have a group of enthusiastic people willing to paint and assemble furniture for beer and pizza, don’t worry. Study different workspaces, visit neighboring coworking facilities, imagine the type of culture you want, learn some interior design, and let it organically change and be flexible. You may also hire the design out. Several people have gone the build it and they will come approach and have succeeded – many have failed. Just know the sooner you can start to get people together, the easier it will be a sustainable businesses and the closer you are to fulfilling your vision.

Here are a few good articles: Designing Imperfect Coworking Spaces, Designing A Successful Coworking Space, Space Matters: Using Design To Build Community

Footing the bill is on you (and hopefully some members)

Do you have $54,000 to invest in your coworking dream? That’s the average price of starting a new coworking space, but I started Creative Density with under $20,000 so it can be done for much less.

Common ways to fund a new coworking space:

  1. Coworking owner invests their own money and rack up credit card debt
  2. Members pay months in advance to reduce initial startup cost
  3. Small business or startup becomes anchor tenant that covers most monthly expenses (common in scenario 2 of how a coworking spaces often starts)
  4. Ask for a round of donation or funding from Kickstarter, angels, and other forms of investors.

The most common method is for the founder to pay most of the expenses and offer discounts to members that months in advance. I favor this method because it guarantees that there is a larger group of people that believe in the coworking community and that they are willing to invest in the relationships and making the space their own. The operator must remember business 101 lessons and grow the community to keep the cash flow positive.

I funded Creative Density with a $10K business loan from family, personal savings of $10K, and I opened as many credit cards as possible to made a line of credit available that made around $25K more available. This made my total of available money for the business to be $45,000. I had plenty of room to breath and was able to be cash-flow positive within the first 12 months.

Some great articles: Indy Hall – By the Numbers

Overall, find a community of individuals that are having fun working together or a small company that wants to involve coworking in their space to fill it with energy and commit to creating a community. Start a coworking space with a buddy or a small group to have a built in friendly community and partners to keep everyone going while sharing the expenses. Lastly, ee willing to foot the bill or get the community involved to share initial cost.

When forming a coworking community the focus and energy can quickly turn to the business side of things, but don’t forgot the people. Get them involved along the way and your chances of creating a vibrant and successful community will be much higher.