2014 finds many business people away from the classic cubicle in the office, without a desktop computer or water cooler in sight. With technology available all around us, we can work from home, from Starbucks and even on vacation. But where we gain from the convenience of technology, we begin to lose the community once fostered in the workplace environment. We miss the spontaneity of bouncing ideas back and forth, and lose the teamwork that builds shared ideas into reality.
The Workspace, located on the corner of Ellis and Potter St. in Bellingham, aims to change this through the idea of co-working. The space, which opened to the public on June 1 of this year, offers a well-designed arrangement of couches, desks and conference rooms that not only give people a space to get work done, but also to be surrounded by other workers doing the same. Colorful couches fill the downstairs, throughout the large, open rooms and in the loft that sits above the first level. The rooms are filled with unique pieces of art and furniture, all re purposed or refurbished, from a silver chair shaped like a human hand that sits in the lobby, to a surfboard coffee table that sits in the loft. Bright blues, red, yellows and oranges tie the space together, on the art, the pillows on the couch, and even the chairs, creating a modern yet decidedly retro feel throughout the space, and that create an openness and connection throughout it.
This is the idea behind co-working eliminating the isolation that can come from the, independent work environment by creating a space where people from different businesses can come together, share ideas, solve problems and cultivate a community. Workers can sit on couches, share a table in one of the space’s conference rooms or sit at desks next to others. They can collaborate with others around them, or simply use the space to work on their own personal projects.
The Workspace is the brainchild of Bellingham resident Mimi Osterdahl. Osterdahl, a real estate professional, was at a conference in Seattle when she stopped at Office Nomads, a co-working space in the city. Seeing a place where entrepreneurs, new small businesses, startups, telecommuters or simply people who needed an area to focus, could work in one functional space, opened up a new world for her.
Osterdahl and her partner, John Eggers, bought and fixed up the building at 303 Potter St., overhauling its interior and then filling it with repurposed furniture and décor from local businesses in Bellingham, refinishing, painting and refurbishing the furniture themselves. Additionally, Osterdahl and Eggers installed desks with locking cabinets for storage, created a conference room for presentations, and a telephone room for more private conference calls, creating a space where everybody and anybody could find inspiration. The space became one big office for a million big ideas.
The problem many small businesses and start ups have, Osterdahl said, is the ability to commit to a year-long lease, which can be daunting when combined with the cost of office supplies such as printers and desks. The Workspace, and co-working in general, provides services on a membership basis. A person can pay to use the space for a day, for a few days a week, or even become a full time member and have access to a personal desk and 24/7 use of the space. “We have different levels of permanent desks, because co-working, in its essence, is this idea of flexibility or hot desks: you’re coming and you’re going, but there are people who cant just function like that,” Osterdahl said.
Since payments can be made by the month or even by the day, the commitment level is much lower, and workers can decide each month if the space is a good investment for their business.
“Bellingham is no easy place to start a small business,” Osterdahl said. But places like The Workspace, allow for collaboration and networking, help people that may not get these opportunities otherwise. Where can student who comes out of university with an idea worth pursuing, but lacks resources or knowledge to implement the idea? The Workspace can give the mentorship and the community to nurture the idea in a cost-effective way so their business can grow.
“As the community grows, it just gets better and better and better,” Osterdahl said of The Workspace. “We have a very diverse community, and we really tried to create a space that would be diverse enough to embrace all types of people.” To join the co-working movement in style, check out their website theworkspace.org or stop by. Mimi always has cookies.