Ever wonder what happens behind the walls of the coworking spaces that keep popping up around Charlotte? We took a peek inside and got to know a few members who are proponents of the concept. For some, it’s a means of getting out of a home office into an accountable environment, while for others it’s an opportunity to expand the boundaries of their business or change-up their work routines. Regardless, the business model is making an impact on how people work and collaborate in Charlotte.
According to Garrett Tichy, owner of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga), there are less than 500 people coworking in Charlotte. Hygge was the first on the scene, now celebrating their second year, with three locations.
Meg Seitz, a local writer, was one of the first to join Hygge back in November 2015. Her careers spanned retail, teaching and even a stint on the trading floor – always surrounded by people. All of the time. When she launched Toth Shop as a solopreneur writer, she found herself in a home office with little interaction. “I was lonely, but living the apparent dream,” she says. “Two years later, some of my closest friends work within these walls, and some have even become clients.”
It’s the intangibles that foster the spirit of sharing workspace with a variety of business people — mostly entrepreneurs. “There’s no hierarchy, it’s not competitive, and people can be vulnerable without repercussions,” says Meg.
It’s here that Meg met Julia Murray, a wedding photographer new to Charlotte, who owns Julia Fay Photography. Julia was introduced to coworking when attending a networking session hosted at the Hygge offices. She didn’t know this concept existed, went home that day and made an appointment to try it out. “I thought it would be an opportunity to work around others, but I had no idea how it would impact my business,” she says, approaching her one-year anniversary as a Hygge member.
Meg and Julia collaborated on a project, which happened to be a blog for Hygge. It was a project outside of Julia’s typical space and ultimately led to shifting her focus — seeing possibility in other areas beyond capturing client’s nuptials. “It took the sole focus of weddings out of my brain, which is a time-consuming business, and allowed me to stretch,” Julia says.
“Meeting new people and trying new things are what entrepreneurs do,” says Garrett. “Some people find no value, and others like Meg and Julia embrace what’s put in front of them.”
Garrett believes that community is not something you can sell. “It might lose us members, but I’m not here to force friendships.”
Across town at Advent Coworking, located in the old Kellogg plant in the Belmont area of Charlotte, another slew of entrepreneurs and non-profits come to work together each day, in open spaces and private offices.
Ashley Morgan, a full-time web designer and part-time freelance graphic designer, is an Advent member who has benefitted from sharing a workspace. She also runs a monthly web design meetup called CLT Design, and brings in guest speakers to the group. She found a great guest in Lisa Speer, and she didn’t have to look outside the walls of Advent.
“I also helped design the logo and other materials for the Margarita Confessionals, a dating podcast co-founded by Ali Washburn,” Ashley says. And by the way, Ali teaches yoga for the space.
Kevin Giriunas, owner of Advent, concurs that these connections formed in a coworking space turn into friendships and work exchange opportunities. “Seeing a hair salon owner, writer, web developer, consultant and graphic designer working next to each other is not uncommon in a coworking space.”
Advent Chief Relationship Officer Erin Maddrey adds, “We have had members who have formed companies together, and we have members who have collaborated on projects or for consulting purposes. We have attorneys who work out of our space who have advised other members on matters, especially pertaining to their business. It’s really been a blast to see these relationships be cultivated.”
Growing the Pie
For Garrett, raising awareness is as simple as creating advocacy around his brand to bring new people and fresh perspectives through the door. For example, he partners with SkillPop to provide space for classes — everything from Podcasting 101 in the Hygge Podcast Studio to painting classes – creating a rotating open house and amazing exposure.
“The podcast studio was intentional,” says Garrett. “We produce four to six shows every day, bringing in people who would never engage with Hygge.”
Kevin is optimistic about expanding the coworking base in Charlotte and believes the workforce of today is evolving. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, by 2020, about 65 million Americans (40% of the workforce) will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and solopreneurs. “The standard work environment no longer meets everyone’s needs,” he says. “Coworking spaces are the answer.”
Amenities offered at Advent include a kitchen, conference rooms, free bike rentals, IT services, free coffee, free yoga and so much more. Learn more at adventcoworking.com. To learn more about Hygge and the various membership plans offered, visit wearehygge.com.
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