You might dream of a big corner office someday, but if you’re running a startup, a co-working space might be your best option right now. Not only does it save crucial cash, but you’ll also be immersed in a community of creators and innovators and learn from your peers.
According to Jamie Russo, executive director of the Global Workspace Association and founder of Enerspace Coworking, key benefits of co-working include “flexibility, community, location convenience, proximity to innovation, or just an office that’s better designed than what you could do with your own resources.”
If you do choose co-working, she suggests that companies consider their specific needs (such as needing a private office or reserved meeting room for calls), as well as the shared resources available to all members. And make the space your own, as much as you can. “If you have a dedicated space or office, personalize it to reflect your team’s culture,” she affirms. “This could be as simple as using desktop accessories that reflect your company colors.”
Some co-working tenants in Chicago have gone beyond that, and have designed spaces that really represent their cultures or use their co-working areas in unexpected ways. Here are five of the most interesting uses of co-working space in the city that we’ve found.
Semihandmade splits the difference between affordability and handmade craftsmanship, offering a range of beautiful door options that fit onto IKEA cabinets. At WeWork’s Grant Park location, the company uses its small space as a compact showroom, letting prospective customers see exactly what they’re all about.
“What we’re doing inside WeWork is actually pretty unique, but I think it will soon catch on with other companies similar to us,” says founder John McDonald, who has since established mini-showrooms at other WeWork locations around the country. “WeWork is certainly very excited about that possibility.”
After a decade of working for high-end design firms, Laura Metcalfe established Outline Interiors to bring that level of design sensibility to a wider clientele. After working from her apartment for months (“My guest bedroom was a disaster”), she rented space at MakeOffices’ River North location. The north-facing office provides ideal natural light for looking over samples, and she has installed a customizable pegboard system for tools and samples.
“My office needs to be a reflection of my design abilities and aesthetics, and I think I’ve achieved a good balance of practical storage/organization along with a fun, decorative flair,” she explains.
Digital advertising is a tricky market, as companies need to find the fine balance between engaging viewers and annoying them. Luckily, ad intelligence firm Unruly is here to help, and for that the company has established the Future Video Lab at Industrious Chicago on West Ohio. Unruly has data from 3 trillion video views over the last decade, and the Future Video Lab “helps advertisers survive the ‘Adpocalypse’ by helping brands and agencies future-proof their digital video strategies,” says Christine Ryder, head of Unruly’s Chicago team. Interested parties can sign up for a visit during breakfast, lunch, or other time.
Valkyries chose the winners and losers of battle in Norse mythology, and likewise, Valkre aims to be a deciding factor on whether companies win or lose when it comes to customers. The firm works with companies like GE and Bayer and builds software to create customer value, and its WeWork office represents that inspiration and spirit. With battle shields affixed to desks and an axe on the wall, Valkre is ready to win the fight for customer loyalty for its clients. “We probably change more lives and impact more companies from the smallest office in the world,” asserts CEO Jerry Alderman.
Global Glimpse is a non-profit that expanded into Chicago last fall, and according to Jamelyn Lederhouse, Chicago programs manager, it’s “the only educational travel organization in our sector committed to serving low-income and minority youth on a large scale.” The organization helps prepare high school kids for “college and career success” via workshops and training, as well as a trip to help out in a developing country. Teacher training events take place at Global Glimpse’s WeWork shared space, and as Lederhouse says, “There is a vibrant energy at WeWork, as surrounding ourselves with other mission-driven, passionate individuals helps spur us in our own work to impact our community.”