One week after the Twin Cities hometown co-working company COCO announced that it would rebrand to Fueled Collective as part of a new franchising concept, COCO founders Kyle Coolbroth and Don Ball hosted a town hall-style meeting for members at the company’s original St. Paul location to discuss the impending changes.
Late last month, members received an email from Coolbroth and Ball announcing news of the new co-working concept and partnership with Fueled, a Manhattan-based mobile design and development company, and St. Gregory Group, whose previous franchise ideas include Cyclebar. Fueled Collective, the release said, would be part co-working space and part social club.
Fueled Collective said that it sees the potential for up to 250 locations as stand-alone spaces or offices within boutique hotels. Coolbroth and Ball said that their focus is on the transition, and there are not any plans for new locations at the moment. Signs on the building will change within the month, and updates to the company’s social accounts and website will likely occur later this year. The founders added that there will not be any new Fueled Collective spaces in the Twin Cities.
COCO was founded eight years ago in St. Paul, and has since added locations in Northeast Uptown and downtown Minneapolis as well as Chicago. The week after the Fueled Collective announcement, Coolbroth and Ball hosted a series of town hall meetings at each of COCO’s five locations to discuss what changes members can expect.
Around 20 members filed into St. Paul’s “Situation Room” (aptly named, given the conversation) during the lunch hour one week after the announcement to ask the founders questions about the name, design and technology changes. Below are answers Coolbroth and Ball gave to questions asked by COCO members and Minne Inno during the town hall session:
Note: This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did Fueled Collective come about?
COCO: St. Gregory Group reached out to us about two years ago. It took them about six months to get through to us, but the franchising idea grabbed our attention. After a while we decided that Fueled, St. Gregory Group and COCO would form a new company, which became Fueled Collective.
Why change the name? Where did “Fueled Collective” come from?
COCO: During the planning process we realized that we’d need to change from COCO to Fueled Collective for legal reasons. What we’re building is an intersection of work and social. ‘Fueled’ felt more descriptive and fitting for that concept. The ‘Collective’ part loops back to the idea of owning a franchise. We want to sell that idea. Even though they’re spread out, the locations will be connected by this concept. And the name ‘COCO’ has been diluted. There’s that Pixar movie, and for a while that was the name of Conan O’Brien’s TV show. The change felt right.
“We don’t want to disrupt what’s good and core. We’re determining what we bring back to the Twin cities.”
What will change at the Twin Cities locations?
COCO: The name above the door will change for sure, but we get to choose what exactly we bring back to the Minneapolis and St. Paul locations. St. Paul, for example, will stay pretty much the same as it is now. We didn’t want to disrupt what was good and core. Right now, we’re determining what we want to bring back.
Why choose a franchising model?
COCO: It’s a smart funding method. Rather than using equity, we grow one location at a time, and each of these are funded by the individuals. It seemed like something that someone was going to do eventually. Why shouldn’t it be us? Co-working will continue to grow and be commoditized. Smaller destinations will struggle unless they find something unique.
Will there be any changes in the current fee structure?
COCO: There will be no change in the fee structure to Twin Cities locations. There will be pricing guidelines for all locations, which won’t be determined by franchise owners. But prices would vary from one market to the next. For example, a membership at a Fueled Collective in New York City would be more expensive than Minnesota.
What will be in the new spaces?
COCO: Each will be a bit different based on where they’re located, but they’ll be consistent from a design perspective. [Editor’s note: Here’s a look at the Cincinnati prototype.] Space is space. At the end of the day, co-working spaces are about community. One question I think we’ve done a great job answering is ‘How do you cater to individual communities?’ The answer is that you have to be very human and very local. We’ve done well with that, and that’s what we’re trying to scale.