Local 64 is a new coworking space opening in Montpelier, Vermont (http://local64.tumblr.com). The process of getting up and running has provided me some insights I wanted to share, and wanted to bounce a few questions off everyone also.
- Timing and market "ripeness."
I've been struck by the contrast in attitudes toward the coworking idea that I've encountered this year compared with four years ago when I first explored the idea. Back in 2008 most folks were like, "Huh? Oh. Not really. Maybe though. Let me know when it opens." This year folks are much more, "Yes! How can I get involved?" We'll still have a lot of work to do, but making the public case may be a little easier given how culture has shifted.
- Value of research insights
It has really helped, both in terms of outreach and advance marketing as well as getting some useful customer insights, that I was able to float two surveys in my area. While I also tapped people outside of the "greater Montpelier not-so-metropolitan area" most respondents fell within what I would consider our "catchment" area. I used their insights to drive a few key decisions, from site selection to pricing.
- Building the community
I heard it here first, and its absolutely true. Before investing a single dollar in furniture or signing a lease, I've deeply valued the way creatives and freelancers are getting behind the idea of a creativity hub in Montpelier. Folks are connecting us to journalists, offering probono advice, even deeply discounting our lease for the first year because they want to see, not Local 64 per se but the members behind it, thrive. I'm not sure what critical mass will be, but I'm happy to report that, after conversations, a happy hour, a popup supper, and lots of email outreach, we've got 7 members signed up in advance, half a dozen in the wings, and tons more potential. We don't open until June.
Okay, so about the brick. I have brick :) In fact, I love brick. If you can afford it, I'd say expose it! The first wall I ever did was about 14 x 8 and we did it by by hand, first with sledgehammers (carefully!), then chisels, then a wire brush. We finished by applying a masonry sealant and it looked amazing. The best reason for bring in my book is that it provided variation. You don't have to do your whole wall, but used well you can created variegated environments within your coworking space.
Now the fun part. We're having our public "Sign Up" party on May 7, where new members can meet and greet founding members, tour the space, ask questions, and hopefully sign up.
Question: Any great ideas to make a signup party fun, and productive?
Finally, we open June 4, what we're calling "Square Day" just for fun (6/4. Local 64. Too esoteric?) ANYway, we're going to make it an art party too, featuring new works by local artists on the wall, showcase some of the cool projects and products by coworkers (who are game developers, technologists, etc). Any other ideas to make this memorable - you know, those little mixer details! (At our last one, we passed out different sized nuts and bolts to people as they checked in, and their job was to find a "match" (ie their nut fit someone else's bolt) before the evening was out. It was a great way to cut through too much awkwardness :)
Okay, thanks everyone. Happy coworking!
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