By Reece Alvarez
The rise of coworking spaces, shared facilities for entrepreneurs and professionals, is a relatively new phenomenon to Connecticut that is quickly emerging as a hallmark of the wave of new economies to follow the tech-revolution.
“I think people want a simpler more efficient way to work, they don’t want the baggage of signing a couple of years lease if they are trying to start a business,” said Sheelah Quinn, Workpoint’s sales and event manager in Stamford.
Opened on Nov. 1, Quinn has been running frequent tours for prospective clients and already has a membership of at least 20 coworkers ranging from media and tech professionals to hedgefunders and lawyers who want to have all the appearances and amenities of a high-end office without the long term lease and overhead that comes with it.
“This is a very hi-end club feeling type setting, these are multi-million dollar views,” she said. “There is no way anybody is going to able to afford space like this anywhere here on the water.”
As whispers of Stamford developing into a tech town circulate, Quinn said professionals in digital fields and media in particular have taken advantage of Workpoint’s space, which offers its own in-house TV production space.
Peter Propp, chief marketing officer for The Stamford Innovation Center coworking space, knows all about the whispers of Stamford’s metamorphosis and is helping the SIC to bring about that change. Meeting the needs of a new workforce culture is among the goals of the SIC.
“We feel very much we are on a mission to grow the local tech community,” he said. “People are changing the way they approach work. Coworking really supports that idea – that they don’t have a boss telling them what to do; their paycheck or bank account tells them how hard they need to work.”
As the age of the pension from a worker’s decades-long career path fades, Propp is finding more people are combining multiple streams of revenue to form their income. The evolution of coworking spaces has been a symptom of that.
But coworking is about more than just a place to work, Propp said.
“The term I like to use for the business reason behind coworkers is what I like to call planned serendipity,” he said. “You go work at a coffee shop and pay your little bit of money and squat there all day, but you are probably not going to have a conversation with anybody; it is very rare people do. If you come to work at a coworking space you are doing it because you want to get to know people, because you know that as an entrepreneur there is no way in the world you can do it all by yourself. You are going to need advice.”
From legal services to graphic design help, the SIC is an incubator of ideas and networks that goes beyond proving a space by offering opportunities to meet fellow professionals and receive advice and direct help in launching a business.
Ashley Keller, an event planning entrepreneur and founder of Little Black Business knows the benefits of working in a collaborative community firsthand.
Keller has worked at the Bridgeport coworking space, B:Hive, since it opened three years ago — about the same time as the Stamford Innovation Center.
“It sounds so glamorous to work from home, but it is very counterproductive for me, being such a social a person who is used to working in a space where you can bounce ideas off of people and talk with people,” she said.
New to Bridgeport at the time, Keller said the B:Hive was an immediate resource that helped her launch her business. Through the coworking space she secured one of her biggest clients and has found others, as well as other clients, who make special efforts to hire within the coworking community, she said.
“Being new to the area, meeting people, it has been a tremendous benefit,” she said. “Even though we are all working on different things, I just feel this is creative space where you can come every day and talk to creative and smart people who run their own businesses and are in the same boat.”