Coffee ShopA couple of days ago I received an email from the local small business organization, asking if I would like to see a building they were considering for use as a co-working space. I have known about this concept for a number of years, but the nearest spaces have been too far away to make the idea practical, so signed up to see the space.

The idea of co-working has been in existence for some years now, and love this story. As large companies downsized they found themselves hiring in more freelancers to work on specific projects. One day the receptionist noticed that as freelancers came in to be interviewed for projects, they would sit in the lobby, hop on the wifi, help themselves to coffee, and chat while they waited.

One of the managers realized that with so much extra space, he could actively offer his unused conference rooms to local freelancers as it would benefit him to have a pool of freelancers on hand, and they would benefit by having a space to work together in. He offered the space without charge, and made sure that there was always food and coffee available. His one stipulation was that if anyone used the space, they had to talk to other freelancers, as he understood the synergy that arises from collaboration.

Before long, word got around and several small start up companies emerged from people choosing to collaborate with each other in his space. Quickly the space became too crowded and so people had to reserve time to use it. Realizing he was onto something, the manager contacted other business owners with spaces they could offer, and soon a network of collaborative spaces emerged. The idea has since spread, primarily in Europe, and you can read more about it at http://www.society30.com/

In the US the concept of co-working is a business model. Those who opt to use the space have to pay a share of the overall cost of maintaining the space, but can buy in for a few hours a month up to a fixed desk space and storage for a larger sum. The goal is still to offer freelancers a space to use to work away from home – or in the coffee shop – and to have the opportunity to meet with other freelancers. In the public spaces there is still an expectation of chatting, and have heard tales of a number of networking and collaborative projects that have arisen from people using co-working spaces.

I mentioned this to Caroline, who said she would love to have a similar space to meet with other crafters with Etsy shops. She knows they live in her area, but didn’t know how to connect with them. We brainstormed for a while, and knowing that Instagram photos with the hashtag Etsy pus a town seem to attract a lot of attention, decided to try to get a few other Etsy-ites together for coffee one evening. The goal is mutual support, the chance for those with more experience to help those with less, for the creative right brained to be able to collaborate with the more business-minded left brained, and to create a list of local resources, such as photographers.

So, watch out for #EtsyMontgomeryvillePA, signs in the Starbucks at Five Points and social media messages. We would love to meet you!