Fresh ideas are fragile. Fresh ideas require a fertile environment, which in America frequently involves money. I have a fresh idea for a coworking space, that might make such spaces work better in small, tourist towns like Langley, WA.
Here’s the link to the official campaign that’s running on Kickstarter.
If you’d rather just watch and listen to my talking head, here’s the video on YouTube.
If you want to know what’s going on inside my head, well, I might have a picture of something like that if I rummage through my photos of abstract chaos.
The reality of the idea is simple.
The old work environment is fading. People are increasingly working from home, coffeeshops, libraries, and anywhere they can find an internet connection. The problem is that those places may not have the right blend of accessibility, professionalism, and services. Home is great, but known for distractions and some clients don’t want to meet in someone’s house. Coffeeshops are convenient, but only open certain hours and can be noisy thanks to espresso machines and PA systems. Libraries are awesome resources, but aren’t open 24/7 and aren’t private. I know people that use park benches beside stray wifi sources, but that doesn’t work well in Puget Sound’s weather.
So, coworks were created. They’re a simple idea; somewhat like incubators, somewhat like communal shared spaces, somewhat like experiments in the New Economy. Coworks work best where there are plenty of people. By definition, small towns don’t have many people. That makes it tougher to become sustainable, at least with the conventional model.
For about a year, I used a Langley coworks almost daily. It usually had several empty seats; and from my preferred window seat, I watched people walk by. I was surprised at how many visitors were simply searching for a seat where they could dive into their phone, tablet, or laptop. That was easy in August and tough in October. I noticed it myself. When the coworks wasn’t operating I knew I had to put off client video conference calls (unless I did them from my truck with the video off), had to scrounge for a signal if I was in town very early or very late (the work world operates outside of 9-5 or even 7-11), and if I used the bench outside the library I might have to share because I wasn’t the only one there.
Eventually, a possible concept of a space came to mind that was somewhat like a regular coworks that also provided space and services to the wandering visitors. I had one space in mind, and even a possible funder, but the pieces didn’t line up at the right time. Months went by. And then, a friend and bookseller announced that they were closing their shop. It was a two story where they’d opened the second floor to writers. I realized that the new model could work in that space. A professional setting upstairs. An informal area downstairs. Round the clock access at the highest subscription rate. Hourly access for those who just needed to check up on work. Various other services would be available, but that was the basis. Maybe providing better access and a street level presence would more than balance the business model.
Fresh ideas need fertile surroundings. Starting such a space would require more funds than I had. Well, I’ve been a fan of crowdfunding, wanted to have the money to be a contributor, but maybe I’d have to start as a recipient.
Clicking Launch on Kickstarter kicked off the project, but also kicked off a swirl of thoughts and considerations. What happens if it succeeds? What do I do if it doesn’t? What happens if it is over-subscribed? What would it be like to run a storefront in a tourist town? Fun things to think about, even the contingencies for if it doesn’t succeed.
It’s all good; but the internal swirl is fascinating to watch. It’s the same swirl seen by entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and anyone struck by an inspiration that can act upon. It is easy to dream, but opportunity requires action. I’m glad I have the chance to act.
I am impressed with the talent and potential I see in my community. I know so many people who seem to be on the cusp, people with fresh ideas that need a space that supports them. They have a bit of that now, thanks to coffeeshops and libraries; but maybe they need a bit more. Helping provide that is enough to fill a brain with a swirl of thoughts. Amidst that, I’ve taken the first step by launching the campaign. I look forward to seeing where it goes.
I also have to practice being a bit more public, so here, allow me to give you another chance to click the link and help launch, not just a campaign, but a valuable part of a small town economy.