The Changing Workplace
Coworking is creating and adapting to a trusted community of like-minded individuals to exchange thought and collaborate on projects — all within creative spaces.
In last month’s Launch Pad column, we looked at different spaces where small-business owners and solopreneurs can set up shop and get to work. This month, I am taking a deeper dive into an option that is growing in popularity — the coworking space.
How popular is coworking? Some statistics indicate shared workspaces have grown by as much as 200 percent in the last five years, with as many as 3 million people predicted to be using these shared spaces by 2020. This is a trend that’s not going away anytime soon.
Because coworking is so common, I thought it would be worth giving it a try, though I had my doubts. Would I truly find coworking to be advantageous? Or would I be crushed by the need to wear actual pants and interact with people? Here’s what I discovered as I visited two Green Country coworking spots — 36 Degrees North and The Bridge.
Located in the heart of downtown Tulsa, 36 Degrees North is either idyllic or intimidating, depending on how you feel about being downtown. But put that aside for a moment and consider what 36 Degrees North offers.
“We provide entrepreneurs with high-quality workspace, a tight-knit community and connections to helpful resources, so they can grow and create long-lasting, impactful businesses,” says 36 Degrees North’s communication manager, Lauren King. Its target audience is broad, but the space appeals to those with a startup mentality.
The Bridge is located in the middle of Tulsa, around 51st Street and Lewis Avenue, right off I-44. This makes the space convenient for people coming from every part of the city. Parking is free, and the area is quiet, which is appealing to its key audience — creative entrepreneurs.
“The people we try to foster here, our target audience, are creative entrepreneurs,” says The Bridge’s managing director, Daniel Blaho. “Most of the people in the space are content writers, marketers, designers, videographers — freelancers.”
As a downtown space sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, 36 Degrees North boasts attractive wooden tables in front for single-day visitors. In back, you’ll find regular members at dedicated desks, private spaces for Skyping, and more. The day I visited, they were hosting a meeting for 1 Million Cups, a national group with a Tulsa branch that focuses on educating entrepreneurs.
The space was energetic, filled with people, upbeat … ideal if you get charged up from the presence of a crowd. That’s not my wheelhouse, but I felt welcome there. People were friendly. I’ll visit from time to time for the networking and learning opportunities.
The Bridge is located in an older office building, with a private, peaceful, free parking area. It’s a smallish space, which means there’s a smaller crowd, much more laid back and simpler to ease into if you’re the quiet, creative type. You can grab a cup of coffee and settle into your work without any fuss.
The Bridge also puts dedicated desks and single-day visitors in the same room. The vibe is calm and casual. As a creative entrepreneur, I sensed I would fit in here. This is where I’ll likely do a drop-in visit when I’m in the mood to get out of the house for a bit.
Coworking is a powerful way to avoid isolation and make both business connections and friendships.
“Owning a business can be incredibly isolating,” says King. “Our hope is to draw people out of isolation and into a space where ideas and experiences are freely shared and where each person feels supported both professionally and personally.”
Blaho agrees with that sentiment. “It means so much to be able to flip the computer screen around and ask someone, ‘What do you think of this?’ before you send it,” he says. “That’s something you can’t get working from the house. Just the camaraderie of working with other creative entrepreneurs is useful for our members.”
Opportunities to learn
Another reason to consider coworking is the educational component. There’s no doubt that 36 Degrees North pulls in a crowd in part because they offer so many opportunities to learn about growing a business.
“In 2018 alone, we hosted 425 educational and/or networking events in our space,” says King. “We host workshops on everything from how to build a website to how to handle HR issues to how to do business taxes and everything in between — and many of them are free and open to the public.”
One thing I miss about working at my old jobs is the opportunity to share ideas, brainstorm, and create something in community. There’s no denying that regular coworking can help spark creativity.
“Because we’re a small space, we’re almost forced into a level of interacting with each other,” says Blaho. “We know what everybody does and what people are working on. We can talk through problems together. The ability to problem-solve with fellow members is probably the main value of the coworking space.”
Networking to build business
Coworking also provides a way to network with other business owners, share referrals, and work on projects together.
“The biggest reason entrepreneurs should work out of a coworking space is for the connections — both to resources and to other people who can help them learn and grow,” says King. “We see so many success stories come out of our space. We’ve seen people become each others clients, co-founders and mentors.”
Try coworking on a free day
You don’t have to be a member to test out The Bridge or 36 Degrees North. Each space hosts a free coworking day during the month — third Wednesdays for 36 Degrees North, and fourth Wednesdays for The Bridge. Wi-Fi access and coffee is included at both spaces, which is enough to tempt many of us out of the house for a while.
“It’s a great opportunity to see if a coworking space is the right fit for you and your team,” says King.
36 Degrees North
36 E. Cameron St. | Tulsa
Monday–Friday: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
5272 S. Lewis Ave., Suite 250 | Tulsa
Monday–Friday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
GET IN TOUCH
I’d love to hear your suggestions for what I should investigate over the next several months in terms of entrepreneurship in Tulsa. Feel free to message your ideas to Preview 918 on Facebook (which I can see anytime), or email me, or share ideas on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #lovethe918 or #tulsasmallbusiness.
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