Anna Prisse, WeWork’s community manager, describes it as “a living, breathing community of likeminded and passionate people who are on a mission to create their life’s work.”
Coworking space normally consists of any number of small offices, desks, tables, and chairs. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, or small businesses can join for a flexible period of time for different lengths of time. Depending on where you join, there’s a price category for getting access to the facility, using the tables and chairs, having your own desk, or getting your own office. Each coworking space has its own pricing model, with WeWork providing private offices starting at $500 and desks for around $220 month, though prices vary widely. The Miami Entrepreneurship Center, for example, gives access to their flex desks for $149, with offices ranging from $695 to $1,495.
The term “coworking space” was coined by Brian DeKoven in 1999, with the very first official space founded in 2005 in San Francisco, as an alternative workspace for those who work from home alone. Since then, it’s exploded, from one space in 2005, to an estimated more than 4,300 spaces worldwide, with more than 200,000 members. In Miami alone we have more than 20 coworking spaces, with more opening every month.
Most coworking spaces also have a very strong community orientation that is part of their core mission. All seek to build a community of members for their particular coworking space, but others also expand that mission to include the surrounding community.
Members share so much time together in such an intimate setting that they are bound to engage each other, even when working on their own separate projects, forging new connections over a cup of coffee or discussing challenges while waiting to use the microwave. These kinds of opportunities are simply not possible sitting alone while working from home, or isolated in the corner of a coffee shop.
A number of coworking spaces also frequently host events, ranging from workshops to classes and pitch events, extending the potential for forging new relationships to the community at large and directly fostering Miami’s budding startup ecosystem. They’re helping build a culture of belonging, something that was hard to find for the engaged and ambitious of Miami.
Claudia Cruz of 360 Spaces explains that they want to “give back to the community.” Where most other coworking spaces have a tech focus, 360 is set out to be a space for specifically for creatives. With that in mind, Cruz explains that they still maintain a good mix of professions within their space. In the near future, 360 will be organizing community-focused culinary workshops, and design classes, and they’ve even begun planning workshops for local kids to learn more about design.
Commenting on what she feels makes The LAB Miami’s culture so special, Operations Manager Marisabel Lavastida says, “There’s this family atmosphere. The networking that happens is a little bit more organic. It happens in the kitchen, just kind of seeing people at events. … It creates a support system beyond just having a place to work.”
As a local Miamian who grew up in Westchester, Lavastida is one of the few who’s been around since the begining to watch Miami’s startup scene grow into what it is today.
As far as Lavastida’s take on Miami’s rapidly changing landscape, where one widely known problem was the lack of an ability to retain good talent, she’s seeing that beginning to slowly change. As Lavastida explains, “Usually things are all hype here, or gimmicky, but there’s been more depth, more interesting events, more interesting conversations, interesting businesses in the tech community.”
This sense of community is a powerful force that drives the potential of all these new spaces. It’s not just the spaces themselves that create the potential for opportunities. The members of these spaces are demanding more education and more engagement. Wyncode, providing intensive coding boot camps, is based out of The Lab, while Ironhack, an immersive development coding courses, is based out of Building.Co. The partnership between these institutions and, the coworking spaces that host them, makes the movement self-sustaining, feeding the very entrepreneurial ecosystem it’s creating as graduates go on to join other startups or build companies of their own. It’s a cycle that’s helping redefine the traditional vision of the workplace, and more importantly, foster a sense of belonging and community.