Co-Working: A Great Option for Startups (Self-Funded or Otherwise)

    By | Small Business

    When my co-founder and I launched ZinePak in January 2011, we made the decision to keep the company self-funded for as long as possible. It was (and still is!) important for us to maintain control of our own destinies, and the destinies of our employees. We’ve always been frugal, and we spent the first two years of ZinePak working from our living rooms. It wasn’t until we started hiring full-time employees that we decided we could no longer put off the expense of getting office space in NYC. In hindsight, we were incredibly lucky to find interns and contractors who weren’t creeped out by the idea of working from our Manhattan apartments!

    Many of our friends run startups that have raised millions of dollars of venture capital. While there are pros and cons to taking funding, one of the major pros is being able to afford a really cool office. Things like game rooms, yoga areas and open bars not only add to corporate culture, but also give employees fun spaces to relax and socialize. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to infuse these elements into the type of space we were likely going to be able to afford based on our limited budget.

    After more than a month of visiting some of the most terrible private office spaces in and around Manhattan, we were on the verge of giving up. Maybe our young company will be forever destined to operate from my Upper East Side apartment, I thought. Then, ZinePak’s creative director, Abby, (who spent most of her days working from her own apartment on Long Island) told us about a co-working space in midtown she’d once worked from that sounded different from the sad, dark offices we’d toured. It was operated by a company called WeWork, and its tenants were mostly other young, creative startups.

    When we visited the WeWork space, we fell in love. We immediately put our names on the waiting list. The Empire State location features private, glassed-in offices accommodating between one and eight people each. Although there were only four of us when we moved in, our company is now a dozen strong, meaning we occupy three separate spaces. It’s been an awesome place for us to grow and evolve.

    Besides taking care of some of the more annoying aspects of running a business, like making sure there’s always toner in the copier and toilet paper in the bathroom, WeWork provides a nice community environment, both for us and our employees. We’ve used the company’s social network to find designers and writers to help us on projects, attended lunch-and-learns with great companies who’ve turned into trusted vendors, and tapped into special savings available on various business staples.

    More importantly, our employees have become very engaged in some of the social aspects the company provides: “summer camp” excursions, rock-climbing trips and after-work trivia games, to name a few. In fact, when we told our team we were considering moving into our own office space late last year, they almost unanimously asked us to reconsider. Although there are minor annoyances of not having your own space (fighting for conference rooms, dealing with protocol around having visitors, and limited storage options, for example), our employees told us they’d rather continue to cope with those elements in exchange for working in a fun, collaborative environment with ample opportunities for after-hours networking.

    When we moved into this space, there were only a handful of WeWork locations. Now, there are more than a dozen buildings in NYC alone, and more than twice that many in cities across the globe. Many other companies are taking the same approach to opening co-working spaces around the country. I would encourage all startup founders (even those with deep pockets!) to consider co-working as an option for their growing businesses. Although everything is a give-and-take, we’ve found the shared office space environment to be much more take than give, and it’s become part of the DNA of our company. We’re excited to continue growing in our cozy co-working space for the foreseeable future.

    A version of this article originally appeared on TheSquareFoot Blog.

    Brittany Hodak is the co-founder of ZinePak. She has been named to Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 list, Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list, and Billboard’s 30 Under 30 list. She won a prestigious Stevie Award for Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year, was a finalist in Entrepreneur magazine’s 2014 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year competition, and has been recognized at the United Nations as one of the Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs in America two years in a row. In 2014, ZinePak was named Empact’s “Most Disruptive Company” at the United Nations ceremony for its role in redefining physical music.

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