Saturday, October 25, 2008
a new concept in office design
October 25, 2008
Daniel Shipton founded Impromptu Studio, the first
coworking space in Des Moines, giving entrepreneurs an office option
outside of the home. Photo by Duane Tinkey
More shared space
Though it doesn't exactly follow the coworking model, Regus Group plc
will introduce an office design similar to executive suites in Greater
Des Moines by early next year.
Its business centers are designed for small enterprises, with 50 to 60
enclosed offices and shared amenities, such as conference rooms, a caf?,
a lobby and lounges. Tenants can rent the office space on a short- or
long-term lease, with the average client signing on for about a year and
renewing their contract once or twice. Or they can join the virtual
program, where they don't have a fixed office space but use the center's
address, buying program and other services. Another program gives clients
access to all of Regus' business centers worldwide. Membership ranges
from $300 to $400 a month for a virtual customer to $1,000 for a fully
furnished window office.
Though it has more than 950 business centers in 70 countries, this will
be Regus' first office in Iowa. It plans to begin building out most of
the fourth floor of the Promenade Plaza North building in West Glen Town
Center soon and open by early next year.
Regus is just starting to look for tenants in its West Des Moines office.
Jeff Doughman, vice president for Regus' central region, said the company
tends to attract entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, such as financial
planners and attorneys, as well as corporate clients, such as Wells Fargo
& Co. and Microsoft Corp., who use a Regus center if they are
entering a new market and don't want a permanent space yet.
The company was specifically interested in the Des Moines market because,
"it's a market we're not in," Doughman said. "We tended to
be in most NFL-type cities. Now we're on what we call infill strategy,
making sure we get to second-tier markets where current corporate clients
are requesting we locate as well as where we see a need in the
Though it often depends on each office whether they have a collaborative
environment, Doughman said Regus tries to promote it with lounges, cafes
and quarterly events for in-house clients.
After working out of his basement for six months, Daniel Shipton, 27, realized
the setup wasn't conducive to getting much work done, especially with dogs
that demanded attention and the isolation from other tech-savvy
entrepreneurs. He began toying with the idea of getting an outside office for
his software development company, Redship Technologies, and thought, why not
share a space with others to cover overhead and be surrounded by people who
could offer advice? As he shared this vision, he found several other people
in Des Moines looking for the same thing.
Six months later, Shipton opened Impromptu Studio on the second floor of an
old warehouse building off West Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Located above
a used furniture store, the 3,000-square-foot space offers an open area for
up to about 15 custom-made workstations, a couple of conference rooms and a
stage for larger events. About five people use the space on a full- or
part-time basis now. They share a coffee bar, occasionally gather to
brainstorm ideas, and around 4 p.m. on Fridays, they have a Tiger Woods golf video
This kind of coworking environment is becoming more popular across the nation
as individual entrepreneurs and freelancers look for workspaces that offer
more interaction than a home office but are more productive than a
coffeehouse. Often people can rent out a desk for a monthly rate or drop in
for the day to use an open desk, and users share amenities, such as printers,
meeting space and high-speed Internet connections, making it cheaper to have
access to these resources.
Opened in August, Impromptu Studio is the first coworking space in Des
Moines, but another group is looking to start a similar enterprise early next
Leading the way
Shipton still doesn't have enough renters to cover his overhead, but he is
hoping that with more events and publicity, he will attract a community of 10
to 15 entrepreneurs.
"I think the biggest problem for us being in Des Moines," he said,
"is actually letting people know the difference between something like
this and the executive office suite. With the executive office suite, you
might have a bunch of independent business owners in there, but they're all
separated and they're not all going to walk into the office next to them and
say, 'Hey, Bill, do you want to get some lunch?' ... It's nice to have that
actual human interaction."
Shipton has gained some attention from professional groups, such as the Des
Moines Web Geeks, who hold their biweekly meetings in the space. On Thursday,
Nov. 6, he will host Ignite Des Moines, his first large-scale networking
event, which will include an egg catapult contest and fun business
Though all types of business are welcome at Impromptu Studio, Shipton's
renters so far have been technology start-ups. Prices range from $25 for
once-a-month access to $325 for 24/7 access and all the amenities.
The hardest part about starting a coworking studio, Shipton said, was finding
a space that was large enough for an open area and a couple of enclosed
conference rooms and cheap enough to keep rent low. Ironically, the space
he's in now was where the late Jim Goodman started Emerging Growth Group, a
business incubator that's now based in the CEO Building in the East Village.
Still, this new venture has allowed Shipton to meet more people in two months
than he did in nearly a year of working in his basement, he said, which could
help him build his business faster.
One of Shipton's first full-time tenants, Chris Punke, agrees.
"I decided that what I liked best is being around other people with
similar types of activities and skill sets and (who) do similar types of
things," said the founder of Focal Point LLC, which focuses on Web video
and other multimedia ventures. "I find myself being more productive. I
learn from other people even though interaction isn't constant throughout the
Plus, renting his workstation is about half the price of his former office
and he can go on a three-month contract, so if "something happened and I
needed to move or switch gears, there's nothing risky about being here."
His only wish is for more people to sign up to enhance the collaborative
Josh Larson agrees that it would be nice to see more people use the space,
especially graphic artists who could offer more ideas for his virtual games.
His colleagues live in Ames, but he has been working out of his Des Moines
home to save money on gasoline. Impromptu Studio offered a cheaper option
than driving while still having some social interaction.
He compares the environment to working in the computer laboratory at college,
where the animation and graphic art students would critique each other's work
and share ideas. "I excelled at that," he said. "I kind of see
this as a professional equivalent of that kind of academic community I had at
Iowa State (University)."
More to come
Still in the planning stages, Foundry will offer another coworking space, one
that owner Alexander Grgurich hopes will be more visible in the community
than Impromptu Studio.
"We want our own identity and are going for more of a landmark space ...
being a really visible face of entrepreneurship in the community,"
With the help of Tom Swartwood, an adjunct professor at Drake University,
Grgurich is close to signing a lease for a space on Locust Street in the East
Village. He wouldn't give the specific location until the deal is finalized,
but he said he is looking for 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. His goal is to have
a firm opening date for Foundry by the end of the year.
The concept began when he gave up the idea of getting a corporate finance job
and decided to embrace his entrepreneurial spirit instead, which led him to
start a party bus company while he was still at Drake. But when he started to
think about where he would house his business, he couldn't find a space that
quite fit his needs.
"So what I started thinking was, why don't we create this place that
solves the practical problem of people working out of their homes or coffee
shops and get work done at a low cost and fulfill that need for social
interaction," said Grgurich, who also is a Norwalk city councilman.
He wants to draw a variety of professionals from graphic designers to writers
and Web site designers, who would pay for one of three membership levels:
access to the open workspace, access to a specific desk in that open
workspace, or access to the open workspace as well as to a private office.
Price will depend on how someone uses the space and could range from $99 to
$450 a month.
Grgurich agrees with Shipton that the biggest challenge is finding the right
location without an expensive long-term lease. He is planning to talk with
city and state agencies and other organizations and companies to help fund
the venture or form partnerships in promoting and using it. He also wants to
host networking and professional development events.
"The goal is always to have people there and have it be a dynamic
environment so fostering those relationships," he said.
Both Shipton and Grgurich have used coworking spaces in other cities as
examples. Shipton modeled his design on Independence Hall in Philadelphia;
Grgurich was in Omaha a couple of weeks ago talking to Web site developers on
how they use coworking. Suggestions he's following include not having so much
private space that it takes away from the community atmosphere and picking a
place that's open and nice enough that renters want to bring clients there.
"The goal is not to let (the private space) dominate, because then
there's nothing differentiating us from an incubator," Grgurich said.
"Really keeping the focus on the environment and community you build is
what it's about."