In Case you missed it - Coworking: a new concept in office design - Des Moines Business Record

From: Kent S.
Sent on: Monday, November 3, 2008 10:37 AM

Friends:

 

In case you missed this article – it features one of our NIEC members – Dan Shipton and his coworking space – Impromptu Studios. The article also mentions another of our members - Alexander Grgurich and his plans for “The Foundry”.

 

Look for more information about this interesting work concept later this week.

 

Kindest Regards,

 

Kent ?


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coworking: a new concept in office design

By Sarah Bzdega
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 25, 2008

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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 marketplace."

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 game tournament.

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 year.



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 presentations.

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 day."

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 atmosphere.

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," Grgurich said.

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."



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