By Christy Blake, Business Development Manager, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)
When you close your eyes and picture what coworking means to you, you might conjure up any number of ideas, ranging from an early-stage incubator for new, emerging entrepreneurial ventures to a millennial hotbed of freelance creativity with a state-of-the-art espresso maker and hip design. In reality, while coworking can (and does) take these, and several other forms, what is clear is that it is an increasing trend in the modern workplace, bringing huge impacts in the form of new opportunities for all types of businesses to grow and flourish. Here in Montgomery County (MoCo), co-Working outposts have continued to pop up with marked persistence and are acting as key drivers in the engine of the area’s small and fast growing companies.
You may ask, what is coworking, anyway? One way I’d define it is as a trend in the configuration and organization of independent professionals and small start-ups. According to www.coworking.com, this approach is “a global community of people dedicated to the values of Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability in their workplaces.”
In MoCo alone, there are nearly 30 ‘shared office spaces’ currently, providing a myriad of benefits ranging from meet-ups, networking, 24/7 access, administrative functions, as well as virtual office space. When compared to more traditional workplace styles, coworking has an increased community focus and character, along with a knowledge-sharing spirit of collaboration that we’re seeing bring significant and unmatched value to our local businesses. Some key benefits in addition to this include:
- Keep Talent Local. Coworking facilities play a huge role in nurturing talent and providing necessary services and resources to support business growth along with a commitment to the larger community that cuts down on relocation.
- Work-Life Balance and Collaboration. Independent working spaces offer an option for entrepreneurs who live in MoCo to work here as well, which helps to spur creativity, collaboration, and engagement in their passions to create even greater and more sustainable growth.
- A ‘Marketplace’ of Resources and Services for Mutual Benefit. Similar to an old- fashioned market tableau, coworking spaces drive some of their greatest value in their ability to pool local resources and their ‘wares’ in a common space, which promotes several advantages for ‘collaborative consumption’ opportunities for everyone involved, such as:
- Bartering of services;
- Sharing of ideas/brainstorming; and
- Developing transverse “learning networks,” where individuals of different organizations participate and facilitate learning processes, and thus increase the overall innovation capability and pace of a region/jurisdiction.
- Engine of Innovation, Idea Creation, and Thought Leadership. The centralized, yet independent working style coworking initiates is, what I believe to be, the backbone of our evolving and ever-changing economic landscape – both in our local area and nationwide.
I believe that coworking shows no signs of fading out anytime soon. The role that small and emerging firms play in economic diversification and generation of new business is not just significant, but crucial. In regions like ours, where there are strong clusters of business, the benefits coworking provides, such as diversity and reduced start-up and operation costs, is largely responsible for the of new enterprises and start-up employment opportunities we are seeing.
Coworking in Action- A Local Story
One example of a recent, local coworking success story can be seen in the journey of Enam Noor, CEO and Founder of Gaithersburg-based Insightin. Insightin is a tech firm that specializes in healthcare membership engagement, predictive analytics, and Big Data. Enam joined Launch Workplaces’ (Launch) Gaithersburg coworking space in May, 2016, less than a year after founding his company. After landing several large clients early on, by November, 2016 Insightin had moved from an interior executive office space at Launch to a window and glass-lined suite over 500% larger, custom made and designed from underutilized space at the Launch facility.
Among the top elements of his successful experience thus far, Enam credits the synergies and partnerships that are formed via coworking, along with the creative ways that a facility like Launch openly and readily addressed his space needs as the organization expanded.
Fostering connections with other Launch members that specifically helped attract venture capitalists; sharing video production time; and partnering with a furniture company who agreed to use Insightin’s new space as a remote showroom are all other ways Enam has seen the measurable value of coworking for his business. Enam stated, “Being here at Launch has allowed us to move a lot faster. And we can continue to do so in the future as we are also poised to expand additional staff into the coworking area as needed.”
Whatever your style, coworking has advantages for you and your business, and is truly another way that MoCo is the best place for your business – and your life – to grow and succeed.