Incredible talent resides in Upstate New York but these people are often geographically and socially dispersed. So, how do we encourage interaction and collaboration between our regions’ entrepreneurs? Coworking!
Coworking is a global movement with the potential to bridge a gap among us. The cowork philosophy enables individuals to easily connect and effectively support one another while growing regional business. Exponentially. Together!
What is coworking and why is it important?
In it’s simplest form, coworking spaces are shared work environments where independent professionals and small agencies work alongside one another and share amenities at affordable rates.
I’ve found through my international travels, industry conversations, and personal experience in creating coworking communities (locally and nationally) that coworking is more of a philosophy than a space. The truly successful coworks that I’ve experienced thrive based on a firm commitment to the creation of community first.
A coworking success story
The cowork movement is happening in Rochester is in the beginning stages of becoming a hotbed for coworking. This is because we have a rising population of entrepreneurs and thought leaders dedicated to the expansion of innovation, here and beyond. This group is growing in Rochester because we are embracing progressive business models and resources, like coworking.
My role in coworking started in 2008 as a curious explorer, trying to figure out where a community of entrepreneurial minds existed in Upstate, New York. Through my travels I found a vast myriad of siloed institutions, organizations and individuals. I kept asking myself, “Where were all the like-minded innovators here!?”
As I searched for a community that would provide a truly inclusive and supportive atmosphere I began to realize that, none of the organizations I was participating in (that included an incubator, multiple shared offices, networking groups, and even a coworking space) provided the support or community I needed to grow as an individual and entrepreneur.
The Beginning of Community Coworking in Rochester
There has been a spattering of coworking spaces all over Rochester for the last few years. Some have gone and some remain, all of them are different and cater to different types of people and businesses.
I was a member of a space that closed and, as an observer – I had my theories about why it went away. Amazingly, the same day that space closed an opportunity arose for me to prove my theories by participating in creating a coworking community from the ground up.
Two and a half years ago, I sat around a table with six other co-founders and Carlson Cowork was born. This project was the first cowork in Rochester that put people first. We built the formula, culture and community as a grand experiment. I shared my cowork experience alongside the resources and knowledge of the other co-founders to launch a successful, 65+ person strong, cowork. The space is a place for people to collaborate, form relationships, and build businesses.
Carlson cowork has successfully provided a space for business owners who normally wouldn’t connect to have a common platform where creative collisions happen. Another important piece of instigating these collisions is a partnership that we formed with RocGrowth (another organization in Rochester promoting entrepreneurial innovation and interaction). The collaboration between these two organizations is the nature of coworking, to encourage people to interact and acknowledge that the only way to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs is to work together. When we support one another we support the growth of this region!
Expansion and Variety
The next wave of coworking in Rochester is here. Many more coworking spaces are opening their doors and, as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier:)! The BetaSpace at High Tech Rochester is now open, with a focus on technology and high-growth companies. Made On State is an artists community with a coworking-centric philosophy. There are even franchise coworks moving into town! This growth of coworking proves to me that Rochester is ripe for a entrepreneurial explosion!
The good news is, there is room for all of these coworking models, assuming all of them consider the importance of people and community first. Remember, longevity in coworking has little to do with real estate and EVERYTHING to do with empowering the people who participate.
The Next-Evolution of Coworking
As coworking continues to evolve on a global scale I’m continuing to identify new and innovative ways to present the model to entrepreneurs in our region. Through my conversations with cowork managers and creators world wide my eyes have been opened to the fact that coworking is a philosophy that will allow our institutions to become more connected.
Stay tuned for my next post on The Evolution on Coworking where I’ll unveil exciting new global and regional coworking opportunities for all of us!
Chris Cooley is a TEDx Speaker, writer and cowork consultant. As a social entrepreneur who calls Upstate New York home (Rochester) he is finding, more than ever, that true coworking provides the critical resources and atmosphere for entrepreneurial success and continues to explore the model and it’s effectiveness locally and abroad.
Chris has been a part of creating successful coworking communities in Rochester, the Finger Lakes and in national centers for innovation like Austin, Texas and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He has also started an international, monthly, meetup group for coworking managers and creators from all over the world called Cowork University.