Go inside four of the city’s coolest coworking spaces and find out why they’re winning over entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Story by Leah Wankum
Imagine this: Your coworkers don’t have the same employer and they all come from different industries, but you share an office and ideas.
Collaboration workspaces, or coworking, are the up-and-coming office trend in Kansas City.
Interested in local coworking spaces? OfficePort, Village Square, Cowork Waldo and Plexpod have a variety of professional, flexible spaces in which to work. All four of these offices have joined forces with a few others in the area in May to create an alliance with iWerx Incubator, Ennovation Center and Think Big Coworking.
“I think working together with the other spaces here in Kansas City can only bring more positive interaction between entrepreneurs,” says Andrea Essner with Village Square Coworking Studio.
Located in Kansas City’s Crossroads Art District, this collaborative space offers low-cost workspaces for small businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Kelly McCumber, who works for Pique, a small-business consultant that manages the space OfficePort uses, says it’s a one-stop shop for freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners from web development and graphic design to marketing, sales and photography.
“I think you can learn a lot off of your peers, and even if they’re in other industries, what they have in common is that they’re in small business and they’re choosing not to work in a corporate environment for the most part.”
McCumber says the main difference between OfficePort and a regular office environment is the lack of lease requirements. Everyone who signs up with OfficePort goes month to month, which makes it easy for people to come and go as needed.
“We just ask the people to give us 30 days notice, so we make it pretty easy to use the space,” she says. “I think if you make something easy, why would you leave?”
And some clients haven’t left. Jon Trozzolo with Crossroads Media Group settled in at StagePort, the sound stage at OfficePort, five years ago and has been there ever since.
“It’s a really cool space. I love being there,” Trozzolo says. “The biggest benefit is just the location. It’s so centrally located to other businesses. Our clients are there.”
Owned and operated by co-founders Adam Arredondo and Abby Tillman of the Center of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development, the Village Square Coworking Studio officially opened its doors on April 15 and has a modern, clean look and amenities such as the event space/large meeting room, the small meeting room, dedicated desk spaces and Google Fiber. Another major benefit of signing up with this studio is its location in the heart of the Kansas City Startup Village.
Andrea Essner, the office and events manager for Village Square, says that using coworking spaces offers great access to resources and other entrepreneurs from a variety of industries and professional backgrounds. These very coworkers can help take your business to the next level.
“We mostly attract early-stage businesses and smaller teams that have single freelancers, and web developers who want to work in a collaborative space,” Essner says.
When you walk into Village Square, Essner says you’ll notice right away that there are no cubicles or wall partitions.
“For the most part, it’s a very open office space,” she says. “We just have one private conference room, and so our tenants really do have the opportunities to collaborate with one another because the space is conducive to it.”
Andrew and Jennifer Dickson, co-owners of Acre Designs, were one of the first clients in Village Square. Andrew says they were attracted to working in the Startup Village, being around other entrepreneurs.
“As an entrepreneur, you can become a little lonely and separated away from other people because you’re usually working in a small office or in your home,” Andrew says. “This really gives you the opportunity to work with other people facing the same problems or issues. Working with optimistic people is always fun.”
Located in the center of Waldo, Cowork Waldo has flexible memberships, 24/7 access, conference rooms and eight dedicated desks; it’s an environment that offers “workspaces with no strings attached,” according to its website.
Owner Melissa Saubers established the space two and a half years ago. She says they have a wide range of clients in nonprofit, sales, marketing, event planning, web and software development, telecommunication, legal research and freelance.
Saubers says coworking gets you out of the house or a noisy coffee shop and into a more professional environment. Most spaces even offer a free trial so you can see if it’s a good fit for your needs.
“You make connections and collisions with other people that you may not have met before, so there’s kind of a networking element to it,” Saubers says. “I think people are more focused and able to get more done. They’re more motivated. When you work from home, sometimes you get up, don’t take a shower, wear sweats all day, wear pajamas.”
Saubers adds that being able to have your own professional space opens up opportunities to meet with your clients and other potential collaborators.
“A lot of times the people you’re coworking with become partners or coworkers,” she says.
Located in Lenexa, Plexpod offers a vast array of options for collaborators to work: flex desks; dedicated desks, offices and team suites; creator spaces, a large event space and conference rooms, to start. After a soft opening in March, Plexpod is now in the process of adding a hair salon, studio and a café open to the public. The café will feature local boutique coffee shops.
Gerald Smith, founder and CEO of Plexpod, says their facility is larger than most spaces. While they can easily add more flex desks, they’re already nearing capacity and are in the process of looking for another location.
The next step is to take the coworking model first to another space in Kansas City, and then on to other cities such as Springfield, Missouri, or Des Moines, Iowa. As Smith puts it, they’re “taking it to the masses.”
“It can’t just be for the urban areas,” Smith says. “That’s cool, and that’s probably what drives the culture of the ‘cool’ factor—we love the Crossroads area, and it potentially will have a Plexpod location there one of these days—but my goodness, we cannot miss the places that probably need it most that aren’t always the most obvious.”
Smith says the benefits of coworking involve two things: collisions (the buzzword for collaborations) and presentation, which is particularly important for small businesses hosting clients.
“This entire 25,000 square feet belongs to everyone,” Smith explains. “Whether it’s the conference rooms or the event space or the studios, it all belongs to the members of Plexpod. When you meet your clients here, all of this are your resources, no matter if you have one desk or ten desks.”
In looking at the future of offices, he says corporations may start outsourcing their culture to reduce overhead.
“What if we say to an employee, ‘Hey, here’s a laptop. We’re glad we’ve hired you. Now, go find a place to work,’” Smith says. “I think that’s the future of coworking. We start to see more individual workers that actually work for big companies who have hired them who have said, ‘Now, go find a workplace community to be a part of and do your job.’
“I think that will be a trend that we see. It’s not just about startups and small companies. It’s about the workforce finding a place to work.”