In Outright’s ongoing series about coworking, we continue our journey of previewing the most innovative coworking spaces around the globe. This month, we are traveling around the midwest of the United States and have stopped in the city of Chicago. The Windy City has a cool coworking space in “The Loop” of downtown Chicago called Coop Chicago.
In previous posts we spoke around the country with coworking leaders such Alex Hillman of Indy Hall, Liz Elam in Austin at Link Coworking. Other recent trips include my new home town of Boston and a visit with Bill Jacobson the Managing Director of Workbar and before I relocated north we took a journey into the very hip area of Adams Morgan to see Affinity Lab and back out to the suburbs of Northern Virginia to visit WeSpace Reston.
Visiting the Coop Chicago web site you are presented with a vibrant look and feel along with following description of their space:
The Coop is a shared creative workspace in Chicago’s River North with desks available for rent by day, week or month. We’re cheap, fun and gosh darnit people like us.
We had an opportunity to speak with Sam Rosen, the founder of Coop Chicago. Here is the transcript of our interview:
When did you start to explore the idea of starting a coworking space?
I’d been running a design firm in Chicago for a while (onedesigncompany.com) at the time I had a girlfriend in NYC. I used to commute every few weeks to see her. I hated working at her place as it was a bad environment to get things done. I can run my office from basically anywhere, so all I need is a good Internet connection and a reliable phone line (she had neither). I started working at the local coffee shop, but they clearly didn’t want me to sit there all day and only order two coffees and a bagel. So I really needed a place to work. A colleague of mine recommended I check out Brooklyn Coworking at No-Space. After that it was love. Within my first day, I met awesome people and had a list of great things to do in the city. Most importantly, I was able to get a lot done.
When I was back in Chicago, I was ready to move out of my office, which was located next door to my apartment. It just clicked. I can do this in Chicago. A few weeks later we had desks, a website and some chairs. All we needed was people.
What process did you go through to arrive at your current space design and business model?
A lot of iterating. It took me a while to understand it’s the community that drives the success of the space. Our success has always ebbed and flowed based on the vibe. Our model has been pretty consistent based on daily, weekly and monthly visits. Adding a punch card so people could bulk purchase for multiple future visits at the same time at a discount really helped. Mostly, it’s been listening. Being active, communicating and making sure people feel invested enough in the space to contribute in its success.
How do you differentiate your coworking space from others in your local community?
We have a very open, lofty shared vibe. The space is run by our design company so it’s got a nice share of tech/art and I think that helps differentiate us. Also, our space is focused on coworking (the coworking side is bigger than our office). We try to have community events like Lunch & Learns. But a big distinguishing quality is the fact that our space used to be a gallery. So every two months we invite the community and throw a big art show. Lastly, we’re also centrally located and right off one of Chicago’s busiest train stops.
What kinds of businesses are currently utilizing your space? Are there any you would like to highlight?
All sorts. We’ve had consulting companies like PwC and startups like Pindrop Acoustics. We have a bunch of people that work for larger companies and telecommuters here every day. I believe that even though they can work from anywhere they really enjoy having an office environment with good people.
What is your view on the current coworking movement? How do you see it evolving over the next few years?
It’s growing. That’s clear. While we still have a ton of people in the Internet biz, I believe the success of coworking as a major trend is going to require the adoption of big business. There are a lot more people working for companies than there are freelancers out there and if we want to be bigger than a hobby we need to figure out a great way to mix the two. To support this evolution and growing marketplace, I run Desktime, which is a coworking directory to help promote available space. It is a growing web based tool for those looking to find a coworking space.
Check out Coop Chicago the next time you are in the Windy City
If you are thinking of visiting Chicago in the near future you should definitely check out Coop Chicago for the day. If you are thinking more long term, become a member of this dynamic and growing coworking community. As a differentiator it has a very cool flex pricing program and they offer three options for the flex membership: $90 for 5 visits, $140 for 10 visits and $300 for 20 visits.
If the flex program is not quite right for you, you can drop-in for the day and pay $20. Being a drop-in is great for those who drop in from time to time and want to partake of the coworking space but are not in a place to fully commit. If you are looking for a more permanent and the full-time option it costs $300 for the month (plus a $50 key deposit).
They are also big on art shows. There is one at Coop Chicago called Downtown and the first show is in their new space. According to their site: “The Coop offers Chicago’s young artists – typically relegated to artist-run and other independent spaces – their time in the prestigious River North gallery district. The artists work is affordable and accessible, celebrating the arts and culture of our city from all walks of life.”
To learn more about Coop Chicago, check out their web site at Coop Chicago. If you want to make a visit they are located at 230 W Superior, 2F, Chicago, IL 60654 right in the heart of downtown Chicago.
Not in Chicago? Check out our other Coworking Space Reviews. Or do you cowork? We want to know what makes your coworking space special! Contact the Bottom Line’s editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us at @Outright to learn how you can contribute!