29 Apr Insights from a Suburban Pioneer, Pt. 4: Coworking for Economic Development
In last week’s episode of Everything Coworking, host Jamie Russo interviewed Mara Hauser (25N CEO + Founder) on the ins and outs of an emerging market and subject close to our hearts: suburban coworking. Read on for Mara’s perspective on the challenges (and unique opportunities) that coworking outside of the big-city limits can present—from corporate coworking and growing small-town economies to advice on opening a suburban workspace for yourself.
Economic Development Sustains Community-Building in the Suburbs
M: Our model, as you know, is really focused on economic development in three ways: to build up the members who come to work in our space every day, to build the local economy, and to create regional innovation hubs in the suburbs of our locations. So the second part of that, supporting local businesses—is reflected in our choice to only partner with local businesses in everything that we do. One of the things we do is our lunch partnerships: every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we have a lunch partner from our community. We post the menu for the day—an exclusive 25N menu with discounted pricing—and people send in their orders to our community manager via Slack, and the restaurant delivers the order right to us at noon. Besides giving local business the opportunity to engage with our members—many of our members now frequent these restaurants or use them for catering—it’s an opportunity for us to strengthen our community around a meal—which is huge. People need to take a break, and this forces the participants to get up and meet in the hub—they can take it back to their desks if they need to—but they still get a chance to encounter their fellow coworkers.
We also give local business mentors and coaches that give small business development seminars or workshops the chance to engage with our community, which is an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.
We try to have at least two events per week, whether they’re educational, networking, or business-building type things. One of our signature events is called Pitch + Catch, and, every month, with some exceptions, we rotate between Arlington Heights and Geneva, we have three members who get up in front of an audience of their peers and their community to give a practice pitch. It’s five minutes, and I give them an outline that we’ve developed which is one of three things: a financial pitch, a growth opportunity pitch, or a sales pitch, and the idea behind it is to give them a venue and an opportunity to practice their pitching. And so the audience, which is open to the public—comes from really diverse backgrounds: we have investors, we have financial consultants, marketing consultants, attorneys, accountants… who listen in, and then the format gives them twenty minutes of feedback. It’s been great.
J: Yeah, great for the members and a way to bring folks into the space in a really meaningful way.