The coworking movement has made its way into Holly Springs. For those who are unfamiliar, coworking refers to the use of an office or other working environment by people who are start-ups, self-employed, or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge. It is commonly found in big cities, but the trend is beginning to spill from its traditionally urban setting and into the surrounding suburbs. On April 4th The Coworking Station opened in the former Holly Springs Police Department, next to Town Hall.
Coworking was born in San Francisco and is a natural progression of the shared economy movement. The shared economy seeks to find efficiencies through greater utilization of goods. Examples include Uber and Lyft which allow individuals to utilize their car as a taxi and monetize their empty passenger seat by renting it out to someone who may need to go in the same direction. Another example is Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their home or apartment while they are out of town, instead of letting it sit empty. Coworking brings that same idea to office space and allows people to rent a desk for a day, a few days a week, or full-time and allows for use of meeting spaces by the day or hour as well. The average conference room in a traditional office is incredibly inefficient and sits empty over 95% of the time.
Another factor fueling the coworking movement is the decentralization of the American workforce. The number of individuals who can work from home is growing every day and one unexpected ramification of this is that many people have realized that working in their pajamas at their kitchen table next to a pile of laundry is demotivating. They miss the buzz of productivity and professionalism that comes from being surrounded by other working professionals. Coworking allows them the flexibility to work in an office environment a few days a week, so they can have some really focused productive days without the kids interrupting them, which has been identified as the reason many workers are seeking out coworking spaces, as they are learning that home offices can oftentimes not be conducive to completing work tasks.
While the reasons above are the most logical reasons why individuals choose coworking, the reason that they keep coming back is community. Coworking spaces, including the new Coworking Station in Holly Springs, typically have communal space or café areas where individuals can work at long tables or bars seated next to individuals from other organizations. This results in an interesting phenomenon. The Community Manager for HQ Raleigh shared that when new members join their space they typically select an area with the most personal space and the farthest away from other members. However, over the course of a few days/weeks they move closer and closer to other members and frequently these individuals from different companies end up collaborating. Even people who would otherwise be competitors tend to end up collaborating instead of competing. It is also a great networking atmosphere for businesses like web designers and accountants, who need to sell their services to other businesses. When you work next to someone you tend to reach out to them when you need the services that they provide.
While coworking is on the cutting edge of innovation, The Coworking Station in Holly Springs will be set in one of the town’s oldest and most historic commercial buildings, located at 104 W Ballentine Street in the downtown district. The building was originally the Seagraves Drug Store, which was run by Johnny and Mary Seagraves as a drug and sundries store. It was a post office for a short time and it even served as a temporary train station in the early 1900s. By 1946, the latest fashions from New York could be viewed there when Irma Gattman ran a dress shop in one half of the store while Claire and Sylvain Brooks ran a grocery store in the other half. The building continued to serve the community as Ernie Brewer ran a mercantile business there, until failing health caused him to turn over his store to his brother Elmer and his sister-in-law Cleo in the mid 1960s. It functioned as an Auto Parts Store run by Thad Tunstall from 1980-2000, prior to being acquired by the town and converted into a Police district Station. The newest tenant, The Coworking Station, hopes to embrace the building’s colorful history in several ways. It will feature a black and white photo of the building next to the train tracks, which have since been removed from downtown. The coworking space will also pay homage to the building’s time as a police station, by naming each room in the space with law enforcement lingo. A few examples of this naming tribute include the Command Center (large conference room), Lieutenant’s Lounge (small conference room), Sergeant’s Café (breakroom), Interview Room (private office), Evidence Locker (private office) and Dispatch (shared office).
The Coworking Station’s sign will carry the tagline “A Community Workspace” and it hopes to service the needs of the community in several ways. It will provide membership options in the communal areas ranging from day passes up to 24/7/365 unlimited access. Membership benefits include unlimited internet access (fiber speed), modern office furniture, conference room time, coffee/tea/water and beer…yes, the space will have two of Holly Springs’ own Carolina Brewing Company beers on tap! It will contain three different meeting spaces, which will be available for rent to members and non-members. The Wake County Schools System and the Holly Springs Methodist Church have already booked serval hours of meeting space time. The space will also include some high-tech features. Members will gain entry to the space with their smart phones, not keys or fobs. The conference room contains a big flat screen TV and music plays seamlessly in the background throughout the space. The old police station’s carpet and cubicles have been removed and replaced with polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls and open work areas.
Each coworking space around the country has its own feel and purpose. HQ Raleigh is geared toward tech startups, while others are geared toward mompreneurs, programmers or even arts and craft communities. Jon Harol, the Owner/Operator of The Coworking Station, will be offering membership to anyone. At The Coworking Station, both non-profit and for-profit businesses work side-by-side, culminating in organic collaboration. Leading by example The Coworking Station has already taken the 1% pledge to donate 1% of it’s revenue, 1% of it’s product and 1% of it’s employee’s time (paid volunteer hours) to non-profits. Additionally, it is offering a 25% discount on rent to all non-profit tenants. This is already paying off with the signing of tenants like Water for Good (which drills wells in the Central African Republic), Clothed in Hope (which provides sewing machines and business training to impoverished women) and the Holly Springs Arts Council (which is dedicated to enriching the overall vitality of the arts in our community). Jenny Mizell and Irena Krstanovic, from the town of Holly Springs’ Economic Development office, have been working to bring coworking downtown for about 5 years. In 2013, the town partnered with the Duke Fuqua School of Business to run a feasibility study on the need for coworking in Holly Springs and the findings were favorable. Holly Springs contains a lot of people who work from home and research studies on the topic have shown that people who work in coworking environments are move motivated and productive. Research also shows that 46% of individuals report higher incomes since beginning to work in coworking communities. This increase in flexible workspace should attract new business and generate the foot traffic that Holly Springs needs in order to fuel downtown revitalization efforts. The Coworking Station has signed a 3-year lease with the town; however, it has already acquired property on the corner of East Oak Road and Main Street where it plans to build a new building to house the coworking community long-term.