“Are we going back to the office?”
How many times have you heard this question in the past year? Though nobody yet has a clear answer, we all seem to agree that people are not going back to the office as it used to be (pre-pandemic, to be clear). And hybrid solutions are becoming the norm.
There is a lot of talk about the fact that offices should offer more, something you wouldn’t find at home. But what?
Industry-specific coworking could be the answer
I came across the concept of industry-specific coworking a couple of months ago when I visited New York for the first time in my life.
As I was walking around feeling more inspired than I’ve felt in the last two years, daydreaming about a hypothetical future life in The Big Apple, I found out about Fuigo.
Fuigo was born as a coworking space for interior designers. Fascinating, right? Before we get into too much detail, I’ll spoil you the end: the experiment failed. But in a very interesting way.
The company was founded by Maury Riad and Mickey Riad (owners of Fortuny, a small business that still produces artistic textiles in an ancient factory in Venice, Italy). They realised that younger designers felt isolated. They also faced unique challenges as small business owners. Source: Work Design.
So they created a utopia for interior designers in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. In an impressive Park Avenue address, independent designers were afforded the same resources as the largest design firms.
Image Ⓒ Steve Freihon
The core of the workspace was a staffed materials library with more than 15,000 carpet, fabric, tile and stone swatches; As mentioned on Elle Décor the design library was impressive and the staff was charged with researching and sourcing materials for Fuigo’s members. More perks included a reprographics suite for copying, scanning, and printing equipment; and fiber-optic high-speed Internet service. Designers could choose from the common workspaces to the four-person suites—all spacious and open with room to spread out all the samples and large plans that are part of the process of interior design.
Support staff included receptionists at the front desk; “business concierges” for miscellaneous assistance, and bookkeepers. In fact, the founders also created an accounting software that was tailored to the way interior designers work, including the management of a project’s workflow. The driving force behind Fuigo was to free up designers for what they do best—design!
But as utopian as it may have been, Fuigo did not succeed.
As explained in detail on Business Of Home, they never reached the targeted capacity of 100 members.
Image Ⓒ Steve Freihon
“We never got the traction we thought we were going to get,” said Riad. “The pool of interior designers wanting to share space in New York—it wasn’t there, or we didn’t find it.”
Also, the utopian perks that made Fuigo special were ironically a liability. Designers need space and in a competitive real estate market like Manhattan, every inch not generating a revenue count.
Nevertheless, the software they designed took off after a round of funding. As of July 2019, the Fuigo app was supporting roughly 200 designers and 150 vendors.
Images Ⓒ Steve Freihon
Additionally, the Fuigo experience has proved that there is an interest for sector-specialist workspaces. The interior designers who were using the space left great reviews and confirmed that their businesses were positively affected.
In fact, Fuigo might have been a one-off experiment of coworking for interior designers but it’s not the only example of industry-specific coworking out there. On the contrary, I have discovered many case studies and I keep finding new ones the more I look for them.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
We live in a society where customers expect a highly personalised experience and specialised coworking offers some benefit that cannot be found in a generic one. Some of those are dedicated features to support the profession (i.e. softwares, spatial design, etc), creation of community, sharing specific resources, industry-specific networking opportunities and many more.
It’s fair to think that a concept like this exposes a risk because the audience is inherently reduced. But this should not necessarily be seen as a limitation. We touched on the niche community topic in this article about the 7 TRENDS THAT ARE IMPROVING COWORKING. There we mentioned that the riskier strategy can pay off handsomely in the long run as it offers the advantage of “an existing” network of people with similar needs and requests. And who will be more likely to bond.
Let’s have a look at some examples.
Joseph Fessman, the tattoo artist owner of Yellow Bird, has recently rented a small store next to his tattoo parlor. He aims to create a small coworking dedicated to tattoo artists at the beginning of their careers. With only 6 desks, Fessman has minimised the risk posed by a reduced audience.
On the other hand, he is likely going to increase brand awareness and create a small but strong community that can even evolve in the future and open up opportunities for everyone involved. We wish Yellow Bird the best of luck on the new venture!
Source: Richmond Biz Sense
Their proposition is simple: opting for a local and/or specialized option (instead of a big chain) has a number of benefits. They often have services or events focused on the local business community and they can help to contribute to local economies with training and employment opportunities.
The aim was to create a community that collaborates in an agile fashion allowing members to exchange ideas and learn from a wide variety of specialists. They encourage mentoring and co-counsel opportunities. They facilitate social and networking events. They invite all levels and sizes – from a solo practitioner to a medium firm, but they also collaborate with a larger law firm to grow the network even bigger. They have a variety of space arrangements to meet the needs of any business profile.
Green Street is the new venture for cannabis businesses owned by Green Street Agency. It’s a 7-story cannabis industry incubator that includes coworking space, offices, a restaurant, an art gallery, retail space, and a rooftop amenity deck. It hosts over 50 weed-related start-ups and businesses. The idea was born in 2013, 4 years later Gary Vaynerchuck joined the company to finally get open in November last year.
The biggest draw of the space is the potential for creative collaboration and networking. “The goal is to not just fill the building, but fill the building with companies like competitors, frenemies, friends, people who want to get together as a community.” - says one of the founders Mayo Shelton.
The idea was to elevate the business of cannabis, to bring together progressive cannabis entrepreneurs. The spaces are very elegant with modern features making the community feel proud and safe. The canopy brands can collaborate with each other, consumers can visit the showrooms to learn and sample the products. On the ground floor, there is a restaurant – Gusto Green - serving some hemp spiced meals. Additionally, there will be lots of events on the soon-to-open rooftop space. It’s not only a business space, it’s also a cultural hub.
It’s a very promising story. They have minimised the risk by having 2 big tenants secured: 3 floors have been leased to Green Street Agency and another one to Vicente Sederberg LLC – Cannabis Law & Policy firm. Also, a variety of programmes inside the building undeniably helps attract customers.
The idea was born in 2018 between 2 leading blockchain companies: Cosmos/Tendermint and Gnosis which needed additional space at that time. They wanted to bring more crypto start-ups together to boost collaboration and push the technology forward. Nadja Beneš, responsible for brand and content strategy at Gnosis, said: “Blockchain technology is quite complicated and there is an ocean of things that can be done with it. We want our community members to collaborate, experiment, and help others understand and work with Blockchain as this technology evolves.”
As sharing information is key to the blockchain community, the concept promotes communication through multiple spaces that facilitate different working styles, including fixed desks, rooms for workshops, events or meetings, lounges, brainstorming rooms, telephone boxes, podcast rooms and even a sleeping box.
The design of the spaces clearly reflects blockchain technology. Apart from its high quality, it has a young and playful contemporary feel with lots of references to blockchain and collaboration.
Full Node is another successful project with home for over 20 companies with 8 global partner spaces including locations in Tokyo and San Francisco.
Coworking spaces have gained great popularity in the last few years. Shared coworking spaces have certainly their benefit. They open horizons, they can get us potential clients from different industries. But there is something very tempting in specialised co-workings. Most of the industries can benefit from shared resources and knowledge. It’s about this 360 look at the industry that we are after. There are many thriving projects that can bring lots of inspiration. As designers, we believe in its value and we hope to share spaces with other progressive companies in our industry.
Cover image Ⓒ Steve Freihon