Picture it. New York City. 2012.
My cousin and I are walking around my favorite city on a crisp October afternoon, looking for a place to charge our phones. I notice what appears to be a café where there were several people working on laptops, so we duck inside. I notice that the bar with all the trimmings of a small coffee shop has no register, but as I’m there for other reasons, I discard this observation quickly. We get seated, plug in, and start chatting to pass time. A woman walks over to us and very sweetly says, “excuse me. Are you a member?”
We look at each other confused. I respond, “of the café?” She smiles, likely holding back a giggle, and explains what WeWork is. As she’s telling me, I’m looking around seeing that there are only people working around me, no one seems to be caféing. There are signs and posters around, people using a key card to enter into another part of the building. It’s starting to make sense.
“Sorry about that! We’ll get out of your hair, but this is really cool!”
Once we get back outside, I look up to see the giant WeWork sign that I’m not sure how I missed. I’m supposed to be the NYC guide on this trip as my cousin has never been and I led us into a members-only non-café. Embarrassment may have been the reason, but something told me to tuck this coworking concept away.
Three years and two jobs later, I’m filling in numbers in a spreadsheetfor a company I’ve formed, but haven’t made my full-time gig yet. I have a name, Brass Tacks Collective, and a mission to provide a full year of paid experience to design and copywriting apprentices while building their portfolios with beautiful work for nonprofits and startups. That was the easy part. The logistics are much more involved and my biggest question mark is where this will be. I have no budget, but considering I’m building this business on cash flow alone, I know it’s not much.
Because I’m looking for office space online, Facebook decides to get in on the decision-making process, showing me tons of ads for the first WeWork location in Dallas, Uptown. The pictures are beautiful, of course, and the ad copy speaks directly to me. I follow the link, click on pricing, and see what compares to/exceeds my apartment’s rent. Cue my extreme disappointment, followed almost immediately by my continued search for space.
It’s now March, 2016, and I’ve left my full time job to dedicate myself, full-time, to Brass Tacks Collective. I’ve visited every local coworking space and most of the leasable office spaces in Dallas. I’m down to one that doesn’t feel quite right, but falls in the $1200/mo or less for everything price my bookkeeper gave me. My meditation mantra becomes, “this or better.”
My boyfriend asks if I’ve heard of WeWork as he’s started seeing the Facebook ads too. “Yes, I have. It’s beautiful, but I can’t afford it.” I pull up the site just to show him that it’s out of my price range and see that a new location, Thanksgiving Tower, is now available to pre-book. It’s cheaper. It’s closer. It’s right in the middle of Downtown Dallas where I said in my business plan that I wanted to be.
To fast forward a bit, I ended up seeing the unfinished space and booking the same day. Wesley, who toured me around, offered me three months at $1200 for a five person space, as she knew my budget. Aside from the price, there were three things that sold it in for me: 1) WeWork has locations globally, in all of the major hub cities that I would hope for Brass Tacks to be. This means I can expand within the locations and not have to worry about trying to understand the real estate markets of each city or potentially getting into a long term contract in a city that turns out to be wrong for us. 2) All WeWork members are connected via app, so when it’s time to place the apprentices into jobs, I can leverage this network. I can also look to these people to help me learn the markets before we expand. 3) My location has a classroom, which has become instrumental in our programming as we offer public workshops throughout the year.
I started with room for five people, which would be myself and four apprentices, but after I met with my candidates, I could only narrow it down to seven. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew these seven would be great, but I had nowhere to put three extra people. As if she could hear my internal dialogue, Chelsea, our Community Manager, came by my office to tell me about a promotion. If I could agree to a longer term lease, rather than month to month, I could double my space for the same price I was paying now. Done.
We’re now in a nine person corner office, which is filling in with apprentices when I’m now realizing that I have to get them computers and software. Most of them have laptops from college, but they’re not up to date and are full of precious files I couldn’t ask them to delete on my account. Pricing new iMacs, plus software came to around $30,000, which I was nowhere close to having on hand. Loans seemed like a good way to keep my business in debt longer than I’d be comfortable with. I kept telling them we’d find a solution. That’s when Lizbet, one of our apprentices, heard about the Creator Awards.
Without going through the agonizing moments between applying and finding out that we were finalists, or between pitching that morning and the actual awards show, I’ll tell you that we were granted $72,000. It was absolutely game changing for us and will be its own detailed account. The short of it is, we were able to buy computers, software, hire my first full-time team member, and support business operations for three months while we adapted and grew.
Since the win, and even before, WeWork has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. Each tour around the building is complete with a stop at our office where they tell the potential tenants about what we do. We’ve had seven clients come from this. We’ve been given additional space for free to help our growth and the leeway to display our personalities with our brought in furniture and art. We’re welcomed with hugs in any location we’ve visited and team members I’ve never met know who we are and what we do. The sense of community and culture is so in line with what we have within the walls of our office at Brass Tacks, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.