Home Office Alternatives
Sharing office space gives some solo entrepreneurs something they miss — interaction with other creative minds.
Nancy Nally, who felt lonely working from home, leases space at Office Divvy in Palm Coast, where rents start at $99 a month. [Photo: Martin Christopher]
But the self-employed Palm Coast mom had some difficulties working from home. For one, her little girl went through a phase of picking up the phone when it rang and not saying anything — including once when a national advertiser called. Then, there was the discomfort Nally felt handing out business cards with her home address to hundreds of strangers at industry trade shows. (She has to provide a physical address to receive sample products to review.) On top of all that, the work got lonely.
Palm Coast didn’t have an urban coffee shop where Nally might find fellow bloggers. But it did have “co-working.” The concept began with tech workers in major metros such as Seattle, Chicago and New York, where solo entrepreneurs pay relatively small fees for office space where they work side-by-side. Co-work pioneers in those cities were, respectively, Office Nomads, The Coop and New Work City.
Depending on the location and package, co-workers will have access to a conference table with other co-workers or their own desk for the day, for as little as $100 a month. High-speed internet access and coffee are standard amenities; for extra fees, co-workers can add a receptionist and mailing address. Unlike traditional office-suite rentals, co-workers don’t leave their belongings overnight; it’s more like working at a coffee shop, but with fellow professionals nearby and no latté orders ringing out.
frshnk, Panama City
Co-working has been around for only a few years in Florida, but as more people become self-employed, the concept has taken hold with offerings such as Office Divvy — Nally’s co-working space in Palm Coast; CoLab in downtown Orlando; HOBO (Home Office Business Office) in Jacksonville; Brikolodge in midtown Miami; and others around the state (“Co-Working Visa”).
Office Divvy encompasses 2,500 square feet of office space in the West Pointe Plaza on Palm Coast Parkway just a few minutes west of Interstate 95. The company was co-founded in early 2008 by husband and wife Ky Ekinci and Lisa Schenone Ekinci and fellow entrepreneur Sim Taing, all self-employed professionals who’d relocated to Palm Coast from the Northeast. They offer other small-business services, from startup funding and flex-office space to social marketing and web design. But they’ve seen particular demand for co-working as self-employed area residents look for economical ways to break out of a home office. The company’s 75 members — they are hoping to grow to 100, then expand to other areas — pay as little as $99 a month for access to the company’s shared co-working space, along with internet access that’s fast enough for video-blogging and other high bandwidth uses.
White Table Foundation, Fort Lauderdale [Photo: Eric Larsen]
Ky Ekinci, a longtime hospitality industry consultant, refers to Office Divvy’s services as “office hoteling.” In addition to a professional environment, the office setting also provides what many say is even more valuable: Human interaction — the ability to gut-check a design, blog or idea with a fellow professional. “Being around other professionals reminds me to focus on my accomplishments rather than my inner critic,” says Nally. “That alone is worth the cost and the commute.”