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WORKING TOGETHER: ‘Co-work space’ opens for entrepreneurs

August 4, 2018

It’s easy to imagine a medieval marketplace somewhere: A butcher selling sliced meat from a stall – and in the neighboring stall, a baker selling loaves of bread. And nearby, there may have been a farmer selling lettuce and tomatoes. It was only a matter of time until something magical happened.

By sharing resources and working in close proximity, small businesses have thrived through entrepreneurial symbiosis. This week, the Lake Havasu City Partnership for Economic Development welcomed its own co-working space to Havasu.

“Co-work” spaces are defined by the collaboration of multiple companies sharing a single office space. The PED this year led efforts to bring one such co-work space to Havasu, known as F106. The space comprises six local businesses including Havasu Photos, Creative Comrades, New Mark Media, Pixeo Pro and social media consultant Jillian Usher.

The open-office setting allows these entrepreneurs to interact and collaborate in a way that would be much more difficult from private businesses. Together, they can lend their respective talents to the projects of another, allowing the group to collectively pursue contracts more often gained by larger companies, according to PED President James Gray.

The co-work space is the first of its kind in Havasu, but such companies have been growing in number and popularity among entrepreneurs for years. In 2017, more than 11,000 such office spaces were operating worldwide. According to Gray, F106 is a pilot project for a much larger future endeavor.

“The genesis of this is right out of Vision 2020,” Gray said, referencing the city’s economic and community revitalization plan. “We realized we weren’t doing enough as a community to support artists and others in creative fields. This is one of the fastest-growing trends in the nation. Construction of a new co-work space could be a few years out, but a full co-work location will be on a much larger scale.”

According to Gray, the PED paid an initial startup cost of about $12,000, with services donated by local businesses. As part of this cost, the PED provided desks, chairs, a conference room table, white boards and a technological infrastructure to protect F106’s intellectual property. The co-work space’s companies have invested about as much into the building, Gray said.

The PED has received $400,000 to pursue a larger co-work project in Downtown Havasu, from $2 million awarded to Havasu in 2017 from Frontier Communications’ “America’s Best Communities” competition. The $400,000 has been matched by the PED toward pursuit of the larger project, but none of that funding was used to start F106. According to Gray, F106 is a pilot program necessary to determine the effectiveness of such a large-scale co-working space, and it has been a success.

“We wanted to run this program for two specific reasons,” Gray said. “We have young startup companies that need the platform now. And as the organization that will run the larger facility, we wanted to have experience in all aspects of a co-work space before we expended all of our capital investment funds.”

According to Gray, demand for such office spaces has been building through Arizona State University’s Havasu startup school, as well as the city’s creative community. “We’ve had to be adaptable,” Gray said. “We’ve raised a pool of talent and resources relatively quickly, and it’s been an exercise of learning and listening to entrepreneurs.”

The PED-led co-working experiment has gone well in a small period of time this year, according to Gray. “We’re very grateful to all six companies that have embraced the space. Seeing these companies take ownership, and make use of it at low cost, is very encouraging. There are a lot of young startups, and we want to give them a platform to go forward.”

Tuesday’s gathering at F106 brought about 60 Havasu residents to welcome the companies, and to see their progress since they began their collaboration in April.

“We’re figuring out the logistics right now of how the larger co-work space is going to work,” said graphic designer Aymie Spitzer, one of the people behind Creative Comrades. She occupied one such office space in Brooklyn until almost three years ago. “We’re all in a creative industry. The open-floor office offers faster collaboration and sharing of ideas between our companies.”

Spitzer was raised in Havasu, and according to her, it’s a desire to see the community grow that drives her.

“Since this is a rural community, there isn’t as large a pool of creative professionals as there is in other areas,” Spitzer said. “But the more we gather at Creative Comrades events, the more we find people like that.”

According to Gray, the rise of Havasu’s first co-work space is a sign that Havasu residents are becoming more in touch with 21st century business trends.

“Companies need websites, they need video, media – companies are starting to understand there’s value in it,” Gray said. “Those connections in co-work spaces can provide that, and those connections are all that matters. There’s trust in that environment … your next client could be right next to you.”

According to Gray, the cost for occupying F106 is $200 per desk, per month – or $750 per team, which consists of five or fewer members. The PED also applies additional equipment and technology fees for use of the space.

“At this time we are at capacity in the pilot program, but are taking names of more interested companies wanting to participate,” Gray said. “Interested entrepreneurs should contact the PED directly.”

The Lake Havasu City Partnership for Economic Development can be reached at 928-505-7333.

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