A New Kind of Grind

Within the next few years, close to half of America's workforce will have transitioned to independent labor, begging the question: Where will they all work?

lesson 3
Designers be warned: the end-user is your new competition.

One of the hardest learned lessons about co-working spaces is that the business owners and end-users are sometimes the ones designing the space themselves. In a post-recession world, the workforce is a lean, mean, self-reliant machine.

For Chawla, designing the space at Fueled Collective was a process of designing for himself as an end-user, and delegating out the execution to his network of peers.

"A lot of people just kind of project manage. I'll give them the vision and then be like, 'OK, go source,'" he says. "And they'll just be cool people, so they'll understand what I'm looking for. I'll tell them all the cool shops and the techniques, and then they'll just start doing it. They'll go out, they'll send me photos, I'll approve it via my phone, and then they'll order it and bring it in."

For the first Fueled Collective space, Chawla found a go-to partner in Noa Santos, owner of a design business called Fifty for Fifty. For $50, Santos would rearrange the furniture in clients' apartments.

"I'm like, 'Listen, I'm doing this huge office. Why don't we just strike this deal where we pay you hourly and you can work with me and be my project manager on this office build-out?'" Chawla recalls. Now, Santos' business is renamed Home Polish and has expanded significantly in the years following his first office project. "He ended up blowing up. Now they have 150 designers that they just send out to clients and they're doing offices all over the place. He's capitalized on that better than anyone else has."

Like Santos, not only have Dyett and Chawla cashed in on an untapped marketplace, but more importantly, they aren't resting on their laurels. Both have taken what they've learned from their initial locations and plan to use that information to continue to improve the co-working experience as a whole. And with the market's growth potential being an exponential one, designers would do well to take future owners and developers by the hand to make it even better.


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