Designing a successful office share is about designing a culture as much as a space.
Grind—a co-working facility now with two locations in NYC and one in Chicago—opened its first set of doors in 2011 after co-founder Benjamin Dyett grew tired of his nomad-like existence as an independent real estate lawyer constantly searching for a home base.
Grind's original location on Park Avenue was designed by architect Vince Bandy, while its Broadway and Chicago locations were designed by Mesh Architectures in Brooklyn.
"You're talking about a group of people who have been isolated and ignored, because as small entrepreneurs or solo entrepreneurs, they were working from their homes or working in coffee shops," explains Dyett of his clients. "Where was a nice place to have a professional meeting? Starbucks. Or they're working in friends' offices, freeloading off people. Now Grind, at least, treats them like grownups. Some people call us co-working for adults, because it gives them a highly designed professional workspace."
"It's designed to be seamless and frictionless. Our mission is to fit into our members' lifestyle, not our members to fit into ours," he adds.
"Everything is just so easy," agrees user Aisling Keogh, marketing and events director for Irishcentral.com, inhabitants of one of the team rooms at Grind on Broadway. Members walk in, tap their card and are automatically charged with whatever membership fee they have. They can sit down, work and not have to worry about the minutiae such as paper in the copier or where to get coffee. "They don't have to think about any of this stuff," says Dyett. "Everything we do, we do keeping in mind to not get in the way of our members focusing on their work."
And besides ultra-high speed internet service, members also gain access to Agora, Grind's own private social network of sorts that helps members connect. Everyone has a profile page that showcases their headshot, what they do, and if they're looking for a specific expertise at Grind. Members can search through the database and reach out to one another. When a user enters Grind every morning, they are also registered into that system; a screen next to the coffee bar displays everyone who has checked in.
"You might find that someone you want to speak to is sitting right next to you," says Dyett.
For Rameet Chawla, founder of Fueled Collective, it is not just about creating a work environment, but curating a lifestyle.
"Fashion brands do it really well," he says, "because they're designing for a certain lifestyle—not for a certain person or a certain vertical. I'm designing this business for a certain type of professional lifestyle, where you can work here, you can work there, you can add value no matter where you are, you don't have to be stuck to a certain location."
It is a lifestyle Chawla knows firsthand. Before Fueled Collective, there was simply Fueled, a tech-savvy service provider aimed at helping start-ups get their businesses off the ground. Fueled Collective came out of Chawla's own desire to find a space that fit his professional and personal ethos. Now the small network of office spaces has become a completely sustainable branch of his business, and most of his tenants are either current or future potential clients.