Kevin Cornia, a CPA for Carver, Florek, and James, on his first day in his new office at CoWork.
It is becoming more common for small businesses in Wyoming to utilize a variety of nontraditional workplaces referred to as coworking spaces.
Wyoming has often led the way in business innovation. For instance, the state invented the Limited Liability Company (LLC) in 1977 and, despite the resistance of the IRS, all 49 other states soon followed.
Like the LLC, coworking spaces addresses challenges faced by small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed. A global survey on coworking by deskmag.com predicted 1.7 million people would be working in about 19,000 co-working spaces by the end of 2018.
The idea is for a group of professionals to share resources, including desk space, internet access, meeting rooms, office supplies, kitchens, and common areas for a flat membership fee. Most coworking spaces offer levels of membership, from common areas and open-concept desks to private offices.
Donna and Dave Kinskey opened a co-work space in the historic Montgomery Ward department store building two years ago. They named it CoWork@TheMontgomery.
“We called it CoWork so people would know what it is,” Donna explained. She said that it can be hard to grasp the concept at first. Their son-in-law had seen the idea in practice in Seattle, and he kept telling them to look into it. Donna said they initially didn’t get it, but the notion kept coming up.
The Kinskeys decided to check it out, and they didn’t leave anything to chance.
“We spent six months researching before we decided to do it,” Donna said. At the time there were only two cowork spaces in Wyoming, in Jackson and Cheyenne. They studied and learned from those, as well as some in Seattle, Fort Collins, and Durango.
“The coworker industry tends to be a sharing group,” Donna said.
They contemplated everything from equalizing window space, to furniture, to the importance of having beer on tap. They had experienced unsatisfactory office rental situations before, and knew other local professionals who were looking for something better as well.
When real estate became available in the Montgomery building, everything fell into place.
The Kinskeys purchased the space, furnished it, and began offering levels of access from a day pass to monthly memberships. With no annual lease, members can quickly and easily give notice if they need to move, or just want to take a break to snowbird.
Donna also pointed out that the historic downtown location is where everybody wants to be. Members can meet people in the office or meet for lunch at a downtown restaurant. The park, library, and YMCA are also all nearby.
Donna describes their space as a mom-and-pop shop compared to large corporate companies providing coworking space like WeWork. The goal, she explained, is to be flexible.
Some members are trying to find their own space while using CoWork and, in that way, the space can function as an incubator.
Most CoWork members are independent, tech savvy workers who have their own home offices.
“Their home office may be perfect, but there’s nobody there,” Donna said. “We’re humans. We crave interaction.”
Once a member is all set up, they come and go as they please. According to Donna, some days are busier than others but, like a gym, you never have everybody in.
Donna has her own office as the manager of CoWork. That, along with the fact that they own the space makes managing it easy. She admits that costs are high (internet, utilities, insurance, etc.) and margins are thin, but they’ve been operating for two years, with no major hiccups yet, so she feels optimistic.
“It’s really been fun meeting interesting people, and it’s a great way to learn new things,” Donna said.