How co-working spaces are reshaping the South Carolina workplace > GSA Business

Expansive's common areas provide a quiet space for a colleague to get her work done. Members and operators say the pandemic has been good for the industry.  (Photo/Provided)

When Endeavor managing partners Shannon Wilbanks and Joe Owen left their ad agency in 2015, they teamed up to figure out how to provide an office work environment that offered the energy, Technology and training opportunities enable starting a business as a sole proprietor or small business.

It was from this concept that they realized they were talking about coworking.

“We have no plans to engage in co-op play,” Wilbanks said. “It really grew out of that (concept). Our mission to do everything we can to help our members succeed comes from a very genuine place.”

Coworking is the use of a collaborative workspace that provides an alternative way of working. In a coworking space, people work independently or in groups to complete projects. The concept is popular because it provides a sense of community and a conducive working atmosphere that you don’t get if you work for a large company.

Collaborative work environments are surging in popularity in the post-COVID world, as the pandemic changes perceptions of the workplace, with remote work and hybrid settings becoming the norm.

“It’s been heartening to see all these people just working hard, all with that ‘I’ll figure it out’ attitude despite the challenges of COVID,” Wilbanks said.

As Wilbanks and Erwin entered the coworking industry, Wilbanks said they realized that there were a lot of people who needed this kind of work environment. Is there anyone who works in a small business and needs 24/7 access to their office, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, people who work remotely for another company, who don’t need a private office but need a workspace, people who prefer to work in an office At home but want to get out of the house one day a week, or travel alone for business.

Opened in May 2016, Endeavor is a membership-based co-working community that provides a space for a wide variety of peers who offer different services, in addition to training opportunities, networking events, and business consulting for business people and experience.

Wilbanks said they decided to implement this shared vision at the Greenville Center space in downtown Greenville because of its ideal downtown location, 24/7 doorman security, LEED-certified features, and the fact that the space also provides Members are provided with a private gym.

“When people come off our elevators and into our spaces, they light up and are pleasantly surprised by what we have here,” she adds.

The “future” of the workplace

Ramon Nieves-Lugo, President of Unicomm Media Group, founded and led a successful Hispanic marketing agency with 12 employees and has been a daytime member of Endeavor almost since its inception.

For Nieves-Lugo, he said his main reason for choosing co-working as an office space rather than a traditional office environment was cost-effectiveness.

Employees gather in a conference room at ENDEAVOR in downtown Greenville.  (Photo/Provided)“We originally had an office for a few members, but since COVID, things have changed and everyone isn’t working in the office anymore,” he said. “Commercial space is also expensive, especially downtown. The appeal of this space is high as it is in a prime location, especially for sole proprietors and small businesses. There is also the opportunity to connect with others in the area.”

Even if a business has many employees but doesn’t need 30,000 square feet of office space, this co-working option might work for them, Nieves-Lugo said.

“It appears that this way of working is the future,” he added.

Every company’s journey is different, Wilbanks said.

“What’s interesting about co-working, especially when you’re in an office, is that people are increasingly valuing their time and their lives, and at the same time weighing the cost of renting office space. If you have an office here, you pay a monthly fee, Includes your office, internet, coffee, cleaning, office equipment, everything you need. So not only those things you have to pay for separately, it frees you up to do the things you can because we’ve paid for All other costs are eliminated, which reduces the administrative burden to some extent.”

Endeavor Greenville isn’t the only coworking concept in the city that has received similar inquiries, not only from local entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, but also from remote workers in industries like web and tech.

Entrepreneurial mentality

Back in 2007, Atlas Local managing partner and tech entrepreneur Chris Merritt said he and his managing partner needed just office space. They didn’t know that the co-op society they created led to running a co-working business, which still doesn’t feel like a business to Merritt, he said. In 2016, they moved into West Village Lofts, a renovated loft apartment complex on Greenville’s West End, where their members have access to all the amenities the property has to offer.

“While we’ve grown, we still want to maintain that collaborative vibe,” says Merritt, who has a desk in the regular space rather than a private office. “Of course, my name is on the lease, but everyone here is equal.”

Merritt said being surrounded by like-minded people was an ideal, best-case scenario for him and other members.

“When I want to take a break from work, I’m in an environment (compared to a traditional office environment) where I can do that easily,” he says. “If I’m exhausted and want to make a pot of coffee or sit on the couch and draw, there’s no one there to bother me with some report due or anything like that.”

An Endeavor Greenville member works on a computer at the Greenville One Tower co-working enterprise.  (Photo/Courtesy of Shannon Wilbanks) Because Atlas Local is attached to a residential unit, members can leave work early to hit the pool, or play a game of corn hole or pool after get off work, as well as the ability to host social events.

“I’ve always seen it as a sustainable way of working, and I personally hope it will bring younger generations into the workforce,” he says. In Merritt’s view, being part of a fun work environment with autonomy can lead to increased productivity .

Humans need to be around other people, Merritt says, but being around one another just because of where you work isn’t necessarily the healthiest pattern.

Merritt said more people are being forced to work as contractors or leave their own businesses, fewer W-2 workers are employed, and fewer people want traditional full-time jobs.

“Being around people who share your interests also encourages an entrepreneurial mindset,” he adds. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have people like that around me. Our community here tends to work organically with each other , rather than something we push, it just happens, and it makes sense if you’re surrounded by other smart and creative people.”

Another aspect of remote work and coworking is the opportunity to recruit from anywhere. For common jobs today, people can work remotely, which in turn doesn’t limit the physical distance of the talent pool, Merritt said.

“The mentality of limiting your company to only employees who can drive to your physical office, I think, will completely disappear in the next few years,” he added. “I’m seeing less and less.”

space for everyone

Coworking spaces in Columbia range from smaller spaces in historic buildings to larger buildings converted from traditional offices into coworking locations.

There is something for everyone. FemmeX is a co-working space and social club for female startups and entrepreneurs at 1501 Richland St.

SOCO offers coworking at two locations: SOCO 80808, an 11,000-square-foot post-industrial building at 808 Lady St.; SOCO BullStreet, a historic building in the BullStreet district, one of the city’s most popular One of the development residential area commercial community.

One of the largest coworking spaces in Columbia belongs to Expansive, a Chicago-based company founded in 2012 that now offers coworking and other flexible workspace options in 48 locations across the country. In the Carolinas, the firm has offices in Charlotte and Columbia.

Expansive purchased the 12-story building at 1122 Lady St. 2021, currently offering a variety of work options in 159,013 square feet of space. The site includes options ranging from SmartSuites, high-tech office spaces for large teams and smaller leased office spaces to small businesses and individual employees.

Jeff Barnes, Expansive’s Carolinas regional sales manager, says clients in the Midlands office come from all ages, demographics and occupation types.

Members can work or hang out in the common areas of Industrial Charleston.  (Photo/Industry)“I’ve had everyone from students who can’t get their work done in dorms, to businesses whose employees work remotely, to startups,” Barnes said. “We’ve seen it all. We’ve got insurance companies, law firms, tech companies, you name it our spaces. If you can do business with a laptop, you can use a coworking space.”

Like most coworking spaces, Expansive offers an option where clients can pay to use a desk or sofa in the building’s open lounge space, which includes high-speed internet as well as copiers and other office equipment.

According to Barnes, shared spaces don’t seem to be a problem for too many people.

“Our dedicated desks are now sold out,” he said. “It’s our most popular option because the space is always available to members. It just depends on their schedule and when they want to do business.”

Barnes believes co-working will only continue to expand as people accustomed to working from home during the pandemic seek alternatives to commuting to the same office every day.

“The days of traditional workspaces are starting to fade away as people realize that it takes a lot of money to rent out an entire building, equip it and get people into traditional workspaces,” he said. “That’s not what people want anymore.”

fundamental change

Industrious, a national co-working company, is opening a King Street location in Charleston, slated to open in early December, alongside Endeavor and Atlas Local, FemmeX and Expansive.

Melissa Besler, a South Carolina native and regional director of the Industrial Midwest and Southeast, said the company wanted to provide a unique and inspiring space for other companies and employees.

“Charleston is a rapidly growing business community, and we believe the environment around us can greatly influence the way people work,” Bessler said. “We want to support this philosophy as we build and change the way people work. We want to adapt as the community grows, which looks different in every community we serve.”

Like the mentality of other coworking companies, Besler says COVID has accelerated many of the trends we’ve seen, but the way people now choose to work has fundamentally changed.

“People want more autonomy and want to organize their own time. With coworking, you have flexibility and places to go,” she said. “People also don’t want to commute long distances anymore and want to spend less time at work.”

Besler said the new Industrious location and building, which adjoins the bike shop and yoga studio, features quality, sleek modern design in Charleston’s historic district. The workspace will take up 2date and 3road Each floor of this Grade A building at 677 King Street is filled with natural light and first-class amenities designed to enhance productivity – every day.

Industrial built memberships for hybrid workers, so whether you’re on a weekly or monthly basis, you’ll get the space you need.

“It’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see people go back to normalcy, the 8-to-5 work environment where they’re always in the office,” Bessler said.

SC Biz News reporter Christina Lee Knauss contributed to this report.

Contact Krys at 864-640-4418.

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