A Tale of Three Coworking Spaces

Not only are our workplaces rapidly changing but the way we do and where we do business is also changing. Working from small, yet powerful, portable devices allows us to conduct business from almost anywhere that has Wi-Fi or cellular service. Coupled with improved and expanding cloud storage options makes it even easier to work outside the confines of an office. In light of all of these technological advances one can even question is it necessary to even have a full time office?

Real estate on demand, flexible office space, shared workspaces, or coworking spaces, whatever you want to call them, are becoming increasingly popular despite the financial troubles of one major coworking space corporation. According to Victor Mataraso, founder of Victory Workspace, “The trends are moving in favor of flexible office space.”

This type of environment offers those operating on a 24/7 workday the flexibility they require to run a business. It also minimizes the distractions of working from home or in a busy coffee shop that caters more to a social scene. Working amongst other people can reduce the isolation one might feel working from a home office.  Shared workspaces can also help define boundaries between work and personal time.

For our research on this blog, MB Contract Co-owner John Mele and I set out to explore three different concepts of real estate on demand that completely changed my preconceived vision of this work model.

Shared workstations at Victory Workspace in Walnut Creek, CA

Victory Workspace

Our first stop, located in Walnut Creek but offering a unique concept of real estate on demand, is Victory Workspace. Victory Workspace is a service powerhouse geared towards professionals that require an ongoing place to engage in business.

President Victor Mataraso founded Victory Workspace to help other small business owners achieve great success. The genesis of Victory dates back to Victor’s creation of Reliable Receptionist in 2006 and then Laptop Lounge in 2012. Victor used those experiences to create an environment that inspires and motivates a dynamic community of extraordinary people ranging from “solopreneurs” to members of large teams working on their own.

Access to community spaces, shared or dedicated desks, private offices, and a fully functional conference room that cater to your needs depending on your membership level. Membership starts at only a few dollars a day, making this a much more affordable solution to leasing an office. 

Membership is not required however members receive discounted rates on services that aren’t already included in their package. Flexible commitment options on a month to month basis are available to those not wishing to commit to larger chunks of time.

Initially most of Victory’s clients were independent entrepreneurs and contractors. But Victor states that has now changed as more corporations are allowing for remote workers to use alternate workspaces that are closer to home. 

Shared cubicles at Victory Workspace in Walnut Creek, CA

Victory Offers A Wide Variety of Services

Victory offers a variety of office amenities, infrastructure and support services like fully-furnished, professional office spaces, wireless color laser printers, mail handling, and high-speed fiber optic internet access, telephone receptionists, 10 foot projection screen, a kitchen, and let’s not forget coffee. 

Telephone answering services include onsite telephone receptionists that answer calls live at the location or seamlessly connect calls to any phone number, take messages, even schedule appointments to provide a profession front end for the business. Phones are answered only during business hours to allow for personalized service with a dedicated full time in-house person.

With most mobile professions business assets are housed in a cloud and don’t require a physical location. However there are times a commercial address is required and a post office box or residential address won’t do. For instance Google requires a physical, commercial address in order to be listed and to set up a My Business account. Victory offers a unique commercial address option for it’s members and a safe, secure place to have packages and mail shipped.

While the reception area is only available during business hours there is a sophisticated access control system via your smartphone for members that will allow you into the office 24/7.

“We’re almost a hybrid in a lot of ways in that we have the look and feel of that traditional office. There’s a formal reception desk when you walk in, there’s carpet on the floors, there’s tiles on the ceiling that absorb the sounds.” Victor explains about the space, “With a lot of co-working spaces it’s not that way. If you go into San Francisco it’s concrete floors, vaulted ceilings, no formal reception, much more of a bohemian feel to it.”

Although Victory steers clear of offering private, dedicated offices,  Victory has a number of private on demand spaces for those in need of a temporary office. Plus there are several stations and even phone booths, that are powered, ventilated and comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time.

If you need an area for classroom style seating or even an open space to teach yoga, the conference and community tables can breakdown and stow away in minutes living up to the name of a flexible workspace.

Their partnership with TriNet offers members healthcare, payroll, workers’ comp and more, providing corporate style benefits on par with large businesses.

Conference room at Victory Workspace in Walnut Creek, CA

Build a Coworking Community, A Natural Step

According to Victor “One of the big benefits to being a member of the workspace is that you become part of our coworking community and this is a big part of our offering that is often overlooked, unlike when you’ve got people holed up in private offices all day long working in the shared space, there’s this natural serendipity where people meet one another, talk to one another, and we actively encourage and curate, eventually someone is going to have a need for some other service that they don’t perform and the first place we look is to our own community. 

I have a dedicated community manager here and part of her job is to know and understand what all of our members do partly for the purpose of making those introductions. If you need somebody to design a logo or brochure we have a member that’s a graphic designer, if you need help with copywriting for your website or a book, we have several freelance writers. For our membership there’s an online directory for services members offer.” 

To help foster this community of support, member business cards are available at the front desk and featured members bios are displayed on their digital signage in the lobby. Every month Victory offers a series of business, education, networking or social events, even a holiday party complete with chocolate martinis.

Capitol One Cafe lounge in Walnut Creek, California
Upstairs at Capital One Cafe in Walnut Creek, California

Capital One Cafe

Our second stop was actually my first introduction to the concept of a cowork space was back in 2018 when I met with my realtor at a Capital One Cafe. After renting an office for over 20 years the building was sold and the new owners raised his rent by $2,000 a month. He decided he could do the bulk of his office work from his house and when he needed a place to meet with clients the facilities at new Capital One Cafe would work perfectly. 

The Capital One Cafe in Walnut Creek, California takes working from the local coffee shop to the next level. They’ve turned the traditional brick and mortar bank experience on it’s head by offering an inviting space with a cafe, free wifi, and several different types of places to get the job done. 

Located in a two story building with banking services and a Peet’s coffee cafe occupying a majority of the lower level. There’s also several community spaces, cubbies, and a couple nooks with sliding glass doors for privacy that are available free to the public. 

Upstairs is entirely devoted to networking or working remotely, wether at a shared table, private nook, or one of three conference or “community rooms”. Qualifying groups from 6-10 people can reserve the community rooms that include wifi and a large flatscreen tv. The community rooms are free for registered nonprofit, alumni, and student group meetings and events. Rooms can be reserved online for 2 hour increments. 

Since meeting my friend there in 2018, we’ve met there several more times and had no problem getting a place in one of the private nooks. Each time we’ve gone there has been no pressure to sign up for Capital One services. As a matter of fact the only time I’ve interacted with one of their “Ambassadors” (not tellers) was when I approached them for information about the workspaces. The Ambassador we spoke with was very pleasant and welcoming. This has now become my go to place when I need a quick meeting outside the office. 

Meeting Room at Concord Colab
Open space conference room at Concord Colab in Concord, California

Concord Colab

Our final stop of the shared workspace tour took us to the heart of downtown Concord where the Concord Colab has set up a temporary pop-up in Todos Santos Plaza (running through March 2020). Unlike the previous two businesses, Concord Colab is a non-profit set up by Neto Community Network. 

Whereas Victory has created an internal community for business networking, Concord Colab’s mission is bringing the community to the people and bring people to the community. By working closely with the Concord city staff, city council, and chamber of commerce that fosters relationships to help bridge the community. They even recruit “community listeners” that are out and about town trying to learn the needs of the community.

“We are all about social equity, our mission statement is providing pathways for people to network and think toward greater equity. And equity is kind of an intangible concept, it’s not really diversity, it’s not really equality, it’s not really inclusion, it’s all those things and more. Equity is all about our engrained attitudes toward each other.

Our idea is to provide programs and events and opportunities for people from very diverse backgrounds to come together that would maybe otherwise not come together and help change people’s thinking” states Lisa Fulmer, head of the Concord Colab.

Currently Concord Colab’s temporary pop-up is funded by a small grant from Wells Fargo’s Community Giving Fund to give this a real world trial to see if Concord would embrace this concept. As Concord is ripe to become an incubator for the whole East Bay, one of their goals is to become an entrepreneurial incubator by providing more workshops, provide more support like their monthly Talkfest networking event.

Their idea is to provide programs, events and opportunities for people from very diverse backgrounds to come together, that would maybe otherwise not come together, and help change people’s thinking.

In addition to a few private spaces, shared open space, and conference room, the Colab offers some basic services like free wifi, free coffee, small kitchen appliances, and printer access. As they are currently located in the heart of Concord, there is easy access to many other business services and a great selection of restaurants. Future plans, when they find a permanent spot, include food concessions, mail services, storage, and day care. 

While the target audience is similar to Victory’s, the Colab pricing structure makes it more affordable for artists to display their art or use for workshops plus appeals to groups like local Home Owners Associations to hold their monthly meetings. Membership is not required and day passes are extremely affordable for those on a low budget.

Future of Coworking Spaces?

When asked about the future of real estate on demand, Victor predicts “more traditional partners and landlords will start incorporating this model into their buildings. Landlords will begin to see the value that co-working can have in activating their space. Bringing energy to it. The smart ones, rather than trying to do it themselves, will partner with operators like myself to bring them into the space.”

“We’ve had our share of members move on because they’ve outgrown us here and needed their own private dedicate space. Imagine, it’s like having a pipeline for building owners to partner with an operator, bring up these future tenants, and move them into a dedicated space. That’s what I believe the future is going to look like for this business model.”

It’s obvious that real estate on demand is only growing as a quick online search shows a number of shared workspaces in the region. There is surely one out there that can fit your needs as we found visiting three completely different models.

Special thank you to Victor Mataraso of Victory Workspace and Lisa Fulmer of Concord Colab for taking time to meet with us for this article.