Creative Coworking: Revolutionizing Where Work is Done

According to 2022 data from Statista, there are over 70 million freelancers in the United States. In 2028, that number is predicted to jump up to a whopping 90 million.

But where do all these people work? Of course, some work from home. But wouldn’t that get distracting? And for those who don’t have a home office, where do they work? Surely, not all of them work at a coffee shop every single day. 

Instead, coworking spaces have been revolutionizing the way people work — giving freelancers shared office space and the opportunity to join a community. 

In this episode of Venture unscripted., Josh Barker, CEO of City Innovations, sat down with Alysha Lach White, Founder and CEO of Little Space Studio — a coworking venture focused on serving the needs of creative entrepreneurs — to talk about how the venture got started, what makes it unique, and some key advice to those looking to start their own business. 

Click here to listen to the podcast or keep scrolling to read the podcast recap blog.

Podcast Recap

Coworking Space vs. Working from Home

First things first — why would someone purchase a membership at a coworking space? Alysha states that there are two major reasons why her members are inclined to join: 

  1. To combat distractions. It’s a privilege to have a home office. However, there are so many people who do not have a home office but still have to work remotely. When you are battling laundry, kids, animals, and the like, sometimes you just want to get away from that to be more productive.
  2. To combat loneliness. It is a very lonely experience to only be on Zoom calls all day. Sure, you can get some off-the-cuff conversations, but you can’t casually run into people in the hallways of an office — and that’s where you get some really meaningful connections. When you work at a coworking space, you’re surrounded by like-minded people and connectivity. 

As Josh puts it, “A business culture and community happens in the ‘in between’ where you’re walking to a meeting, or you’re sitting by someone, or going to lunch.”

How it All Started

So, where did the idea for Little Space Studio come from? Surprisingly, Alysha admits that she previously never had any aspirations of starting a business larger than her own freelancing career. 

Being a creative with 12 years of illustration and concept design work, Alysha rented out space in a 700-square-foot building with a few other colleagues. However, one by one, each had to leave. As they left, Alysha started bringing in people who considered themselves “creative entrepreneurs.” 

“I was already pretty involved in some community art initiatives and was learning about the disparities for creative entrepreneurs and what they needed for their business practice,” she explained. 

“There’s just a lot of extra little things [creatives are] always looking for, whether it’s extra dongles in the space, people to talk about taxes and budgeting or project management — a lot of these things bring up dozens of questions that it’s really difficult for an individual to solve on their own. You can only watch so many YouTube videos without someone actually responding to your questions,” Alysha explained.

With this in mind, she started bringing different workstations to the building and doing user research. 

“They liked the idea that they could go to a space, make a mask, do a photoshoot, and then leave,” she said.

Others also expressed that they didn’t just want to be alone in someone else’s space. From the user research collected, people wanted a space where they could meet other creatives and feel supported in their craft. At that, it just clicked for Alysha. A coworking space specifically for creatives was needed. 

“I wanted something that was really easy to get a membership day pass, or even just a rental of a space… but still had that flare and that chill vibe that you get from really creative spaces,” she expressed. 

Upon utilizing that 700-square-foot space, she started putting together her first beta test with 12 individuals utilizing the space. As her system was validated, Little Space Studios was born and eventually expanded to their downtown Grand Rapids location in 2019. 

When it came to officially launching the company in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced everything to a stop.

“We were supposed to launch a soft lunch in June 2020. And so as you know, everything was shut down at that point. We were in the middle of a renovation. We lost investment perspectives. Everything just kind of went to a halt. We really struggled to figure out what to do,” she explained.

However, Alysha and her investment partner came together saying, “Let’s just keep going. If our research is right, this is going be popping after COVID.” 

By the end of 2020, they were able to acquire 40 members. And by the end of 2021, they grew to 60 members. Now, Little Space Studios has 90 members, and six employees, and is looking to open its second new location in Zeeland, Michigan, while also on the path towards becoming a B Corp — focused on social innovation and social change. 

“I did literally everything I could to just keep the doors open with my own personal finances. I took some side gigs just to keep the business cash flow going. It was very, very painful. I also really learned a lot about myself in that process, and I learned about what I could handle. Turns out I can handle quite a bit,” she said. 

Advice to Starting Your Own Coworking Space

“Something that people don’t think about a lot when it comes to coworking spaces or shared workspaces, is that the business model is so important. You have to get it right,” explained Alysha. “You have to get the price point, but you have to understand who you’re serving and what community you want to build — there are so many different ways to make money besides memberships.”

Little Space has a threefold business model. 

  1. They have coworking memberships
  2. They have rentals (conference rooms, meeting rooms, and also event spaces)
  3. And they are expanding into more effective workshop spaces

Rather than capping their business model at selling memberships, having these three aspects of their business allows them to have the capacity to get creative when it comes to growing their business.

When it comes to starting a coworking space, Alysha said it’s important to keep in mind membership account management. A huge misconception is that the owner is investing in a business opportunity that allows them to have a place to run their own business while also sharing the space with others. 

With that, Alysha warns that many people don’t take into account that they’re signing up for a full-time job when it comes to membership management — taking out the trash, keeping up on maintenance, assisting with programming, and other common things are taken for granted — but are some of the things that make starting your own coworking space a success.

Currently, Little Space Studios has about 90 members — and that’s a lot of management. 

“It’s also a lot of personal touch to make sure that all of those members feel like they’re welcome and included, and that their needs are being addressed,” stated Alysha.

What are some biggest takeaways you’ve learned to apply to your business?

Alysha concludes with two big takeaways for any entrepreneur looking to own their own business: 

  1. Know what you’re signing up for. “A lot of people think, ‘I can make so much money if I work for myself.’ Well, that is going to take a couple of years… If you actually want to start a business where you are going to be taking on employees, that is a responsibility that you have to be ready to accept and know that you have to show up no matter what,” Alysha cautioned. 
  2. Be ready to learn and grow. “I learned so much about myself. There were so many times when I thought I could not do this. It’s a gross combination of imposter syndrome and feeling inadequate because you maybe weren’t educated the right way… I would never have imagined that I could do any of this. I just told myself that I could. And then I told myself I have to because it can’t survive if I don’t,” she said. 

Continue Listening

Want to learn more about Little Space Studio, how they overcame challenges, and what’s next for the future of coworking space? Click here to listen to the full podcast or watch the rest below. 

To view all of the Venture unscripted. podcasts, click here.

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