Daring to Go “Co”

Typical London coffee house in the 18th century

Because coworking without community is just plain working.

by Shelly Bowen

Some people think of co-working as a place to focus on work, and that’s true, but it’s only part of the story. More often than not, it’s a place to meet people, share ideas, find resources and support, and get inspired.

And, lucky us, co-working has exploded in San Diego in the last few years. What started as just a few shared office space options for just a few people has turned into not only a plethora of spaces to choose from, but a whole interconnected community. A whole new mindset.

Considering that San Diego is made up of mostly transplants — think about it, how many people do you know who grew up in San Diego? — this is a really big deal. Momentous, really.

San Diego’s co-working community is becoming a supportive, ambitious, entrepreneurial, and thinking-differently-is-good-thinking group of people. The options to be a part of this community are growing all the time. We just need to continue to get out there and be a part of it.

Melissa Glaze, the community director at Hera Hub, a spa-like co-working space for women (and men? we’ll get to that), agrees. “There are different kinds of co-working spaces,” she says. “It [can be] not only a shared workspace, but a community and support system for likeminded, productive people.”

We’ve all seen niche-specific co-working spaces — for tech-focused or eco-friendly entrepreneurs, designers, start-ups, creatives, or women, in Hera Hub’s case. Regardless, the important thing is to find where you fit in.

“Community first, space second,” Melissa says. When Felena Hanson founded Hera Hub in 2011, she felt that “it’s really important to have a strong sense of true community, a place to get through hurdles and build your business,” Melissa tells us.

Building community doesn’t happen automatically. Especially within the larger communities like Hera Hub’s. “Having experts in the community — such as our Gurus who are members — that we can refer to is key. The space really flourishes when we help members give support to other members in the community” Melissa says.

But that’s not all. The community directors at all three of the San Diego Hera Hub locations (as well as the one in Washington, DC and soon, Sweden, Phoenix, and Baltimore) are dedicated to connecting people. “People are shocked that we are as supportive as we are, how fast they can get answers, how quickly they can be introduced to people who can help them build their business. People ask me, ‘Do you know a …’ and I give them five options.” Hera Hub also holds new member breakfasts and frequent member events.

Does Hera Hub really exclude men? Melissa laughs. “Hera Hub is a female-focused community, but we have a handful of male members,” she explains. “If a guy likes what we’re about and wants to be included, he is welcome.”

So if co-working is now all about community, why are there limited options in areas like College area or East County? “Co-working is a hard business to get into,” Melissa says thoughtfully, “so there may be some apprehension about moving into a non-central area. It would be great for someone to test that out.”

She continues, “There are a lot of coffee shops out there that are full of people with laptops all the time. There are meetup groups in East County that are trying to build community. It’s hard; it takes time. But I’d love to see that.”

Breweries are popping up everywhere in San Diego. So why not co-working spaces? Why not build an even larger, stronger, more supportive co-working community? Looks like it all depends on each of us. Let’s get out there.

Melissa Glaze has been community director at the Mission Valley Hera Hub for a little over a year. With her graphic design background and passion for connecting people, she’s excited to continue building San Diego’s co-working community through creative marketing efforts. Contact Melissa via www.HeraHub.com/Mission-Valley

Shelly Bowen, a San Diego local, founded Pybop, a content strategy consultancy, in 2008. Since then, she has been involved with several San Diego co-working spaces, and has found they are not only a great resource for finding talent (not to mention great ideas and friends), but also she’s found inspiring locations to invite out-of-town clients for creative content strategy workshops and working meetings. Join her San Diego Content Strategy Meetup group. Contact Shelly at www.pybop.com.