Shared office environment is budget-friendly, offers community, members say.
Faced with an Aug. 1 deadline for his memoir about being a paramedic in national parks, Kevin Grange needed a quiet spot where he could stay glued to his pages for long, uninterrupted stretches.
Normally the author (he’s written two other books) uses his second bedroom as an office. But with relatives coming for a summer visit, that option was off the table for a while.
His solution: a desk at The Cowork Space, upstairs at 140 E. Broadway, where individuals and businesses can rent a spot to work and share a kitchenette, high-speed internet, private phone booths, printing capabilities and a conference room.
“I need to devote eight to 10 hours a day when I’m not working at the fire department on the book,” said Grange, a firefighter and paramedic with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. “The Cowork Space offers a place where you can go and have that dedicated space to work.”
For many of the people at the desks around him The Cowork Space is a year-round headquarters.
Justin Tatosian runs his engineering and consulting business, JTEC Inc., there. It’s home base for Phil Cameron’s Headwaters Consulting, whose primary client is Energy Conservation Works (he’s executive director). Their neighbors include people building code and operating growing companies like audio-tour producer TravelstorysGPS and supplements-maker Momentous.
“It’s a cool diversity of expertise and personalities,” Cameron said.
Michael Adams, the on-site host at The Cowork Space, described it as a younger crowd with a lot of mid to late Gen X’ers and quite a few millennials. You might on occasion hear a discussion about a great ski day or a new mountain bike, but in general everybody there is getting down to business.
“They’re incredibly work-driven,” Adams said. “They come in exceedingly focused.”
Grange wears headphones because he likes to listen to music while writing, but being in a group setting wouldn’t be a problem even without them.
“In the main space everyone’s pretty much silent,” he said. “Everyone’s there to work.”
Members say coworking space is cheaper than renting their own office and dealing with WiFi, utilities and furniture. It’s more efficient and less lonely than doing the job at home or in a coffee shop, and there’s a creative energy and camaraderie they wouldn’t find elsewhere (see sidebar).
Plus they just like the space at 140 E. Broadway. It’s on the second floor with a streamlined decor and lots of natural light. More than a few also mentioned that it’s across the street from Persephone Bakery.
About 40 people — individuals and small groups — “come here on a regular basis to do their thing,” Adams said. He has about 180 in his database.
“We’re month to month,” he said. “We get a few drop-in individuals in summer and winter who are here on vacation and need to do a day’s worth of work to catch up.”
But most Cowork Space regulars are people who have moved here, he said. They want the mountain town lifestyle and can work remotely, or they have created their own company.
“There are a few homegrown entrepreneurs,” Adams said.
The cowork operation on Broadway opened in 2014 under the name Spark Jackson Hole. At the time, Megan Beck, one of the founders, said the idea was that people work best when they work together.
“We did it specifically to have that community and collaboration that you often miss when you’re not working in an office,” she told the News&Guide in 2014.
The concept spread to Teton Valley, Idaho. In 2017 two businessmen opened Work Farm in Victor, and they plan to add a branch (see sidebar).
Last year Spark Jackson Hole changed hands, acquired by Silicon Couloir.
“As a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurs and early-stage business we believe that one of the stumbling blocks to success is actually having an appropriate physical space to do one’s work,” Executive Director Gary Trauner said in an email. “Startup incubators and accelerators around the country have learned that having a shared workspace without the long-term commitment and cost of lease or purchased office space is critical to early-stage success.”
Trauner co-founded the internet company OneWest.net and the dog food company Mulligan Stew. Both eventually required dedicated leased space. But a cowork space in their early days might have made it easier to “incubate ideas and move them along at a more rapid pace,” he said.
The Silicon Couloir acquisition, he said, was an “asset-based purchase.”
“The previous owners still own the business that sold the assets to Silicon Couloir,” he wrote.
The program is segregated on Silicon Couloir’s books so revenue and expenses can be tracked, but “it really is just another program that helps generate resources for the organization to support other programs and, of course, enhances the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the same time.”
Silicon Couloir recently expanded and soundproofed the conference room and added a huge flat-screen TV and Polycom SoundStation for teleconferencing.
“That’s super helpful,” Cameron said. “You can have an eight-person meeting comfortably in that room.”
When Spark’s name was changed to The Cowork Space the website was integrated into SiliconCouloir.com for online signups, membership payments and conference room reservations.
Other changes may come as Silicon Couloir assesses what members need.
“It’s nice and maintained and oriented toward the user,” Adams said. “In some places you’re on your own in a dank space.”
The cowork spaces on both sides of the Tetons are part of a growing global phenomenon that, according to the publication Coworking Resources, began in San Francisco in 2005. In a report on the industry’s growth, the publication estimated that 1,000 coworking spaces opened in the U.S. in 2018, out of total of nearly 2,200 openings worldwide.
“This year the coworking space market size is expected to reach 696 openings in the U.S., many of them in states and cities with budding startup cultures,” it said.
Adams said it isn’t surprising that Jackson Hole is one of the places where coworking spaces have popped up over the years.
“Ski towns tend to attract educated people,” he said.
“We have a great professional space that allows you access to the world, good people who are going to network professionally and recreationally,” he said. “It’s a good place to sit down and work and not be disturbed.”
Why members like a cowork environment
Everybody in a cowork space is working on something different, and that's a good thing.
In fact, it's one of the reasons people thrive in cowork spaces, according to a Harvard Business Review report.
"Unlike a traditional office, coworking spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, venues and projects," an article in the September 2015 issue said. "Because there is little direct competition of internal politics, they don't feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in." As a result, it said, they can "bring their whole selves to work."
Members of The Cowork Space in Jackson shared some of the reasons they like it there.
The prices are easy on the wallet.
Full-time memberships start at $200 a month, with 24/7 access to the shared workspace and all amenities.
The monthly fee for a dedicated desk — yours only but in the shared space — is $275. A dedicated desk in a private office costs $550 to $600 a month. Day passes, for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., go for $35.
Justin Tatosian started JTEC Inc. at home in 2015 and has been at 140 E. Broadway since February 2018. He is in a private office with one employee.
"For the two of us to have a large space that had both workspace for the two of us and the conference space and the kitchenette and bathroom ... it's kind of a lot," he said. 'It's a big chunk of real estate that we really don't need."
That's also how Phil Cameron of Headwaters Consulting looks at it. He runs his business with a programs staff person and a summer intern.
"For an organization of our size we don't require a substantial footprint to function," he said. "It's absolutely more cost-effective than having our own office space on a lease."
Cameron worked out of Spark Jackson Hole (the original name) in the early days and returned several years ago.
"When I moved back over there I was the only individual with the company," he said. "As we've added staff capacity it has enabled us to do that without having to rent a new space."
Kevin Grange, a writer working on a book at The Cowork Space, explored the commercial market and found it pricey.
"I was looking to rent an office," he said. "At the Jackson prices it's anywhere from a $1,000 to $1,400 a month."
In contrast, at The Cowork Space "you can get a dedicated desk for $275 a month, which is probably what you'd spend at Picnic."
Better than home
There's something about heading out to work as opposed to walking from the kitchen or bedroom to another part of your home.
"Your house can be your biggest hobble," said Michael Adams, the on-site host at The Cowork Space. "Every little thing starts yelling at you to get your attention. You don't get as much done."
Heading to The Cowork Space "your mind and body know you're going to work," he said. "You stop at Persephone to get your muffin and coffee. Then you sit down and proceed with work."
Grange cited the idea of "going outside to go inward" philosophy of Maya Angelou, who wrote in hotel rooms.
“When you go to a place that's not your house you can inhabit the story you're writing," he said. The Cowork Space is "warm and welcoming but sterile in that way. You’re not reminded of yourself and your life. You immerse yourself in the characters you’re creating.”
Coffee shops are nice, but ...
Grange enjoys writing in coffee shops, but in the summer they are way too crowded, he said. There’s no guarantee he will find a seat — or peace and quiet.
“It’s just a parade of people I know all day, which is fun, but it’s hard to get the work done,” he said.
At The Cowork Space he sits at a dedicated desk "tucked away in the corner."
"There's desks that are more open — where you sit each day depends on who else is there," he said. The dedicated desk "costs a little more, but I can walk in, and the spot I prefer is ready and waiting for me."
Michael Adams, the on-site host at The Cowork Space, said the space's fiber-optic, high-speed internet connection beats anything a professional will find in a coffee shop.
"If you're struggling to upload a program, that's not functional for you," he said. "We have a strong internet connection, which is your connection to the world."
Tatosian enjoys being able to chat with Cameron and other Cowork Space clients, especially because they aren't all engineers working on the same kinds of things he is.
"Day in and day out surrounded by a bunch of engineers ... they're not really known for their personalities," he said.
With his neighbors at The Cowork Space, he said, "it’s fun to talk about other lines of work. It's also interesting to see their business models and what they’re doing.”
“As a writer it can be a lonely profession,” Grange said. “In the CoWork Space you’re immersed with a bunch of other people going after dreams and working on stuff they're passionate about."
Cameron describes his business as being in the “festival seating” area, so he sees variety in the people working near him.
“I like the organic networking that happens there," he said. “Our random discussions around the coffee maker have actually turned into a sort of informal gathering that we invite other peers into the community once a month to talk about sustainability. That wouldn’t happen if we were off somewhere else on our own.”
If he expanded further, Cameron said, he’d rather upgrade his Cowork Space membership than hunt down office space and furniture.
“I might be able to find a great deal somewhere else, but then we’d be on an island,” Cameron said.