A New Concept in Co-Working
by Lucy Knapp
Co-working is big. The co-working industry has gone from a niche, vaguely hipster-ish phenomenon to become part of the mainstream, accepted by and serving entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals. The industry has grown 200% over the past 5 years and the number of co-working members is anticipated to surge to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022. Obviously there is a need to be filled.
ThriveCo, St. Louis’ newest co-working space, opened in January of this year. While the City of St. Louis is filled – some might say over-saturated – with co-working spaces, ThriveCo is only one of a handful of such spaces located in St. Louis County and is the first “boutique” co-working space in Clayton; its premise is one of flexibility, personalization, inclusivity, and access. It was founded by Katie and Alex Silversmith, two entrepreneurs with experience in the co-working sector, to bring a unique, comprehensive co-working experience to the St. Louis market. They offer the usual co-working space(s) and services--office rental, access to a printer/copier/scanner, wi-fi, meeting room rental, etc. However, they go above and beyond in offering services not usually part of the co-working space model.
Co-founder and CEO Katie Silversmith emphasized that these are the differentiators between them and other co-working spaces. She said, “We wanted to create a space where business owners and entrepreneurs and start-ups really felt heard and had access to exactly what they needed to be successful. It's similar to a wrap-around services model in social work and is about supporting the entirety of the business, the business owner, and the employees to make the business more successful.” She feels that this customization and personalization model is the huge difference that has attracted members from a variety of businesses across the St. Louis economy, including attorneys, PR firms, business coaches and people in creative fields. In fact, about eight weeks after opening, there was such interest in ThriveCo that they had to acquire more office space.
Their second big differentiator, especially in the St. Louis market, is their commitment to cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming co-working space. Silversmith commented, “There are a lot more barriers for aspiring minority business owners in starting and sustaining a business, so we wanted to have a space that was inclusive to all, where diversity is encouraged, and where we can do our part to address some of those barriers. So we value diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences as elements that make businesses and workplaces stronger and more successful.”
Katie credits her background (social work) and that of her husband and co-founder Alex Silversmith (community development) for the third factor that sets them apart: listening. “The fact that we are listeners, trained to deeply and authentically listen to and understand the needs of members then validate those needs and partner with the member to move forward. We value feedback from our members and adapt and adjust our model to meet their changing needs.”
More than community, entrepreneurs and established business owners need access. The top three reasons business fail include lack of capital, inadequate management, and business plan and infrastructure issues. ThriveCo provides space and community, but more importantly, provides access to services like business coaching, brand development, human resources assistance, and sources of capital—both big and small. ThriveCo has partnered with and vetted a number of companies and service providers they can refer to their membership. “Vetted” being the key concept here: ThriveCo doesn't partner with other organizations until they are satisfied they are competent and reliable.
An unusual offering to members is access to capital. Capital, is of course essential to starting, sustaining, and growing a business, but some groups have historically been economically marginalized, so they don't have the connections or generational wealth to fuel their business aspirations. ThriveCo offers members access to capital as part of their “concierge services.” There are two types: one is small business loans and the other is venture capital funding and are made available by organizations in the community that have partnered with ThriveCo. (The small business loan program is not related to the federal SBA agency.) The money is not automatically given to members; there is an application and selection process, but simply having the opportunity to get funding could be life-changing for a small business owner, since funding is one of the major barriers to people being able to sustain and start a business.
In addition to providing key resources, ThriveCo offers holistic perks to help the whole person, not just the business person. Members have access to a “Work Perks Program,” which offers discounts on yoga classes, childcare, massage therapy, and bike rentals, among others.
About ThriveCo: It is located at 222 South Meramec in Clayton. The 5,004 sq. foot-space features 11 full-time individual and team private office memberships, several part-time private office memberships, dedicated desk memberships, general co-working memberships, meeting room and event space rentals, and mail services (for those who need a physical address). Per month pricing ranges from $30 for mail services and starts at $650 for full-time private office memberships—and includes parking. Offices range in size from 42 square feet to 232 square feet. Visit www.thrive-coworking.com for more information or to schedule a tour.