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Does coworking make sense for Charlotte non-profits?

The August 2017 arrival of WeWork, one of the largest coworking space companies in the world, creates an opportunity for Charlotte non-profit organizations to think about whether coworking works for them.

WeWork operates 160 offices in 50 cities worldwide, with more than 150,000 members. Its 50,000-square-foot uptown location marks the company’s first office in North Carolina.

Charlotte already offers about a dozen locally grown coworking spaces. Visibility to coworking created by WeWork may reflect a rising tide that lifts all boats.

The leader of Queen City Forward, an organization that develops and grows social entrepreneurships, says a move to one of Charlotte’s coworking spaces provides numerous benefits and resources for non-profit groups and startups. But it also requires the consideration of several questions, and access to digital resources is one of them.

“Almost every startup aspires to have a whole office one day with a big team and a lot of resources, and we look at the steps to get you there,” says Amy Chiou, executive director of Queen City Forward, which now operates from Hygge Coworking, near Bank of America Stadium. Queen City Forward previously operated in two other coworking spaces, and has researched whether it should become one itself.

“Coworking is a very attractive starting point and midpoint, depending on the growth of your company,” Chiou says. “One of the things I like about coworking spaces is that it gets you out of your home and makes you feel like you're one step further along in your growth and development. But it also has meeting spaces, reliable connectivity, and a privacy that you don't get at a coffee shop. When you want to be able to brainstorm and you need a whiteboard, that's when a coworking space makes a lot of sense.”

Most coworking spaces offer reliable wifi, meeting rooms, event spaces, kitchens, couches, comfortable chairs, and workspaces. Free parking is valuable for both members and visitors, but is not always available in uptown locations. Some spaces offer digital and technology support services. Advent Coworking, located in the Belmont neighborhood, offers two internet service providers (with one operating as a backup), flat-screen televisions that can be used as meeting displays, an on-call information technology consultant, a podcasting studio, and plans for a photo/video studio. Most coworking spaces offer printing, a communication system such as Slack, and promotion of members on social media channels. Some offer group discounts on software.

Because many developers of software, web, media, and mobile apps get started at coworking spaces, their services are often available to members at a discount, as well as support from the fundraising and development professionals, non-profit growth consultants, marketers, communicators, accountants and attorneys who may be located there.

“At Advent we work with at least 10 non-profits in some varying capacity,” says Kevin Giriunas, Advent founder. “For the most part, they leverage our event space, our conference room, or our podcasting studio to support their efforts.  We have a strong social media program and we promote their efforts through our channels and newsletters. We’re working to incorporate more structure and rigor into what we’re doing so that we can promote non-profit groups fairly.”

Most coworking spaces offer coffee, regular social events, lunchtime lectures, and educational programs. Some offer happy hours, such as Advent -- Catawba Brewing is a tenant in the same building. Beyond providing space, Giriunas says, building community is a key goal.

“We have a lot of fun stuff that our members get exposed to and can become a part of. Bicycling events in the neighborhood once a week, free yoga,” Giriunas says.“If our members have anything they want to promote, whatever it might be, an event they’re putting on or may have heard of, or something their spouse is doing, they can use our board as a way to promote it to all this community of members. Fostering a sense of community is a really big deal for us.”

Charlotte coworking spaces

Advent Coworking
933 Louise Ave., Suite 101

Alt-biz
7540 E. Independence Blvd., Suite 103

C3 Lab
2525 Distribution St.

HB5
Concord - 42 Union St.

HQ Charlotte
222 South Church Street

Hygge Coworking
Third Ward - 809 W Hill St, Suite C
West Charlotte - 2128 Remount Road, Suite B
Camp North End - 1776 Statesville Ave.

Industry Coworking
1000 Music Factory Blvd

The Launch Factory
2459 Wilkinson Blvd., Suite 310

Level Office
227 W 4th St.

Loom Coworking
118 Academy Street
Fort Mill, SC

Regus Charlotte
401 North Tryon Street
525 North Tryon Street
Tyvola (Office Suites Plus)
Piedmont Southpark

WeWork Stonewall Station
615 S. College St.