BRATTLEBORO—After nearly a year and a half of trying to find the right location — with a few false starts — Dave Evans finally has a home for his non-profit membership work space, Coworking Plus. It’s in Suite 701 of the Hooker-Dunham Building.
The business is currently in its “soft opening” phase, said Evans, but a grand opening party will take place on Friday, Dec. 2.
During the last decade, co-working has become an option for the self-employed, the telecommuter, the freelancer, the small start-up — those who can’t afford to rent an office but don’t like the isolation of working from home.
In the co-working model, members have options of renting a dedicated desk or a “hot desk,” a short-term spot where people can “get up and leave” when the day is done, said Evans. “No long-term lease, no contracts,” he said.
Some of these workers and their laptops fill tables and counters in area coffee shops, but Evans argues, “co-working is cheaper than buying coffee or food every few hours” to justify taking up space in a café.
“I don’t want to be in a coffee shop eight hours a day,” said Evans, who, in addition to founding and running Coworking Plus, is also an online marketing consultant for dating and social websites.
Plus, he said, co-working spaces offer networking, and more opportunities for collaboration and sharing. At a coffee shop, “there’s no printer, the bandwidth sucks, and people are loud."
Evans said Coworking Plus recently received a donation of desks and other office furniture from Entergy with a value of between $5,000 and $10,000 — “all I have to pay for is the cost of moving it here."
To offset the seriousness of all those staid desks and chairs, Evans said Coworking Plus seeks local artists to hang their art or suspend it from the tall ceilings.
Last year, Evans explained in an interview with The Commons that people want co-working spaces “to look cool."
“Coworking Plus is not like other office spaces,” Evans said, explaining, “there are no loudmouth sales people, no water cooler, no huge kitchen, and nobody cleaning up after you."
But, there is a blue motorcycle in Coworking Plus.
Although local computer tech consultant Steve West was recently seen astride the machine, the motorcycle is not meant for riding around the workspace. Evans got Josh Steele, co-owner of Vintage Steele, the Brattleboro-based motorcycle repair and custom-build shop, to help him roll the bike up two flights of stairs.
When asked why, Evans said, “because it’s cool and interesting and you should be prepared to sit next to a motorcycle when you work."
Coworking Plus members also get unlimited business-hour access to the space and conference room access for phone calls and chatty meetings. “We discourage people from making phone calls in the common space,” Evans said, adding, “we may build a pod” for that in the future.
Although co-working has taken off in New York City and San Francisco, where it was ostensibly created, Evans said it’s catching on in rural areas with fewer than 100,000 people.
There are “lots of support services in the state for” co-working, Evans said. He mentioned VCET, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, which offers programs and capital funding to early stage firms.
Although locating the nonprofit on the top floor of a building with no elevator makes it non-ADA-compliant — thus making it potentially inaccessible to some clients and rendering it ineligible for some government grants — Evans chose it anyway as “phase one” of Coworking Plus.
“Our goal is to get a space on the ground floor,” he said, and increasing the membership roster will help achieve that.
“I had looked at about 15 spaces around town,” said Evans, adding, “other places were too expensive.”
In addition to affordability and the downtown location, Evans said he liked the size of the room and the mountain and river views it offers from its nearly floor-to-ceiling windows.
The large office’s current one-room footprint offers no private spaces. Evans wishes for that option in the future, but for now, he considers it a social experiment: “Can we get people to work together in an open environment?”