OfficeXpats, the cooperative work space upstairs in The Pavilion, is celebrating its first anniversary this Friday with a big party. Leslie Schneider and Jason Omens, co-owners and life partners, have plenty to be happy about: taking an innovative concept—shared space and resources—and staying solvent in a challenging economy through creative strategies, steadily growing the membership through new options and customer satisfaction, and achieving islandwide recognition due to rigorous support of and partnership with creative and cooperative ventures of all stripes. Schneider is excited about the fact that the OfficeXpats (OXP) membership level is at just about 100 members now, a nice round number coinciding with the anniversary.
The X Factor in OXP
Essentially, OXP gives members support and tools for growing and maintaining their own businesses and ventures. Members have ready access to desks, high-speed Wi-Fi, wireless printing, video-enabled meeting rooms, fresh coffee, the ability to reserve meeting rooms online, drop-in printing/scanning/fax, PC tech support, a discount at the Pavilion gym, and meeting rooms with executive chairs, large-screen TVs, high-resolution cameras for easy-to-set-up video conferencing, white boards, and connectors for PC and Mac, including VGA and HDMI. And members get their profiles on the OfficeXpats website and on a large-screen TV in the reception area and in the Pavilion atrium.
But what OXP brings to the table is much greater than the table itself. Leif Utne, the VP of sales for a software company in Minnesota who works remotely, says, “Coworking is about more than renting a desk. It’s about creating a community space that fosters collaboration among professionals. There’s a kind of accelerated serendipity that happens in coworking spaces everywhere. People come in, look around the room, and find others with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to collaborate on projects and get work done better and faster. OfficeXpats is no different. We’ve got programmers, graphic designers, writers, marketers, financial experts, nonprofit managers, an HR consultant, a personal trainer, an EPA administrator, furniture designers, an archaeologist. When you mix that kind of diversity together in a common workspace, magic happens. That’s how projects like Ignite Bainbridge, Accelerate Kitsap, the West Sound Time Bank and the Agate Pass Exchange were born. All because OfficeXpats created the space for them to happen.”
Member Izzy Sanchez, founder of Integrated Healing and Strength Systems, says that for him part of the appeal is “accountability. I know I’m making an investment and I want to get the best out of my investment.” He also appreciates “the non-linear aspect of the tremendous energy of all these entrepreneurs congregated under one roof, busy creating, and their energy and focus are contagious.”
Member Alex Sanso, co-founder of Artopia Creative, sees the benefits to networking with those energetic entrepreneurs: “Over time, getting to know both the regular members of OXP as well as people who participate in workshops, has made me feel like a part of something bigger than just working by myself in my home. People have gotten to know me and the work I do, and have come to me as someone they trust in my area of expertise. I have even gotten a couple of projects from folks I’ve met through OXP.”
There are a number of ways to network and meet people through OXP’s programming:
- Monday morning (9:30-10:00 a.m.) coworker checkins to set work goals for the week.
- Tuesday Business Skills workshops. October’s theme is “free and cheap business tools” to download from the Internet.
- Drop-in social media mentoring on Tuesdays.
- Drop-in tech support for PCs on Tuesdays.
- Thursday happy hour.
- Bainbridge Business Connections, a meeting of local business owners, Fridays at 7:30 a.m.
- The meetings of successful and influential organizations, such as West Sound Time Bank, Agate Pass Exchange, Ignite Bainbridge, and Accelerate Kitsap, that got their start at OXP.
Sanso said about Ignite Bainbridge that it “was a great example of just the right group of people coming together at the right time and saying, ‘Hey, what if we did this?’ It felt very organic the way it came together, starting tentatively and developing into a great community event. I don’t think something like that could’ve happened in a ‘traditional’ office setting and most definitely not in a home office.”
The intangible benefits Sanso referred to have drawn many members to OXP and kept them coming back. But the intangible benefits have also been key to generating some very concrete products. Paula Willems, a happy OXP member and human resources consultant, said how much of a difference OXP has made in her life, mentioning as just one example that, as a result of a brainstorming session she had with Schneider and Omens, she’s come up with a new business name (Sound HR Services). And, she added, she now has a website that she was able to get up and running thanks to help from some of her OXP coworkers.
OXP offers various membership options to meet the varied needs of potential users:
- Café 10 (10 hours of coworking) for $45.
- Café 20 (20 hours of coworking) for $85.
- Passport (Pay as You Go) for $15 (soon to be $25).
- Office Hours (Once a Week) for $88.
- Flexwork (Three Times a Week) for $230.
- Resident (All Week Days) for $320.
Member Tammy Deets, of Community Energy Solutions and Go Solar Bainbridge, likes the flexibility of the plans. She said, “It is easy to find one that matches our need, and we can change our plan from time to time according to our need.” She also appreciates being able to use the meeting rooms at OXP, which can afford crucial privacy.
Schneider and Owens are planning on sharing the love with fans and supporters. This month they are offering free after-hours for Resident members, as long as the sign up or upgrade happens in September, giving participants access to all events that happen after hours at no extra charge.
In addition, although they are raising the cost of the bottom level of membership, the Passport, from $15 to $25 per month, they’re adding a full prepaid day of coworking each month to that membership level.
You are invited! The celebration party on Friday, September 28th, is open to the entire community. Starting at 6:30, you can enjoy drinks, skewers, and salads and check out the organizations and ideas engendered at OXP in the last year. At 7:30, enjoy a performance from The Edge Improv. Then listen to 5-minute stories about coworking and the future of employment and entrepreneurship. Jill Bamburg, Curriculum Director at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, will speak.
A new art exhibit will debut at the party. It features local photography curated by Steve Wilson, a renowned photojournalist who has worked for National Geographic and Life Magazine.
Register in advance for the party at http://officexpats.eventbrite.com. OfficeXpats is located at 403 Madison Ave N, Ste. 240.
Photos by Julie Hall and Will Clayton.