After seeing a big increase in popularity over the past couple of years, coworking companies are not planning to slow down any time soon. Despite only accounting for only 1-1.5% of the office space in the US right now, some experts go as far as forecasting huge growth – 10-30% – in the foreseeable future.
WeWork recently tried to become Manhattan’s largest office space occupier by leasing space at 1 World Trade Center but the deal didn’t go through. If it had, it would have pushed WeWork past JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the company with the largest amount of office space in that borough.
We’ve recently had the pleasure of speaking with Founder & CEO of Office Evolution – a Colorado-based national B2B franchise offering coworking spaces – Mark Hemmeter about how they plan to stay competitive in the constantly evolving field of shared coworking space.
Tell us a bit about your background and what made you want to start a coworking hub.
I was a real estate developer with three young daughters working out of my house, but as many who work from home know, it was hard to stay focused. Then, I found a small, virtual office company down the street and remained a client there for two years. The support that they offered really impressed me; I held my meetings there, they answered my phone calls, and handled my mail. I fell in love with the concept and, after a while, I left and started Office Evolution.
Being surrounded by – and serving – small business owners is what I love. Every single person who comes to us, whether as a franchisee or a client, wants to be a successful small business owner. They are brave—our heroes. That’s ultimately the reason I do what I do. We are helping thousands of entrepreneurs across the country achieve their dreams.
You have been in the coworking business for more than 15 years—how have you seen it evolve during this time?
In the past 15 years I’ve seen two main changes. First, there is general awareness and acceptance, and I want to give Regus and WeWork a lot of credit for that. Second, we are seeing a lot more specialization. Remember when there used to only be Bally’s and Gold’s Gym? Now you have Orangetheory, pilates, spinning, etc. Our industry is evolving the same way.
What makes Office Evolution stand out from other coworking networks?
Among national operators in the shared office industry, Office Evolution has a unique business model. First, its target market is small business owners in the white-collar services sector with one to five employees, like lawyers, accountants, financial planners, insurance brokers, therapists, and so on. Second, Office Evolution develops its locations in the suburbs and secondary markets, not the urban core. Third, locations are locally owned and operated via the franchise model. Fourth, the culture of Office Evolution also helps it stand out from other brands. From the corporate office staff to its franchise system, Office Evolution accommodates a group of people working together toward a common goal. I was born and raised in Honolulu, and its guiding principle of Ohana (or “family”) perfectly describes the brand’s approach to business.
Recently, WeWork tried to become the largest office space tenant in Manhattan. And although the deal fell through, what impact do you think deal activity like this could have on the entire industry?
Today the shared office space industry only accounts for 1.0% to 1.5% of all office space in the U.S. I’ve seen forecasts of 10% to 30%. There is a lot more growth ahead!
What are your plans to remain a competitive force in coworking?
We stick to our model because it works. We target micro businesses, build in suburbs and secondary markets where our members live and leverage local ownership through franchising. All of this contributes to our “OHANA” culture.