Image by Flickr user Repoort
Ed's note: I'll disclose that I'm neck deep in this project, so think of this as incredibly biased. I'm involved on a personal level and this is not a Digitel project.
After years of wanting it, Charleston is finally getting a spot that allows independent workers to wean the coffee shop addiction and get a performance boost.
Coworking is a concept aimed at those who work at home and need to escape the distractions of home or need a space to meet with clients, but it's also a place where those in offices can come set up shop for the day to network and be exposed to new ideas.
Wikipedia describes the concept as: "Coworking is an emerging trend for a new pattern for working. Typically work-at-home professionals or independent contractors or people who travel frequently end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space."
If you're interested in simply going and not the background, scroll down to the bottom of the story.
Here's an orientation video. It's about a facility in California, but it'll give you the idea.
I've had a little first-hand experience with coworking and have loved not fretting if I've been at the coffee shop too long, and being able to bounce questions off others who have more expertise on something than I do -- Do I need to collect sales tax on Service X? Has anyone ever hosted a site with Go Daddy? and the like.
Taking the idea further
Most coworking is a sort of 9-to-5 operation, but the vision of coworking in Charleston includes evening sessions where folks that normally wouldn't attend coworking have a chance to reap some of its benefits.
The thinking is these after hour meetups would be fixed on certain topics (examples might include: How to get a small business Web site that's ready for Google, or an idea pitch night where folks can talk about projects they're working on and get feedback, and so on.) These events are another chance to use the space to collaborate, network, and inspire.
Speaking of space
Coworking sessions are starting up at rehava's office in North Charleston. Steve deGuzman, founder of Rehava, has been good enough to offer up his space for our use on Tuesdays to get coworking under way.
And it's a great spot to start it up: A large open space with plenty of seating, power, wireless Internet, a semi-private office, and public computer workstations. And it's two doors down from Starbucks.
The location isn't half bad either: It's located on the other side of the road from the Coliseum and a stone's throw from the outlet stores (address is 5060 International Boulevard.)
Starting up at Rehava, you say?
Yes, Rehava is our temporary home while we get our space in Park Circle ready to go. We've worked with the City of North Charleston who has generously offered up use of The Meeting Place in the Old Village (1077 East Montague Avenue) on Thursdays.
As we get an idea of the interest and attendance of coworking we're hoping that it can be a seven-days-a-week affair with considerable community outreach.
Business work, but not a business
While many coworking operations are run as a business, Charleston coworking is more of a non-profit co-op. Mainly we thing that coworking will be a real asset for the Charleston community by facilitating independent and tech business growth both by those who attend and those who can utilize the services that grow out of it.
This is a vision that seems to be shared by those we have worked with to get the project going. As such, any money generated will go back into the project to cover the costs of services (read: Internet), any consumables (printer paper, etc.), and any furniture needed.
For the first meeting there is no cost, but going forward $10 donations will be requested.
The first meeting
Tuesday, January 19, will be the first meeting. The session starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. when an open meeting will be held to discuss the future of the weekly meetings and what needs to happen.
Part of that discussion will be about creating a collaborative Web site to carry the coworking conversation beyond the meetings. Presently a basic Web site has been set up (ChsCowork.org) but we'd like to carry this Drupal-powered site further.
You can follow the topic on twitter with the #chscowork tag.
I've avoided naming names for fear of excluding groups. There has been a large push to establish coworking from many members in the community. I suspect soon they'll get their due, but at this point I'll refrain for fear of causing a fuss.