Coworking has become the “it thing” in the world of startup’s right now; but as with all “it things,” there is hype and then there’s truth.
According to a recent study, there are approximately 850,000 people working out of cowork spaces globally. Despite the most common portrayal of co-work spaces being the domain of self-employed individuals or freelancing professionals, the reality is that most users work for companies in the tech industry that have fewer than 20 employees. While there are some lingering questions about whether it’s a fad or here to stay, users of cowork spaces are expected to grow to over 1 million strong within a few short years.
As co-work becomes a common practice among entrepreneurs, a new concept is beginning to emerge within the micro-business community, the Smartspace. A Smartspace is similar to cowork space in that they both generate revenue from monthly or weekly membership fees. They both also serve as venues where members can hold events. That, however, is where the similarities end.
The chief difference between a co-work space and a Smartspace can be summed up with two words: reactive and proactive. A cowork space is a reactive approach to business development. A Smartspace takes a proactive approach.
A cowork space typically follows a business model that targets individuals in the startup community. It offers shared workspace and may hold business-related events designed to be of interest to entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting their business. By comparison, a Smartspace employs a microeconomics development strategy that takes a wholistic approach in meeting the needs of small and micro business owners. A Smartspace strategically addresses the economic environment of an entire community with special emphasis on addressing the personal and professional development needs of the micro-business owners, community activists and social entrepreneurs who largely comprise its members.
A Smartspace can operate as a solo endeavor or as a partnership between multiple business entities. Both parties may be private or they may be a combination of private and public entities.
What matters most is the fact that a Smartspace is designed to be integrated into a distressed neighborhood or an area that could be identified as an empowerment or opportunity zone; i.e. a community that is underserved and experiencing economic reinvestment or is undergoing a redevelopment phase. A Smartspace can typically be set up for less than $5,000 and, from start to finish, can be operational within thirty days by using a modular operating structure.
Probably the most exciting and innovative difference of a Smartspace is that it operates using a robust network of online platforms and technologies. These online platforms are used to help promote Smartspace members’ businesses and organizations while simultaneously connecting them to resources to help grow and expand their business endeavors.
The Smartspace concept is currently being tested in Columbia, South Carolina at a community and business training hub called Uptown Rising located in North Columbia about 3 miles from the city’s center. The Smartspace operates out of a rehabbed residential house located in an area zoned for commercial and residential use. The area is currently going through an economic redevelopment phase.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about Smartspaces, visit Uptown Rising on Facebook or email [email protected].