Shared work spaces grow in popularity

Copy writer Alex Altman, left, talks with Jacob Zuppke, managing partner of Traffic Digital Agency in Royal Oak. The company started co-work space using 10,000 square feet of space in two buildings.
  • Coworking offers amenities of office without high cost.
  • Social connections key component for some shared-space fans.
  • Report estimates coworking increased 83%25 worldwide last year.
  • DETROIT — For years, Rob Cousineau and his partners operated their video editing company, Get Super Rad, from their homes. Earlier this year, they decided a more grown-up place was in order and moved to Venture Park, a shared working space in Royal Oak.

    They wanted the benefits and amenities of an office without the high cost — or long-term commitment — so they could work around other young, creative entrepreneurs.

    The coworking space, which was a hotel years ago, offers a variety of options, from small enclosed offices with lofts to what looks like a table at a coffee shop. In fact, in one large room, Venture Park is building a coffee bar to create a social atmosphere.

    “You ever talk to people who are so excited about what they are doing it inspires you?” Cousineau, 30, asked. “That’s what it’s like to work at Venture Park.”.

    The trend of coworking — putting several, small independent companies and professionals under the same roof — has been growing in the past five years. It has been driven largely by technology, enterprising 20-somethings and, in Michigan, workers who started small businesses or started to freelance after being downsized.

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    Deskmag, an online magazine about coworking, publishes an annual Global Coworking Survey that estimated there are more than 110,000 people working in nearly 2,500 spaces worldwide, an increase of 83% from last year.

    “In some ways this is a trend of going back to the workplace,” said Margaret Williams, the interim dean of Wayne State University’s School of Business Administration. “A lot of it is driven by the millennial generation and their affinity for social connections.”.

    Coworking allows entrepreneurs who might otherwise toil alone at home — or set up temporary digs at a coffee shop table — to have a permanent business address, access to a conference room and also to socialize with office mates.

    “Coworking is all about bringing flexibility to an office, and that appeals to entrepreneurs,” said Derek Turner, director of business development at Grand Circus in Detroit. Grand Circus, which opened this year, offers about 40 offices on a daily, weekly and monthly rate. “They don’t always know where their company will be in two years.”.

    At the same time, coworking helps separate personal and professional spaces, said Todd Luhtanen, the founder of Metro Work Spaces in Livonia. One entrepreneur, he said, even opened an office there at his wife’s request. Luhtenan said an office lends a small business gravitas and credibility.

    “You do not want to bring someone into your basement, den or living room for a meeting,” he said.

    Jacob Zuppke, a managing partner of Venture Park, said he and his partners stumbled on the space they are developing now when seeking offices for his digital marketing agency, Traffic Digital Agency. The spaces rent on a month-to-month basis with utilities, and amenities such as hot coffee are included.

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    Venture Park also offers professional services, such as access to attorneys, at a discounted rate.

    Still, Cousineau said, even though they moved into an office, they didn’t want it to feel like one. To keep it fun, they hung a stuffed wild boar head wearing a cap on the wall, and they’ve covered the shelves with action figures and other toys from their youth.

    “It’s good to be surrounded by forward-thinking people,” he said. “It makes work fun.”.

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