Coworking seems to be a household term nowadays, especially in larger markets where coworking and shared office spaces have thrived for quite some time. But, we still get these questions and comments all of the time: “So, are you like WeWork?” or “I’m not an entrepreneur, so coworking doesn’t apply to me.” Because the flex office industry as a whole is relatively new, especially in our city of Tulsa, we thought it would be helpful to shed some light on what coworking really is, and the differences between coworking spaces and incubators.
Coworking spaces come in a myriad of styles, sizes, and identities. Coworking spaces can cater to a certain industry or demographic, such as space for women only, or specifically for freelance professionals. In general though, coworking is for everyone; whether you are an individual who has the freedom of working remotely or you are a part of a large team. While community is such a critical component to coworking spaces, members have the ability to utilize community as little or as much as they would like. You can use the resources and participate in the built-in community around you to help grow your business, or you can simply show up every day with your noise cancelling headphones and speak to no one. It is entirely up to you and how you like to work.
What really separates a shared office and a coworking space is community, and hospitality services. At the root coworking, we have private offices and shared workspace, but we are so much more than that. Our space offers all of the premium workspace you could want, along with meeting rooms, unlimited craft coffee, free member parking (a downtown Tulsa blessing), full-kitchen, beer on tap, 24/7 access, speedy and secure wifi, community events, an on-site support and hospitality team, and much more. But, the community aspect is the most important to us—fostering a space where you can work your way and feel as much or as little part of the community as you want. Our space is for any and all types of people and businesses.
Coworking spaces usually offer memberships for flat rates (amenities + utilities included) without the long-term lease commitment required by traditional office rentals. The flexibility to grow or downsize with the flip of a switch is especially attractive to businesses who may be just starting out. Unlike incubators and accelerators, coworking spaces do not provide any seed investments to their members, but they also do not take equity from you in exchange for a desk or office.
Incubators are generally for people just launching a new company or idea, and need the assistance and financial support to help get their idea off the ground. They are mostly industry-specific and can give a science backing to your idea. It’s not uncommon for incubators to have an investment arm, providing capital themselves, and requesting equity in return, as well as resources and education to help grow their member’s businesses.
Entry to incubators can be very competitive, and not all cities have them. To join an incubator, you need to apply for their program, and most have a minimum requirement of one year. Luckily, many of the benefits of belonging to an incubator can be found in coworking spaces. The other members of your space can be an incredible resource as you grow and scale your business.
So which one is right for you? It all comes down to your business needs and what you are looking for professionally. This need will obviously change over time, especially for entrepreneurs. The good news is that you can adapt as your business develops and utilize both coworking spaces and incubators.