Creating a sense of community for freelancers, solo-preneurs, or start-up businesses is nearly impossible when working from your table or local coffee shop. Co-working spaces are filling that need. Edmond’s five unique co-working spaces are creating both community and networking opportunities for business owners and remote employees.
The Collective was Oklahoma City’s first female-only working space that started in 2016. It was created for women who were at home building a business or working a side-hustle to support themselves in moving to the next level with their business.
“Co-working space allows you to have a change of scenery, for you to find focus and perspective,” said The Collective owner Mandi Briggs. “For business owners, it’s really easy to put the tough work aside because we all know building a business can be hard. What a lot of co-working spaces are offering, that I think is phenomenal for business owners, is an idea of a community.”
The philosophy of The Collective is community over competition. “We find our members lifting up each other and sharing systems and processes, instead of worrying that they may take each other’s clients,” said Briggs.
Edmond boasts five unique co-working options each offering various levels of memberships, amenities, and benefits for all types of employees and businesses.
Mon Abri’s owner Beth DeGraffenreid had been in the shared staff and working space for decades before ‘co-working space’ was a term. “In the 80s the workplace was very different for women than it is now. I was working but not finding an atmosphere that fit me, so I’m kind of a rebel spirit and I just thought if I can’t find one I’ll just make one, “said DeGraffenreid.
She created PC Executives Services, Inc. in 1989 to provide a highly professional atmosphere for the businesses that rent a space, and she takes on the office management and all the infrastructure so they can focus on their business. Her business idea came from her father who, at the time, owned a building in downtown Oklahoma City with empty offices. Rather than attempting to lease all of them out to one larger company, he contracted multiple small businesses in those spaces while providing a shared office assistant.
According to DeGraffenreid, the average life of a company is around 7.5 years, so adaptable leasing is a big priority. “We allow them a nice atmosphere with less risk and the ability to be flexible by adding and subtracting from their lease. Being able to change your mind without much downside relieves a lot of anxiety for business owners.”
Malena Putman had worked from home since 2006 until she opened The Coop work + event space in June 2020. It serves as a headquarters for her social networking group Chicks in Charge, but also for other women entrepreneurs to have a place to work, network, and host events. The community may also book the space for events in the evenings and on weekends.
“It’s a workplace, but I want The Coop to more feel like a clubhouse that they can just go to. If you just want to get away from the kids or your partner, and come to read, journal, or practice public speaking in the video room,” said Putman. “I just want it to be a place where people can focus, relax, and make good memories.”
Vault 405, powered by the Citizens Bank of Edmond, is providing entrepreneurs, startups, consultants, and small business owners all the office amenities without a long-term lease commitment or the additional costs associated with a lease. They hold networking events and seminars for members.
“Vault 405 marries a sense of community and networking with the bundled package of basic operational services you need to get your business off the ground,” said Citizens Bank of Edmond President Jill Castilla.
For health and wellness professionals, the WellOK is described as a co-working sanctuary and healing place of daily refuge that inspires creativity, reflection, and rejuvenation. Jeanna Lichtenberger, owner of WellOK Retreat & Wellness Co., created the type of place she dreamed of working in when she first began in this industry.
She believes that co-working spaces provide the best of both worlds when it comes to work – the freedom and opportunity to work when and where you want, to build relationships, and become involved in your local community at the level you desire.
“Community is my heartbeat, and I have experienced the magic that is created when passionate people gather, collaborate, and learn from one another. It is such a blessing to be able to provide this for women in Edmond,” said Lichtenberger.
The world of work has changed and will continue to morph with more businesses allowing employees to work remotely. DeGraffenreid said that businesses are finding out that remote work is possible but reminds us that remote work is not necessarily only at home. Co-working occupancy rates show that corporate workers come in second behind freelancers. There were more than 5,000 co-working spaces in the U.S. in 2019 with that number projected to increase to more than 6,200 by 2022.
“There are a lot of really smart people who live in Edmond, and many great ideas come out of this town. By offering them a space to work, we’re keeping that intellect and those people here focusing on raising their business in Edmond,” said Briggs.
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About Tina Evans
Tina Evans is a leadership coach and consultant. As a certified 5 Voices and 100X Leader guide, Tina is passionate about helping leaders build organizations where everyone is empowered to bring their best and increase overall performance. She is a former senior leader for both local and statewide organizations and owns Tina Evans Coaching, LLC. She holds degrees in psychology and public relations and is certified in nonprofit management.