Coworking spaces are on the rise. According to the latest Global Coworking Census, Deskwanted, released in March, more than 110,000 people currently work in one of the nearly 2,500 coworking spaces available worldwide, an increase of 83 percent and 117 percent respectively from last year. In the U.S. alone, there are now nearly 800 commercial co-working facilities, up from about 300 only two years ago.
Many of these places, explains author Anne Kreamer, became attractive to the growing numbers of entrepreneurs and freelancers by offering collaborative networks, built-in resources, and a dynamic ecosystem, fostering innovation and making starting a business simpler. These key features seem to be describing Green Spaces, one of New York City’s 20-plus coworking spaces that celebrated its fifth anniversary last week.
Green Spaces, which also has another location in Denver, Colorado, has a vision of becoming a catalyst for “values-driven communities of people who innovate, celebrate and do good.” This vision not only made Green Spaces a place where social entrepreneurs feel at home, but also transformed it into an important hub for the green business community in New York. To learn more about the journey Green Spaces went through in the last five years, I spoke with its co-founder and director, Marissa Feinberg.
TriplePundit: Congratulations on your five-year anniversary. What was your vision when you founded Green Spaces five years ago and were you able to live up to it?
Marissa Feinberg: Originally, my cofounder Jennie Nevin and I had a networking group called Green Leaders Global. Environmental leaders would get together and many collaborations would start to bubble. We thought, imagine what could happen if we all worked from the same space, every day. We begin by announcing we were starting the company with a press release to see the demand. We got inquiries right away, so we knew we needed to start the space. We found a landlord in Brooklyn who was willing to work with us on a shoestring, so we were able to take the risk of launching.
3p: What was your greatest achievement and biggest disappointment during these years?
MF: Our greatest achievement was seeing our spaces grow and fill. It’s easy to get new customers, but customers will only stay if they are happy. We learned over time how to keep becoming better at what we do, enabling us to grow. In addition, sometimes members would outgrow our space. We were thrilled for their success, but sad to lose their business.
Over time, we have found ways to engage people, regardless of whether they are at our space every day. For example, we host events with former members. We connect people with one another with curated connections. We also have sharing social media forums to keep up ties and do good together.
3p: You brand yourself as “Values-Driven Communities of People Who Innovate, Celebrate and Do Good.” Does that mean most of the people coming to Green Spaces are social entrepreneurs?
MF: The majority of members at Green Spaces are social entrepreneurs. However, it becomes harder and harder to define what that means as cross-sector collaboration grows. In addition, we also have members who do not work directly in social entrepreneurship, but they like working from a place where they can compost their lunch. They want to be in a community that has values in mind.
3p: Are there any ventures that were created in Green Spaces over the years that you’re especially proud of?
MF: Too many to count! Most recently, Green Spaces helped Carpooling.com gain traction in the U.S. market. Carpooling.com sent Odile Beniflah to head their U.S. communications outreach. She gained a great deal by coming to our events and meeting key media. As a result of the positive work she did, Carpooling.com raised $10 million. We are very proud.
3p: Looking forward, are you planning to strengthen your “green” identity? If so, how do you plan to do it?
MF: It would be amazing for green to be mainstream! I’ve done extensive market research on what leaders like Jeffrey Hollender, Jacquie Ottman, Joel Makower and OgilvyEarth, among many others, are doing in this space. I think our Green Spaces Events brand has great potential. People love coming to a place where they have fun, feel welcome, and are shown that green events are to be celebrated. Whether we host a networking event or any other type of party, we use Susty Party products and sustainable practices that show everyone how to have eco-friendly fun.
3p: Finally, how did you celebrate your fifth anniversary?
MF: In honor of our five-year anniversary, we announced we are launching our “New Innovator Matching Challenge.”
For the next 30 days, for every new person that joins Green Spaces, our company will match their membership by giving a membership to a “new innovator.” To qualify, “new innovators” must be pre-revenue, have a solid business plan, and must have finished an undergraduate or graduate degree program within the past five years. Social innovation is growing exponentially. It’s difficult to keep up with the number of new social ventures, and we want to support them as best we can. To apply for a “New Innovator Seat”, people can visit http://greenspaceshome.com/apply/.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the Parsons The New School for Design, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.