Being out in the Bay Area this week for work, I decided early on that I wanted to take advantage of Friday (when ~3/4 of my team works from home anyway) and try to put in some hours at a coworking location in San Francisco. As chronicled here, I and some others have been exploring the idea of starting a coworking space in Columbus, so I really wanted to ask some questions and see a functioning space.
Originally, I'd planned on visiting Citizen Space but—the morning of—I couldn't get anyone on the house phone there. Fortunately, however, Roman at Sandbox Suites picked up on the first ring! So... a visit to Sandbox Suites instead.
My friend Bradley drove me down around Noon, and we caught some non-interesting-but-at-least-nourishing Indian buffet nearby before parting ways. Afterward, I dropped in at Sandbox, and met this guy…
Roman Gelfer is the co-founder of Sandbox Suites (with his fiancée Sasha, who was not there when I visited.) Roman was kind enough to show me around, then sit with me for awhile and answer some questions about the space and the early-stage planning and decisions that went into it.
Sandbox has only been open for several weeks so—right now—the space feels a little underutilized. But, of course, this'll change as word gets out: Roman and Sasha have built a fantastic, flexible space in a nicely-accessible location. It's an easy walk from the Civic Center BART station, and street-parking is actually not that bad in the area. (I know, I know—I thought it was bad everywhere in SF, too.)
The space is rather large ( > 4,000sq.ft, I think Roman said.) More than double what we've been talking about for a Columbus space. But all of that extra room affords some nice amenities: particularly, I'm thinking about the 3 comfortably-sized conference rooms. Roman said that conference-room fees have, so far, been one of the biggest (read: most lucrative) surprises since they've opened. They already have several standing clients who are renting rooms for whole-day or multi-hour blocks of time. So… note to us, as we begin our space explorations: don't underestimate conference room needs. I know I'd been thinking about one conference room—now I wonder… is that enough?
The flip side of that advice is: don't overestimate the number of daily/'drop in' clients you'll see—at least not early on. In fact, my $20 for a half-day of coworking made me, according to Roman, their first drop-in! (This is something of an honor for me—I really admire what they're doing at Sandbox Suites, and now I can boast that I was there when it all started. ;-)
Other tidbits: they did a 2-week 'beta cycle' with 4 members, when the space still wasn't completely finished. That seems like a good idea—it helped them iron out some simple operational kinks that they might not've otherwise caught. (And 2 of those beta members have gone on to become paying fulltimers...)
Also, Roman said that—though it was sheer luck and not really a requirement going in—he feels really fortunate that Sandbox has a storefront presence on 10th street (and isn't buried further back in some office building.) That it really helps the visibility and identity of the space. I have to agree—I was very pleasantly surprised to spot it easily from Bradley's car as we looked for parking. Plus, it's really nice to be able to see the street that well from inside (check out the view from the second-floor conference room.)
Being at street-level with a storefront really makes Sandbox Suites more connected to the surrounding community, and—hey—that's a large part of what I'd want from a Columbus coworking site.
Finally, there's a lot to be said for the dual-level layout of the space, and the flexibility that it affords. For example, during evening events on the ground floor, they can ask members to move their work upstairs, allowing them to honor their 24/7 access commitment. (That full access is only for certain, higher-tier members, btw, and is provided by biometric 'fingerprint' locks on the doors.)
I also put in a couple hours of work at the Suites. And… I gotta say… it's a great environment to get things done! Here's what I had to work with:
And, of course, access to whatever amenities I might've needed: printing, bathroom, snacks and coffee, etc. The desk I used was in was a row of desks downstairs that are flexible use. (The slightly nicer desks upstairs are available too, I believe, but they can be reserved for paying regular members.) There was only one other person working downstairs with me. We chatted a bit, but it was really hard to hear him—the building ventilation cycled on right as I introduced myself. Dude if you see this: I'm not an idiot! (I just play one on TV.)
I had some fairly mundane busywork to get done that afternoon (capturing use-cases on a Twiki) so I popped in the headphones, listened to some Crooked Fingers, and got it done! Thanks, Sandbox Suites, for opening your arms to me. I'll definitely avail myself of your services again.
See all my pictures from Sandbox Suites here…