When Aaron Gailmor moved from New York to New Orleans to be with his fiancée in 2015, he relocated his company headquarters, too. At first, Gailmor ran SuperEats, a plant-based, gluten-free snack company, from his apartment. But working from home proved stifling—both socially and professionally.
“I was getting cabin fever; I needed some interaction,” Gailmor said. “And we were trying to expand, so we needed to bring more people in.”
Gailmor found his solution at Launch Pad, a co-working business that rents office space to entrepreneurs, telecommuters, freelancers, small-business owners and anyone else in need of a desk and Wi-Fi. For Gailmor, the infrastructure co-working spaces offer is useful — and the social capital is invaluable.
“It’s amazing how many people I’ve been working with, that I know purely through (co-working),” Gailmor said. “A production company I met here is filming a brand video for SuperEats. I’ve done a bunch of focus groups here. I needed business insurance, so I shot an email out to the (Launch Pad) group and immediately had five responses.”
Co-working spaces function much like gyms: Members pay a monthly fee to access the building, coming and going as they please. But instead of free weights and treadmills, co-working spaces boast desks, conference rooms, printers and coffee makers (and often, kegerators too).
Software engineer Brad Neuberg coined the term “co-working” in 2005. Since then, the number of co-working spaces worldwide has skyrocketed, going from 14 in 2005 to 14,411 in 2017, according to a 2017 report by Small Business Labs.
The business model is booming in New Orleans, where co-working spaces inhabit neighborhoods ranging from Bywater to the Garden District and from Mid-City to the CBD. Since opening in 2009, Launch Pad has doubled its footprint (going from 11,000 to 22,000 square feet) and expanded to include locations in Newark, New Jersey, and Nashville, Tennessee.
A few factors are driving that growth. For one, New Orleans has become a hub for entrepreneurs, thanks to The Idea Village, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, Collision Conference and other events and organizations that help small businesses.
“Especially in a city like New Orleans, where there’s so much entrepreneurship per capita, there’s a need for a flexible environment that eliminates overhead costs,” said Megan McNeill, marketing director at The Shop, a co-working space in the Contemporary Arts Center. At The Shop, memberships start at just $325 a month.
Riding out difficulties
People who are traditionally employed are also gravitating toward co-working spaces as more employers offer telecommuting. For these workers, location becomes a choice, not a company mandate.
“There are a lot more people with the option to work remotely,” said Erin Allen, who handles branding and design at The Warehouse, a co-working space in Bywater. At the former cotton pickery, memberships begin at $175 a month. “Especially in New Orleans, there are difficulties (procuring) long-term, professional employment. Some ways to work around that are to work for yourself or to work for a company based in another city.”
But co-working isn’t just for digital nomads and tech startups. Everyone from construction companies to event planners has set up shop in local co-working spaces.
A subcommittee on LaToya Cantrell’s mayoral transition team holds meetings in Propeller Incubator’s conference rooms. “We have a lawyer, accountants — all sorts of people who may be outside the traditional conception of who would use (a co-working) space,” said Catherine Gans, marketing and communications manager at Propeller, a for-profit co-working space with nonprofit entrepreneurship programs in Mid-City. The former tire and rim shop has a spacious redesign and attracts businesses with an environmental or social focus.
For attorney Abid Hussain, the decision to rent a co-working space rather than lease his own office was “beyond a no-brainer.” At Launch Pad, he shares a light-filled, midcentury modern common area and kitchen with 120 members. There’s local beer on tap and freshly ground Coast Roast beans in the coffee maker. Hussain’s membership level affords him 24/7 access, mail services, a conference room and a private, fixed office space, for which he pays $900 a month. By sharing the office with two other lawyers, he slashes this monthly expense.
“My cost is $300 a month,” Hussain said. “If I’m an attorney with a $1,000 office and a $2,000 receptionist, I have to pass that off to my client. … I give the same services as a midsized law firm, but in a cost-effective way for clients. And the vibe here is as non-law firm as it gets.”
Be of good cheer
Members of co-working spaces often mention the positive, collaborative nature of their work environment. The amenities and physical beauty of the buildings contribute to that upbeat office culture, but members provide most of the good cheer — which isn’t hard. They’re at work not because it’s Monday morning, but because they chose to be there.
“Imagine a workspace with no office politics,” said Steve Nutting, co-owner of The Warehouse. “Everyone’s happy to see each other. And if someone came in grumbling about being at work, we’d be like, ‘ Why aren’t you at home napping?’ Everyone in the space wants to be here, and that’s very refreshing.”
Here are some local co-working spaces and the amenities they offer.
Beta (800 Common St., Suite 220, http://betaneworleans.com)
Sleek, colorful and minimalist in design, this co-working space in the Maritime building offers individual workstations and private offices. On the ground floor, Merchant Cafe provides sustenance, and on the rooftop, a pool provides relaxation. Day passes are $45; memberships start at $495 a month.
The Blue House (1700 S. Rampart St., http://thebluehousenola.com)
Thanks to its plants, frequent potlucks, sunlight, library, porch and courtyard, The Blue House feels intimate and homey. Co-founder Aron Chang calls it “a community of civic-minded people,” some of whom offer their services pro bono to underserved communities. Day passes are $20; memberships start at $60 a month.
Landing Zone (625 Celeste St., http://lznola.com)
Marine veteran Robert Armbruster launched Landing Zone, a co-working space housed in a former candle factory, in conjunction with VetLaunch. Both organizations help veterans transition to civilian life. Anyone is welcome to join Landing Zone, and members also get access to its adjacent gym, Cypress Fitness. Day passes are $25, and memberships start at $200 a month.
Icehouse (2803 St. Philip St., http://icehousenola.com)
Sunlit and industrial-chic, this 12,000-square-foot co-working space gets its name from the warehouse’s former function: an icehouse. No day passes; memberships start at $500 a month.
Launch Pad (400 Poydras St., Suite 900, https://lp.co)
This dog-friendly, 22,000-square-foot workspace offers communal workspaces, standing desks and private offices, most with sweeping, urban views of the CBD. Day passes are $20; memberships start at $250 a month.
Propeller Incubator (4035 Washington Ave., http://gopropeller.org/incubator)
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple architecture firm transformed this former tire and rim shop into an airy, multipurpose co-working and event space. Thanks to Propeller’s nonprofit arm, most businesses operating from the space have a social or environmental focus. Day passes are $20; memberships start at $100 a month.
The Shop (900 Camp St., https://theshopcac.com)
Warm, art-hung and modern, The Shop is perched on the Contemporary Art Center’s third floor. In addition to a staffed reception desk, special programming, discounted benefits and beer on tap, members get access to the museum. Day passes are $35, and memberships start at $325 a month.
The Warehouse (3014 Dauphine St., http://workatthewarehouse.com)
The Warehouse opened in 2015 in a former cotton pickery. It features a soaring, atriumlike space with salvaged wood tables, as well as a breezy rooftop deck. Day passes are $24; memberships start at $175 a month.
WorkSpace at Myrtle Banks (1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., https://www.myrtlebanks.com)
This 100-year-old former school building houses both conventional offices and co-working spaces. A conference room, kitchen, free parking and 24/7 access are among the amenities, and WorkSpace’s location above the Dryades Public Market means groceries and hot meals are only a floor away. No day passes; membership starts at $300 a month.