Latest Co-Working Spaces Cater To Specific Needs

By Chris Cioffi
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Co-working spaces have been around for years, offering telecommuters and entrepreneurs a place to log on to the internet and share office facilities. Now a new kind of co-working space is popping up — one that caters to specific personalities and businesses, such as manufacturing, creative ventures and technology.


Philip Freeman started Murphy’s Naturals three years ago, making mosquito-fighting incense sticks, candles and sprays at his North Raleigh home.

Like many entrepreneurs who start businesses in their homes, Freeman, 51, quickly realized he needed more space.

So he recently moved his growing company into a 25,000-square-foot warehouse at Whitaker Mill Road and Atlantic Avenue near downtown. He turned the leased building into Loading Dock, a co-working space where Murphy’s Naturals and other manufacturing-based startups make, package and ship their products.

“Graduating to that loading dock was a significant help to my business,” Freeman said of the warehouse, which features easy-access ramps.

Co-working spaces have been around for years in the Triangle, offering telecommuters and entrepreneurs who pay a monthly fee a place to log on to the internet, use fax and copy machines, work in a quiet place and share ideas with others. Now a new kind of co-working space is popping up — one that caters to specific personalities and businesses, such as manufacturing, creative ventures and technology.

“These are communities that have been asking us to carve out space for them for some time, and we just haven’t been able to do it,” said Jason Widen, a co-founder of HQ Raleigh, a co-working space that opened in 2012 and has a lengthy waiting list.

Widen said he welcomes new co-working spaces that attract specific clients. HQ Raleigh helped Loading Dock get off the ground, he said.

“We work very closely with (Loading Dock), in giving them some tips and even training one of their staff members,” Widen said.

Here are some other local co-working spaces that focus on niche interests:

At Fuquay Coworking, Virginia Johnson and James Wong wanted to create an atmosphere of a tech startup.

“We wanted to have that co-working space feel and environment, but also that fun corporate culture,” Wong said.

About 50 telecommuters and entrepreneurs, with careers ranging from sales to video game development, use the space. Fuquay Coworking members have access to a video game room and foam dart guns when they want a break from work.

“We have six video game developers — most of them work for one company — and some of them are doing their own startups on the side,” Johnson said.

The 2,500-square-foot multilevel space has already gone through two expansions since it opened in December 2014, and a third is planned for this fall.

Johnson and Wong, who operate a marketing company from the space, said working in Fuquay-Varina allows them and their members to work closer to home.

Johnson said she used to commute to Raleigh, a trip that took a lot of time. Now she can visit her son in elementary school near Fuquay Coworking.

“(Before) I could never go have lunch with him at school or go see a play,” Johnson said.

With pastel colors, bright light fixtures and big inflatable chairs, Hatch might look more like an IKEA showroom than an office.

The co-working space in downtown Wake Forest recently celebrated its grand opening. Manager Liz Johnson, who operates her real estate business out of Hatch, said she hopes to attract a community of creative entrepreneurs who don’t want to drive to Raleigh.

“We want you to feel inspired and energized,” Johnson said.

In the days before it opened, Hatch rented space to a crew from Centerline Digital in Raleigh to shoot a marketing video for IBM.

The space was appealing because it looked like a startup company’s office, said Alisha Hawkins, a senior line producer at Centerline.

“We were basically looking for a space that a developer would work in,” she said.


Wake Forest Coworking aims for a more traditional setting.

“The vibe here is more corporate, without the corporate atmosphere,” said Wake Forest Coworking member and freelance web designer Brett Geoffrey, who lives nearby.

The space allows him to work and play without leaving town, he said.

Wake Forest Coworking was started by Michael Kimsal, a web developer who was tired of working from coffee shops. He had struck out on his own after leaving a series of jobs, including one that required a lengthy commute to Research Triangle Park.

Now Kimsal keeps the space stocked with soda and coffee for his roughly 15 members.

He said he enjoys working with the group of web designers, photographers and sales representatives, without having to work for the same company. They meet every Friday to share stories about being self-employed.

Wake Forest Coworking can’t accommodate more members, and Kimsal said he plans to send new inquiries to Hatch.

“If it succeeds, it’s just validating what we’re doing here,” Kimsal said of the cross-town co-working neighbor.

Some co-working spaces wouldn’t work for everyone, he said. But more and more, there’s a space to fit every need.

“At it’s heart,” Kimsal said, “it’s just shared community space.”


When Tiffany Frye gave birth to her daughter three years ago, she found it was tough to work at home as an editorial manager for scholarly publications while also doing mom duties.

So the Durham mother sought out a co-working space that offered day care services.

“It turned out, at the time, that there was one in the whole country — in San Francisco,” Frye said.

She began operating the Nido Durham co-working space from her home, where she and a few other parents would take turns watching the children.

The concept worked so well that after six months Frye and some other mothers moved Nido into a building on Broad Street and hired a teacher to work with the kids.

Now the group has about 30 members — freelancers, graduate students and small-business owners, Frye said.

“We give people a place where their whole family is welcome,” she said.

Freeman worked for many years at a packaging company before he started Murphy’s Naturals, so he already knew about some logistics of getting products out to be sold.

He hopes Loading Dock will help other entrepreneurs who need a lot of space to expand their businesses. In addition to its office space, Loading Dock rents out warehouse space.

Along with Murphy’s Naturals employees, nearly 50 people use the space, which will be expanded by another 12,000 square feet, Freeman said.

Murphy’s Naturals products are now on the shelves of nearly 6,000 stores around the country, and Freeman expects about $3 million in sales this year.

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