Working at home provides a great deal of freedom, but it comes with isolation.
That’s not good for the creative process, according to Don Miller.
“I loved working from home. It’s great. I still occasionally do it, but at the same time it’s a huge void,” said Mr. Miller, a software consultant from Sylvania. “You need to be around like-minded people.”
Finding those people can be difficult for consultants, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and others whose options are mostly limited to working out of a home office or spending hours nursing lattes at a local coffee shop.
That’s why Mr. Miller is so enthusiastic about the idea of co-working spaces. Last year, he joined up with Gene Powell and Jamie Wright to launch Seed Coworking in downtown Toledo’s Warehouse District.
The idea is to provide those without an office — or those who want another workspace that gives them more freedom and flexibility than their traditional office — a place where they can work among like-minded people.
Seed, at 25 S. St. Clair St., provides a desk, wireless Internet, conferencing rooms, and a handful of other amenities. Participation is membership-based, with four levels based on need, ranging from $25 a month to $175 a month. The lowest level gets members a desk one day a month. The highest provides 24/7 access to the building and a permanent desk spot.
Seed opened last May and currently has a little more than 30 members. The owners say that’s enough to sustain the space, though it isn't making a profit.
But they say that’s OK.
“As long as we’re breaking even, we’re content with that,” Mr. Powell said. “We didn't get into this to make millions. It’s not what it’s about. It’s feeding our other businesses. It’s feeding the businesses and talent that’s here.”
Co-working spaces are perhaps most popular in tech-heavy areas. They tend to draw Web developers, designers, software engineers, and their ilk. The nearest co-working groups to Toledo, Seed’s founders say, are in Ann Arbor. But Mr. Powell said one of Toledo’s best-kept secrets is the significant tech and development community here.
“It’s surprisingly large,” he said. “What was neat to see over the last year or so is these people not only discovering Seed and seeing this as an available place for them to be, but discovering each other.”
And that gets back to the root — pardon the inevitable pun — of Seed. The organization is about much more than just leasing office space.
“We’re not really running a building or office, we’re trying to grow a community,” Mr. Wright said.
The group hosts monthly Lunch n’ Learn events in which they invite speakers from different disciplines around the area. Those events are open to the public, but the group is looking to expand what it has for its membership as well.
“We have the members. But we want more involvement. That’s really the key,” Mr. Wright said.
Most of Seed’s initial members came from circles the founders already operated in, but they say it has started to branch out. Among the membership now are a writer who comes in to hammer away at her novel and an intellectual property attorney.
Co-working spaces first popped up in California in the early 2000s. Since then, it has spread considerably. Seed’s founders estimate the number of co-working groups have doubled in the last two years, and they expect the rapid growth to continue.
“In the U.S. since 2008 we've gone from being a W-2 society to being a 1099 society,” Mr. Powell said. “There are just endless streams of independent contractors floating around. They've been downsized, sometimes by choice because they saw the writing on the wall and saw an opportunity.”
And they all need a place to work.
Right now Seed has about 2,100 square feet of usable space. The owners say if need dictates, they can add several hundred square feet in their current space, which is next to the Art Supply Depot. They see themselves as contributing to the rebirth of downtown, and hope that what they offer could do a small part to stem the tide of the brain drain from Toledo.
“We view Seed as one more thing that maybe encourages somebody to stay in Toledo," Mr. Powell said. "The more of those people we get, the better.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: 419-724-6134 or firstname.lastname@example.org