TechTank: Why I opened a coworking space
My journey with TechTank actually started 10 years ago, when I had my first child. Having left my full-time position to “do bookkeeping on the side,” being an entrepreneur was my dream job. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, or what I was going to do as an entrepreneur, but I knew that was going to be “me” someday.
My bookkeeping business grew into a financial management firm. Over the years, I gained multiple employees, and started servicing clients nationwide in the field of construction. One thing I have found with entrepreneurship is that it is never a clearly defined position, but it always gets clearer with the grit and determination to succeed.
Most people probably think that I’m satisfied with running 24hr Bookkeeper as a nationally recognized financial firm. I have the freedom to travel as I need to, and a rockstar team that allows me to truly be in the leadership position that I always dreamed about. However, when you are an entrepreneur, there is always the need for more – more opportunity, more success, and more chances to bring something to life.
A few years ago, I searched for a space to move my company. I had been renting a commercial space, where I tried a corporate lease as my business grew. I had previous experience in rental properties, and knew that I ultimately wanted to own my own space. Because it took me a little over a year to find a building that could satisfy my needs, I started to think about all the ways to utilize the space to its fullest potential.
Why I opened a coworking space
For quite a few years, I did a lot of traveling, and had the opportunity to be inspired by some companies that had some cool spaces – many of which were coworking spaces. I was already thinking about making my new building a multi-purpose space to make additional residual income, and my ears were to the ground, always listening for ideas.
As I considered the typical office rental, it lacked the connectedness and life that many corporate cultures and coworking spaces have. This is when I started thinking about opening a coworking space myself because I loved the environment!
The coworking space for TechTank didn’t start with a huge strategic plan ready to go, but, somehow, I could visualize exactly what my coworking space was going to look like if I were to build it. The plan was very much the opposite of what normally happens with many entrepreneurs. All I could think was, “Get a building, and figure it out later!”
Deciding on a location
The beauty of owning a financial firm that works heavily on national accounts is that we’re already working with people digitally every day. That’s what makes rural America an excellent place to be located – low cost of living, great quality of life for my team, and a fantastic small town community. The community in which I operate my current financial business is in rural, Northern Minnesota. The population in Hibbing, Minn., population is approximately 16,000 people.
I wanted to stay within this community, as I had many local connections and felt this was the best place to bring the concept of coworking through TechTank. I found a building that had been empty for many years, and I waited for the price to drop. Once it did, I made an offer right away and won the deal.
Designing the space
It took me a little over a year to fully renovate the building. Because I had the time to plan further, the layout was crafted throughout the building process. In the beginning stages of the construction process, I worked on researching coworking spaces and how the world uses them. Unfortunately, since it’s a newer concept in the last 10 years, and the growth of locations has been slow, there wasn’t a lot of information available.
Because we wanted to be invested in the needs of the community TechTank was going to serve, we built some marketing hype for the renovation of our space. The beauty of a well-connected community is that everyone wants to know what you’re up to, and if you keep it a secret for the right amount of time, launching the news about what you’re doing can have great word-of-mouth.
We held a public feedback event right where people could come in and tour the building’s shell. We had only completed the demo portion, but we invited our business community to attend and provide us with answers to some burning questions.
The walls were to the studs, and it was literally a construction zone, but that’s what made it fun. We catered the event and had a cash bar. We asked the community to walk throughout the space and answer questions listed on large drywall boards, hung throughout the building. This was a great way for us to do market research and understand the amenities that were important to them. This gave me a better understanding of how they would use the space, and what I should design it to do for optimum service to our customer base.
It was a successful event, and I think a memorable one since it didn’t fit the “normal event type box.” I can still remember people sitting around folding tables with stud walls, hoping they didn’t notice they were networking in the middle of a construction project.
TechTank’s membership and services
I started understanding the pricing structure of what would be competitive to my area based on what many office space rentals in the area were charging. Much of what is available locally for office rentals did not offer internet included. This was a good price point to factor into my cost structure understanding. During our sneak peek event, we also asked guests what they would be willing to pay for this type of service, and what type of plan they would want to have to pay for use. That’s how we came up with workspace memberships and room rental rates.
We opened TechTank in September of 2019. Our building was beautiful and very inviting. The only thing we didn’t have ready was our landscaping. No pretty flowers or grass, but manicured dirt had to do the job. We held a grand opening event, where we, again, invited the community to visit the space. We let them use the space for no additional costs, allowing them to get them familiar with the amenities.
We had pricing structures in place for everything to help users be aware of what it would look like to work here, or have their larger companies hold events within our space. We offer access to multiple conference rooms, private offices, open space seating, and out of the way cubbies for quiet use, all providing fiber optic internet and 24/7 access with keyless entry.
I based our structure on membership – similar to a gym membership – and also offered tenant rentals for private office use. We moved my financial business into the space as the anchor tenant, and also rented a space to a regional SBA organization that’s aligned with our mission of supporting small business.
The future of TechTank
Helping our members succeed is what will make us succeed. We do have a lot of educational material and partnerships that we have developed to continue to offer value to those who use our coworking space. TechTank’s vision continues to evolve the use of the space, based on requests we hadn’t even thought of originally. We have plans to host many large events, foster collaborative entrepreneurship in our community, and be a resource to younger entrepreneurs as they explore the possibilities of business.
The future of TechTank will be focused on the positive! Much of 2020’s COVID-19 challenges have opened people’s eyes to what work from home can and can’t do for their business. We foresee a rise in the number of people looking for a solid community as they grow, and we are the perfect place for their business to thrive! If you want to follow our journey, you can check us out on Facebook! We have a very active community of members that love to lift each other up.