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Shared work space boosts productivity, innovation

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Architect Alison Miller uses the Leavenworth Community Workspace almost 40 hours a week.

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LEAVENWORTH — Matt and Chelsey Bowen are busy folks. He’s a “freelance creative” who manages an idea and marketing firm. She’s a teacher. They just built their own house. Together they run a rental company for outdoor party games.

And did we mention the baby? On the day of this interview, Matt glanced at the time and said he had to go. Pronto. “Chelsey just called and could be going into labor,” he smiled. “The baby could be on the way.”

Until that moment, Matt was deep into explaining the birth and growth of the Bowens’ “other baby” — the Leavenworth Community Workspace, a 4,000-square-foot, members-only co-working space for solo entrepreneurs, start-up owners, telecommuting employees or anyone who wants lightning-fast WiFi, fresh-brewed coffee and a pleasant place to get creative.

It’s like an Internet cafe that we’ve taken to the next level,” said 35-year-old Matt. “It’s for people who occasionally — or frequently, for that matter — need a quiet, comfortable, professional space to work, meet with clients, hold a meeting, attend a webinar, maybe even socialize with fellow business folks.”

In other words, said Matt, the 2-year-old Workspace offers “an environment that helps a special kind of business person do his or her work. It’s not for everybody, but we’re finding out it’s the perfect set-up for a lot of professionals in a lot of different types of work situations.”

Take Morgan Fraser, for instance. She lives in isolated Lake Wenatchee and runs a one-person consulting and marketing business called Dream Maker Digital Marketing. She specializes in search engine optimization for a string of clients, but also provides career tools that “dreamers” need to achieve their dreams. She’s lived around the world, written cookbooks, taught Spanish.

This place has doubled my productivity,” said Fraser. “When I want to really buckle down and get something done, I come here. I leave behind all the demands of home — the laundry, the dishes, the cat — and drive here two, maybe three times a week.”

Fraser set up her laptop that day in a sunny window where she had a view of Leavenworth’s Bavarian-themed architecture and strolling tourists. In an hour, she’d meet a Spanish student for that week’s lesson. “I can focus here,” said Fraser, “ For me, this place is conducive to innovation.”

It was that need for “professional space” that spurred the Bowens and friends — all working from home or in local coffee shops — to craft the plan for a Community Workspace. “We could all work separately at a cafe, but there wasn’t a quiet place for three or four of us to work together,” he said.

The Leavenworth Community Workspace took shape under the ownership of the Bowens. They found an upstairs commercial space large enough to accommodate up to 20 solo entrepreneurs, a half-dozen permanent desks, a “lounge” with sofas and easy chairs, work tables for groups and a high-tech conference and event area with an electronic whiteboard.

And, of course, the place had to have fiber optic connections, video conferencing, excellent coffee, reasonable prices and 24-hour access.

It all came together because we needed it to come together,” said Matt. “We needed a space like this to do our best work.”

The Bowens moved six years ago from Bellingham to the upper Wenatchee Valley for the outdoor opportunities and, said Matt, “the amazing community.” Matt handled marketing for a local brewery, while Chelsey worked at a pre-school and daycare center.  Last year, Matt opened Rootstone Creative, parent company to the Bowens’ businesses and other creative efforts, and Chelsey was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Vale Elementary School in Cashmere. Together, they created Leisure Games, a rental company for outdoor party games such as Giant Jenga, Ladderball and Tether Toss.

Now, said Matt, the Workspace has evolved into more than a hub for solo workers. It’s also become a venue where local businesses give presentations and hold meetings. In January, the Workspace launched a Small Business Development Series with a session on tax tips. On Monday, a week of social media training workshops will kick off.

A co-working space also has beneficial environmental impacts, he added. Multiple workers sharing a space conserves energy and resources. “And because we’re centrally located, I’m seeing a lot of our members walking or biking here,” he said.

But best of all, said Matt, a room of 10 or 12 people working in one room — each one absorbed in their own project — creates a low-level energy that can boost creativity and speed work. “Clients tell us this is a good place to get a lot of work done,” he said.

As for the Bowens’ latest project — their first child — Matt’s rush that day to be present at the birth was a false alarm. At last report (on Friday), the couple was still waiting for the baby’s arrival. “It’s my most important ongoing project,” laughed Matt. 

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

irwin@wenatcheeworld.com

 

Leavenworth Community Workspace

What: A members-only shared space for entrepreneurs and “teleworkers” needing a professional office environment or an event venue.

Who: Owners Matt and Chelsey Bowen

Where: 217 Eighth St., Leavenworth.

When: Member access 24 hours a day.

Info: Visit rootstonecreative.com and on Facebook.

 

 

What’s it cost?

The Leavenworth Community Workspace offers memberships that include free WiFi, free coffee and tea, free access to special events and shared use of onsite tech. 

Memberships range in price from $50 for five visits per month to $250 per month for full-time desk space. 

Visit rootstonecreative.com/memberships for an application form. 

 

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.