Are you a work-at-home (WAH) professional in search of a place to get things done in lieu of the crowded coffee shop and isolation factor?
If you’ve fallen into an unproductive rut due to the common household distractions of dirty dishes in the sink, unfolded laundry on the bed and your cat crawling atop your keyboard, coworking could be your new and improved alternative to your WAH title.
What is Coworking?
Coworking, a working environment of self-employed professionals or those looking to share ideas and knowledge with creatives, is quickly becoming a high-demand trend. And Liane Jackson, founder and CEO of Free Range Office, is putting a fresh spin on the attraction.
Previously holding careers in law and television news, Jackson, like most startup owners, felt like something was missing.
As she was walking down the street one day, she came across a coworking space and immediately felt intrigued and inspired. She always had the aspiration of being her own boss, simultaneously wanting to be surrounded by entrepreneurs, and Free Range Office was born.
#FreeRangeOffice offers creative space for creative people. #coworking #wherewillyouworktoday #entrepreneurs pic.twitter.com/XOvLYNHmBG
— Free Range Office (@FreeRangeOffice) July 26, 2016
Five years ago there were few coworking spaces in Chicago. Shared economy ideas like Divvy, Airbnb and ZipCar were starting to gain traction in 2013, which was when Jackson’s idea officially came to life.
“Coming together for community and convenience and forming relationships with likeminded people is what I wanted to see happen,” Jackson states.
“The reality is there’s only so much you can get done at a coffee shop with the barista staring down at you wondering if you’re going to order another latte. That, and the isolation factor of being home alone all day.”
Free Ranging in Wicker Park
The industrial neighborhood space located in Wicker Park is a reflection of what Jackson envisioned for her business: a space where you feel welcome and connected, full of professionals in various fields sharing creative ideas and business knowledge with one another. It’s also equipped with a gourmet kitchen (complimentary coffee and tea, always) and cozy terrace. The 3,000-square-foot space used to be home to an heir of the Drake Hotel in the ‘90s.
Initially, Jackson wanted to build the coworking concept around childcare as well. After crunching some numbers, however, she realized it didn’t make sense financially.
“The idea sounds great,” she says. “But it’s an idea that doesn’t have enough backing from the mindset of Americans about the actual needs and costs of an idea that big.”
Speaking on behalf of both a business owner and mother of two, Jackson was candid on how real the crisis for childcare in the economy is right now.
“It’s difficult for business women because when you get off track to take care of your kid and then get back on track, you need to leave early because of childcare, and my plan for that combination didn’t work out.”
So her momentum shifted, the focus still on career-driven and entrepreneurial women, with the co-working space at the forefront.
Host your #meetingstaycation @freerangeoffice. Great rates w/ great amenities. Contact us 4 more info pic.twitter.com/PeLJhlFQ5z
— Free Range Office (@FreeRangeOffice) September 9, 2015
The broader point of what Jackson and her team are trying to accomplish is extending the reach to busy women with families to enhance their experience of coworking and give them the resources they need to have the best of both worlds. Her hope is to create a foundation to empower women, specifically provide programming for underprivileged women on how to build a business, all under the umbrella of Free Range Office.
What’s Going on at Free Range Office
For now, she is happy with the way things are going, clarifying why coworking is beneficial and why it’s proving to be a success.
“It isn’t just about going somewhere new to work,” she says. “It’s also about businesses seeking out other businesses. Whether it’s personal or professional, individuals are coming here and choosing their level of interaction with people.”
She has noticed customers utilizing this shared work space as a comfortable way of:
Meeting people for pure socialization or after work drinks
Cross pollinations of businesses, which could be someone needing a coder for their tech startup or someone finding a marketing genius for their PR firm
“The outreach we get from all sorts of constituents is pretty exciting,” she says.
“Being part of the new economic paradigm where this is the new reality for people is something I didn’t think would happen. These people are freelancing, they’re hustling, they have second jobs and it’s coming to life here.”
Planning a #Friendsgiving? Spend your #TurkeyDay w/ us! Contact us or visit http://t.co/WNkdox2eFJ to book! pic.twitter.com/H7rsplWZD4
— Free Range Office (@FreeRangeOffice) October 14, 2015
What differentiates Free Range Office from other coworking businesses? It offers in-house events for baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries, launch parties and even weddings. The space has been booked nearly every weekend, so if you are interested in holding a special occasion someplace new, don’t wait to call!
Looking to the future, Jackson plans on opening more Free Range Office locations, with the idea of adding an underprivileged women’s program to be largely part of the overarching coworking theme.
No matter what professional category you fall under, if you are an independent or remote worker, Free Range Office welcomes all seeking an alternative to the corporate cubicle or isolating home office. Or, if you are interested in celebrating your next birthday, anniversary or other life event somewhere other than the overdone bar scene, memberships and prices can be found on their website.