Coworking Powered by Women in Lexington
Coworking is a growing trend in Columbia, SC as we continue shifting into the so called “gig economy” and increasing numbers of remote workers and entrepreneurs flock into the Capital City. From membership-based options to the spaces you can reserve free of charge at the library, from apartment complexes that flaunt conference rooms to coffeeshops where professionals gather for a fix of caffeine and a wifi hookup, coworking options are in high demand.
As a small business entrepreneur, I am constantly on the lookout for a nice big table, a power plug and proximity to other humans to converse with when I need a break from work. CoCreate Lexington caught my attention - they are a unicorn among competitors: female-centric and highly creative in their approach to designing spaces for work, play and communication. After hearing about Kiri Rawson’s business, I decided to get a tour of the space and interview her about her company.
It took me less than 20 minutes to get to CoCreate from Downtown Columbia. When I walked in, I found myself in a beautiful, spacious, friendly, bright space. What caught my attention first was a large image of a female character printed onto the wall, sitting cross-legged with a laptop, pencils sticking out of her hair bun. I asked Kiri about it, and she told me that this is Lily, CoCreate’s avatar. “We make sure all our members understand how important it is to create a target customer avatar for your business to know exactly who you are trying to sell your products or services to,” she explained, “my sister has long thick hair that she wears in a bun and she always sticks pencils in it - so that’s why Lily has pencils in her hair!”
I was eager to start the tour and ask all of my questions. We began with going back to what inspired Kiri to launch CoCreate. Kiri told me that her sister - who owns Lexington Mommy - played an important role in helping her come up with the idea and has been involved in every step along the way. “I was a stay at home mom, and owned a business… Or two… Or three!” she laughs, “and it was bad for me! The isolation was bad for my mental health, it was bad for my work-life balance - it was just NOT a good situation.” She decided to seek a more traditional form of earning income: went back to school and became a special ed teacher. However, that didn’t last more than three years. Kiri stepped back from teaching and was trying to decide what to do next when she came across the idea of co-working. “I absolutely fell in love with the idea,” she told me, “because I KNEW that was something I needed all these years ago. My sister is a stay-at-home mom, and she got an office above her child’s gymnastics place; she was definitely benefitting from getting out of the house, but she didn’t really need a big office of her own! And still, while she was in the office, she was all by herself - but at least she could get out of the house to do her work.”
Kiri and her sister began brainstorming the idea of creating a coworking space. They knew of the existing options in Downtown Columbia, but as many of other moms who live in Lexington, the idea of driving to and from central Columbia to do their work was not very appealing to them. “We asked some other women what they would want… and we CoCreated!” Kiri told me.
“We are mostly female,” Kiri explained, “we are not exclusively female, but we do cater to women.” As we stood in the front area of the space, I noticed a collection of square canvasses on the wall to my left. They were all painted in bright colors, and each had a name on it as well. “All of our members create a board with their names,” Kiri said, “part time, full time, private members - each makes a board with a simple background and their name”.
Next, my attention gravitated towards the blackboard on the bottom of the front desk facing us - divided in two halves, it featured members-only and public event schedules, both quite packed with educational opportunities. From marketing to speed networking to creating vision boards, it looked like CoCreate was serious about giving their MOMpreneurs a competitive edge when it came to running a business! I asked Kiri if education was part of the strategy. “There definitely is a strong educational component to having a membership with us,” she confirmed, “and when it comes to selecting the educators, the first place we always look is among our members! We lean on our members to guide each other. We do occasionally bring experts from outside, as our events are dictated by what our members NEED.” The public events are open to non-members and are a great way for you to check out CoCreate if you are want to see if the space is a good for you - you can find the schedule HERE and on CoCreate’s WEBSITE!
As we began our tour, Kiri explained that part-time and full-time members usually come in, pick a desk, and get to work. Additionally, one can reserve a dedicated desk that allows them to leave their work items at that desk overnight and not have to carry their portable office back and forth from home. “Some people have their go-to spot, and some people change where they sit all the time!” said Kiri, “and we also have a stand-up desk.”
She showed me the classroom which accommodates about 25 people - with tables, chairs, TV, projector and a whiteboard - available for rent by members and nonmembers.
The kitchen features a toaster oven, a microwave oven, free coffee, tea and water, a fridge and a lot of storage space. Each member gets a mug with their name on it. Additionally, the kitchen serves as the workroom with office supplies and craft materials available for use to all members.
CoCreate currently has 8 private offices. Kiri told me that while most members do not need a private office, for some privacy is a MUST (whether it’s because they are dealing with confidential information, are on the phone all day, or have clients coming in for consultations or therapy). She said that these fill up quickly and the pricing is based on a custom quote.
To give me an idea about their price range, Kiri told me that their part-time membership is $125/month and cover 8 coworking visits. The full-time membership is $225/month and covers 24/7 access. The dedicated desk membership is $325/month and covers 24/7 access PLUS a permanent spot where you can leave your items. She told me that all memberships are month-to-month which allow flexibility for the members to adjust their participation level or take a pause when they need to.
We then explored the AMAZING amenities: the professional voice & podcast recording studio, the video studio with lighting (including a ring light!) and backdrops, a small play area for a mom to work with her child (reserved for emergency and only as long as the child is able to stay “good”). There is a large chalk board framed by the lego wall facing a photogenic comfy sofa. There is a small library curated by the members with books meant for both learning something new and giving your mind a break.
Finally, Kiri brought me one of the main attractions of CoCreate. “We have SWINGS!” she exclaimed, “because you can’t stay cranky on a swing! The purpose of the swings is to give you a break. When you need a break because you are ready to just throw your computer against the wall, or you need to reward yourself because you reached your goal, you come to the swing. It gives you a change of scenery, you get some exercise, you get come movement, and it doesn’t take long until you are ready to go back to work!” The swings are designed for adults, they hold up to 600 lbs, and Kiri told me that some adults “go all the way” where they reach the ceiling. She confessed to having done it three times herself, and said it was “quite the workout”.
Kiri let me on the swing and as soon as I sat on it, I knew that this, by far, was the most creative, fun, and exciting coworking space I have ever been to.