8:58am

Mon November 28, 2011
Company Town

Coworking Rochester: Office space reimagined

We've all been there: Working from home can be a challenge.

"You find a million things to do besides work at that point," says Dave Moffitt, founder of Coworking Rochester. "You're going, 'Hey, you know what? I'm gonna do the laundry, feed the cats, check Facebook and Twitter...' "

The list goes on and on.

So after years of telecommuting as the creative director of his family-run marketing company, Moffitt decided to do something about it.

That something became the communal workspace known as Coworking Rochester.

Something missing

Moffitt had been telecommuting and doing freelance work for 11 years. He says he was mostly working out of his bedroom.

"I just missed the office water cooler banter," says Moffitt. "You know, 'How was the hockey game?' kind of stuff. And I missed the ability to show somebody else a design and be like, 'What do you think of this?' "

Around 2007, Moffitt stumbled across an article in Newsweek about a coworking space in San Francisco that catered the city's techies and web entrepreneurs.

He thought it was a cool idea, and decided to import it to Rochester. By 2009, Moffitt had transformed his loft-style apartment in the city's Cascade District into sharp-looking office space. 

"It's about having an environment that you can be productive in, but that isn't stuffy and cubicled and too office-like," Moffitt says.

Now, Coworking Rochester is one of dozens of coworking spaces in the Northeast and one of hundreds the world over.

Moffitt's Rochester location comes with a full kitchen, free coffee and ample meeting space - all for as low as $10 a day or $125 a month.

But one of the main draws is the loose sense of collaboration and community. Someone even started tweeting as Coworking's coffee maker.

"You're around like-minded people," says Moffitt.

That, and it beats the alternative:

"It's an environment that's professional enough that you can meet with a client and not [have them] feel like, 'Oh, I'm meeting you at a ...' I don't want to pick on Starbucks, I love Starbucks. But, you know, there's nothing that says to me 'professional' about that," says Moffitt.

Business model challenges

On any given day, Moffitt says about 10 regulars are hard at work, typing away in Coworking Rochester's main work room.

The space is also a big hit with "nomadic entrepreneurs" - folks passing through on business.

"They come to a coworking space like this and they get eight hours of solid billable work in," Moffitt says of the red-eye set.

But Coworking Rochester is still far from a cash cow.

In cities like San Francisco where an extra room can set you back $1,000 in rent money, Moffitt says it's easier for coworking spaces to justify higher rates. The top shelf membership at the San Francisco workspace that inspired Moffitt to create his own costs $425 a month. Rochester's top shelf offering goes for $200 a month.

"If it were not for my marketing company being an anchor member, we would not exist," Moffitt says bluntly of the coworking side of the shop.

But when it comes down to it, Moffitt says profit isn't really the point.

"I never expect to make any money doing it," Moffitt says. "But the intangibles of being more productive, and being happier, and being around other people far overshadow that. I mean, it's not about just the financials."

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