In Fargo, it’s now possible for freelance designers to be co-workers with university professors. It’s now much more possible for a web developer to get over-the-shoulder feedback from a creative writer, or vice versa. Or perhaps a tech entrepreneur needs advice from a coworking attorney. In many cases, people might just find whom they need advice from in the kitchen or in on their way to the bathroom.
While all these professionals may not be employed by the same person, who’s to say they cannot co-work?
This contemporary phenomenon, coworking, is taking place in big cities all over the country and has now reached Fargo thanks to a Twin Cities-based organization called CoCo.
CoCo Fargo, which has been open for two weeks, essentially helps make collaboration between its members, of differing professional backgrounds, easy and accessible.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is to build a community of people who show up on a regular basis and feel like they are surrounded by people who care about them,” said Don Ball, CoCo cofounder.
Coworking spaces are a fantastic alternative to working at home, where it’s easy to feel isolated or distracted by non work-related materials, or working in a coffee shop, where it can be noisy and non-interactive.
“It’s a cool environment … but it’s not really cool to tap someone on the shoulder and ask them about their work and tell them about what just happened to you,” Ball said. “There are some boundaries that have to be respected, whereas here the boundaries happen to be a little more porous.”
CoCo’s environment makes it easy for people to be social. The floor plan is very open, the décor is hip yet welcoming and fresh, there’s a large commons area with long tables, conferences rooms and a centrally located kitchen. Not to mention, CoCo has gigabit Internet, the fastest network connection available.
Fargo’s site has already attracted graphic designers, tech developers, administrators, nonprofit workers and a motivational speaker. In the Twin Cities, CoCo is home to attorneys and accountants.
“We’re definitely catering to a variety of people. There are a lot of startups that are saying, ‘We are a tech co-working space.’ That’s not what we are about and CoCo has never made that sort of designation. We definitely want all people to feel welcome,” said Rachel Sternhagen, CoCo Fargo’s community manager.
With Fargo’s hot job market, low unemployment rate and highly enthusiastic and nurturing entrepreneurial community, it’s no surprise we’re seeing a coworking space of this caliber pop up in our community.
While Ball and CoCo CEO Kyle Coolbroth had plans on expanding outside of the Twin Cities, they were encouraged early on by Emerging Prairie’s Greg Tehven to pursue Fargo as their next location. Ball also said he’s been working with Fargoans since the mid to late 90s, particularly with the founders of Sundog, back when it was a three-person company.
“So I knew people up here and always knew there was something unique about how people felt about their town here – that it was different than what I noticed in a lot of other places,” Ball said. “Just the sense of pride is almost disproportionate.”
Those interested in learning more about coworking and about individual and group memberships to CoCo can visit cocomsp.com.
“In the end, this business has less to do with surfaces to put your computer on or Wi-Fi or coffee,” Ball said.” It has more to do with a sense of belonging to other people in the community so that it feels like it matters if you show up.”
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