Platform Blog


Finding a coworking space in Wicker Park and elsewhere in Chicago

November 20, 2017 in Coworking Philosophy, Wicker Park Eats & Drinks

What is coworking? How do I find a coworking office?

Let’s start with the basics. My name is Jeff, I’m the founder of Platform Coworking. I started Chicago’s first coworking space back in 2007 in Ravenswood. In 2009 I moved down the street and branded it the, “Ravenswood Coworking Group.” By 2012 I grew again and moved next door, in the process morphing into, “Platform Coworking,” which continues today. There are three locations: the original one in Ravenswood, at 4422 N Ravenswood Ave, a micro expansion into Wicker Park at 1286 N Milwaukee Avenue, and our newest one at 1212 N Ashland Avenue (on the 2nd floor), at the corner with N Milwaukee Avenue, just off the Division Blue Line el station.

Before delving in, here’s what I think makes for a legit coworking space, and what you should look for when evaluating your options:

  1. A space close to home, or at least easy to get to, from home.
  2. Proximity to amenities, like restaurants, and cafes.
  3. A good mix of offices and desks, not entirely one or the other.
  4. Someone who is on site, addressing member needs as they arise.

Fast forward to today, November 2017. In just a few years, countless startups into the shared office scene have emerged, hoping to cash in on the mania spurred by WeWork and other VC backed speculators. The curious thing though is that many of these operators think they are part of the rising wave in coworking, but are actually no different than, say, Regus. They have latched on to the coworking movement as a marketing tool, to push their physical offerings that are essentially no different than any regular office rental that preceded it. Prettier, sure. Conceptually different? Hardly. To that end, WeWork may be an unstoppable $20 billion monster that’s spawned innumerable copycats, they are still closer in spirit to what coworking is, than, say, any of the office share newcomers into Chicago’s River North or West Loop neighborhoods.

So why does Platform Coworking have a legitimate claim whereas most downtown competitors do not? Or for that matter, why can places like Platform Coworking, The Shift (and Second Shift for that matter), or CoLab be considered coworking offices, but (sort of) competitors like Assemble or Level Office are not?

After considering physical location factors, let’s evaluate the internal space layout itself. The most extreme example is having private offices ring the entire perimeter of the floor, so only office occupants get window views. Coworking type desks are relegated to a middle pen, ringed in by private offices. What this tells you is that the space owner’s sole concern is maximizing profit in the laziest, most cynical fashion possible. The only people worthy of nice window views are the people who pony up the money for a private office. These members are the highest priority; everybody else is secondary. Since all the premium views are now monopolized by offices, this design decision results in a pitiful windowless area in the middle… which is often turned into the unassigned coworking desks. Why would anyone willingly want to use this these types of desks? Yet by putting unassigned seating in the middle area, the space operator can now claim to be a coworking space. Or at least try to capture some of this market, which is distinctly different from office renters.

So let’s have a closer look at the factors going into your coworking space evaluation:

First: proximity to your house.

Can you walk there? Ride a bike? Or the holy grail: catch a bus or train, without having to transfer? If you drive, are there parking options other than street metered spots? Is the commute one you can live with, day in, day out, indefinitely? Generally, the willingness to be a long term member at a coworking space is inversely proportional to the distance you’d have to travel to get there every morning. It seems obvious but the proliferation of coworking spaces in neighborhoods like River North seem to indicate otherwise.

Second, proximity to amenities.

Let’s say you’re like me, and no matter how hard you try, making lunch even once a week is a herculean task, and you prefer to just buy a sandwich when you can. This is actually a really important consideration, as any office, coworking or otherwise, will be an unsustainable option if your only food choices are unhealthy, or so far away it takes more than an hour just to eat lunch. 

So with food covered, what about coffee? Even if the space has free coffee, it’s still nice to  walk down the street to grab something. The same goes for after work drinks. Being able to go somewhere on foot will always be better than having to coordinate an off-site meetup that kills the spontaneity. All these things may sound like extravagant considerations, but think of your own day-to-day happiness. Would you rather go to one location and have everything you need within a 1 block radius, or have to constantly leave the area to do simple tasks? 

(Shameless plug: Platform Wicker Park is walking distance to Big & Littles, Antique Tacos, Intelligentsia, Parlor, Umami Burger, Oiistar, Bangers & Lace, and so on. It’s an obscene bounty of options.)

Third, a good mix of offices and desks.

Offices by themselves can be quite boring, even if they’re located in a fun, bustling neighborhood with lots of restaurants and transportation nearby. A space with just offices, and no open seating areas will, in the longterm, be a boring and sterile environment that ends up driving you away. Sure, one would eventually meet fellow office neighbors, but this type of floorplan is fundamentally set up for privacy. Socializing occurs in spite of the design.

The best office setups typically have a good mix of private offices that are adjacent to high traffic open seating (coworking) areas. When there is a general background buzz, there is actually a reason to shut your door. You’re closing yourself off from the busier space to concentrate. Imagine the inverse—an office located within a huge, quiet space, without open seating areas or constant chatting outside your door. There’s almost no point to closing your office door, as there’s no noise you’re separating yourself from.

An on-site community manager

Besides the obvious, like someone to make coffee in the morning, or help locate toner cartridges when the printer has run out, an on-site manager can make introductions among people in the same industry and help facilitate impromptu conversations. They can help newcomers get acclimated to the space, and be the familiar face they see every morning until they get to know their fellow coworking members. They can also receive your clients and offer them some coffee while you prep in the conference room.

Beyond the social aspects, they are also the ones who put in DNS unblock requests, or set up printer drivers on your new computer. Or let you back in when you’ve somehow locked yourself out.

So there you have it. A primer on finding the best coworking spaces in Chicago. Pro-tip: unless you live in the loop, proper, you’re going to find that the best spaces are all in the neighborhoods, outside River North or the West Loop. Why waste two billable hours everyday commuting back and forth from your house to some space in the loop?

Flex desk memberships discounted through 2019

November 14, 2017 in Announcements

Flex desks are free through the end of November.

If you sign up during your free trial, we’ll lock you in at $150 for 2 years, which comes out to 33% off the regular pricing. Or 8 months free. However you want to view it, the total dollar value that’s being discounted is $1,782 over 24 months.

We’re unsure if anyone else in the area is offering similar rates. Probably not. Plus, setting aside how crazy cheap our introductory flex desk memberships are, we have some really comfortable seats at each desk.

From Ukrainian Village, you can walk to our newest space at 1212 N Ashland. Or, from Logan Square, you can jump on the blue line or catch the Milwaukee bus. We’re literally steps from the Division blue line el.

Hey Wicker Park! Can you help us out with reviews?

November 14, 2017 in Announcements

So, our new location is not getting as much search visibility as our other spot on Milwaukee Ave. We’re trying to change this but it’s a slow process.

If you’d like to help us out, so other people can find us, go to Google Business Page and write us a review (please). You can tell us how you really feel about Platform Coworking. 🙂

We appreciate that you’ve chosen us as your coworking office. There’s no shortage of office options in and around Wicker Park / Ukrainian Village (heeeeeeyyyy Logan Square, we see you!) and we’re doing our best to remain your top choice. We’ve been slow to get the final touches in place at the office, but we’ll keep at it through the rest of the year. Check back regularly, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the pace of progress.

We found a new community manager!

October 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

We’re thrilled to announce a new addition to our team, Jessica Martinez, who will be managing our new Wicker Park location at 1212 N Ashland.

Jessica is a coworking veteran, and some of you may recognize her from her time running Nextspace’s Chicago outpost.

Please give her a warm welcome the next time you’re in. Happy coworking!

Platform is hiring! Community and Operations Manager

July 10, 2017 in General

Platform Coworking is looking to add a Community Manager to the team!

We operate office space for local professionals who don’t want to work from home. You will be the chief operations ninja responsible for running the offices with minimal oversight, while attaining a set of goals so we can grow, be awesome, and help make the work day less miserable for people.

Our systems and processes can easily be taught; we’re more interested in finding an individual with the right set of soft skills. We are launching a new location in the heart of Wicker Park, and you’d play a critical hand in its success. Cover letter required to be considered.

Your mission will entail mastering the following areas in the first 6 months:

Intel : get to know our office members, their names, their industries, and attempt to match them with other like minded people within the office.

Community : organize social events, introduce wall flower type members to the extrovert type A’s. Add alcohol, insert dad jokes where necessary to keep things moving along.

Social media : curate and manage social media presence, through basic content creation. Facilitate interaction, and give the business a personality.

Other hats you must wear and master quickly:

Financial analyst: watch for patterns, avoid financial armageddon

Leasing agent: perform alchemy; turn inbound calls into paying members

Property manager: keep our offices from turning into a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Other:

Your home base: You should live in Chicago and be excited to explore the neighborhoods where the offices are based.

Job Type: Full-time

Job Location: Chicago, IL (Wicker Park)

Required experience:
Adminstrative: 1 year

Compensation:

$35-40k base with additional bonus if you exceed targets.

Phone, laptop provided. 3 weeks paid vacation.

 

To apply, please send cover letter and resume to info@platformcoworking.com

Meet our Members: Searah Deysach

June 22, 2016 in Platform Coworking Members

SDeysach1With her bright pink hair and pigtails, Platform Coworking member Searah Deysach is definitely hard to miss when she comes to work at her private office in Ravenswood. The Chicago native is the founder and owner of Early to Bed, a feminist sex shop just a stone’s throw away in Andersonville. Searah is exactly the kind of woman you want on the front lines of today’s modern feminist movement– savvy, driven, and refreshingly personable. Read more about Searah and how she uses her work to empower others.

How would you describe your job title?

“Legally I’m the president…but I guess I’d call myself the owner of a feminist sex shop and hand model. Unless the person I’m talking to is really old, in which case I just say I own an ‘adult store.’”

What sparked an interest in your current industry and to open up your own shop?

“The business grew out of being a frustrated consumer. There was no place in the late 90’s in Chicago that was a comfortable place for women to shop for sex toys. The places that did exist were very ‘old school’ and sticky, and you didn’t leave those places feeling like you were taken care of. You would just walk out feeling so sleazy.”

“One of the most profound assignments that I had to do in college was in a conceptual art class, and we had to go out into the world, identify a need, and then fill that need. I thought to myself, ‘Okay. There’s this need, I hate what I’m currently doing, I don’t know how to do this but I really want to try.’ I liked talking about sex, I liked sex toys, and I was pretty sure I knew how to run a business because you had to sell things for more than you bought them for. So I went ahead and did everything you really shouldn’t do– I quit my job right away and I maxed out a ton of credit cards. Luckily, I think Chicago was really ready for a store like mine.”

What other ventures do you own and manage?

“I have my one physical store in Andersonville, which has its 15 year anniversary coming up. I also have two additional web stores–FtM Essentials and TransKids. I started selling sex toys because it was just what I wanted to do, but I also had this pretty big portion of clientele that consisted of trans-masculine men who were buying products for their pants. I started FtM Essential which provides what we call ‘gender expression gear,’ and these products are not coded as ‘adult’ and are not sex oriented.”

“In turn, I would find myself on the phone with parents trying to troubleshoot how to get a packer to work for their 10 year old, but the gear I sold was not built to a reasonable scale for a child. We then launched TransKids, which is a site for kids 13 and under. In my line of work I have access to a lot of boutique manufacturers, so I basically just kept harassing people until they started making more kid appropriate products. It worked, and we get as many orders for the gender expression gear that we sell as we do in the store and on the store website. Sure you can buy sex toys on Amazon, but they are just that and serve their own purpose. With these web stores, we’re catering to a need that isn’t about the act of sex, but instead is about expressing who you are.”

How would you describe the industry’s landscape for your shop?

“Since the early 2000’s the landscape has shifted greatly as women have become more comfortable consumers, and as the media has become more comfortable with the topic of sex. The whole industry had moved from dark and dingy stores to having a very shiny and happy atmosphere. Overall, the toys have gotten safer, the products have gotten better, and there is way more information out there for everyone to be educated about sex.”

“I think the way I run my store is unique–just in how I treat my employees and run the store with feminist and social justice ideologies. We definitely aren’t really one-of-a-kind anymore, but I’m happy that there are more stores like mine even if there’s competition on some level.”

What would you say has been your biggest obstacle while running your business?

“Not knowing what I’m doing! Personally my biggest obstacle is a crazy fear of anyone saying ‘no’ to me or not liking me. In the beginning, plenty of people talked down to me and my staff. I work in an industry that was built on male pleasure and women being subjected to a man’s desires, but that’s fine because I like being angry about feminism and it feeds me every day to be angry about something!”

You get all kinds of customers, but many can be first-timers to a shop like yours. How do you like to introduce customers to the space in a way which alleviates their fears and makes the experience less daunting?Early2bed

“My store is very friendly, and intentionally so. It has art on the walls, a rainbow rug, sparkly floors and bright lighting. As a destination business, plenty of people that come in have never been to a sex store. They usually hear about us because they were referred to us by a friend as a safe place, or others get sent to us by a medical professional to get a device or product. We definitely get new customers who walk in with a look on their faces and they are completely nervous, and that’s okay! Even I get nervous in a sex shop, especially since you never know what you’re going to see when you visit one!”

“We greet people when they walk in, but we definitely do not hover. We like to let people explore the store and feel comfortable. I think about myself as a customer all the time and it’s amazing what I’ve learned. One of the things that has kind of sustained me for years was getting to talk to women who have never had a place to ask a question about their bodies before, or have gotten some stupid information from a boyfriend, teacher, or doctor. All of a sudden I’ll be talking to someone who has an intimate relationship with a partner, or they’re divorced and haven’t had sex in 15 years. You come across women who are reinventing their sex lives, have had trauma or have just been told that because certain things haven’t worked for them that they’re dysfunctional or that it’s their fault, and that’s just crazy. I opened this door because women were completely underserved when it came to their own sexuality.”

What you do in-shop vs what you do at Platform?SDeysach2

“I go to my store every morning and make sure everything is not burned down, for starters. I like to see what products have come in and check out what needs restocking. I use that time to also hang out with my staff and get the latest gossip. Sometimes I’m there long enough to help a customer, but with everything else going on I don’t get to do that nearly as often anymore.”

“At Platform, I spend the bulk of my time answering emails related to back-end things, the websites, and social media. I’ve created most of the content for the websites, and some others have contributed as well. It’s important to me that people know that they are dealing with real people who are also interested in the products we sell. I also spend some time trying to figure out if some products are worth carrying and considering options.”

“We definitely don’t sell anything that we would consider a bad product. I run a blog on the side called Searah’s Museum of Screwy Sex Toys where i make fun of sex toys that are just terrible in my opinion, and I keep the ridiculous ones on display in my office. It’s mostly just a way to blow off steam and have fun.”

“I like coming to work at Platform because it caters exactly to my needs– the space is in a great neighborhood, and is only a four minute drive to my shop. It’s nice and quiet and I don’t experience any of the annoying sounds I’ve had to deal with in other workplaces…we’ve all been there. I get to have much needed time to myself and take care of what needs to get done. Plus, Margie’s Candies is right down the street. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a good or a bad day, you should always just go get yourself an ice cream cone.”