We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!
This week on the SPACES blog we’ll be featuring an interview with a star of the coworking movement, Indy Hall‘s Alex Hillman. We had a lot of questions for Alex, and he sent us some fantastic answers! We’ll start by letting him introduce himself:
SHAREMYSPACE: So, a few basic questions for people who aren’t familiar with you: who are you, and what do you do? What inspired you to found Indy Hall?
ALEX: My name is Alex Hillman, and I’m the co-founder of Indy Hall. These days, I split my time between a few businesses, but they’re all related: Indy Hall, of course, but also 30×500.com (a class that helps people launch successful bootstrapped businesses), GroupBuzz (a product that provides communities with an email listserv that members actually use and enjoy), and Betterwork.co (a collaborative consultancy and workshop series that teaches people how to work better, together).
I also work with coworking spaces, corporations, and community leaders around the world. So…I’ve got a few things going on!
They all tie back to Indy Hall in a way, though. When I was a web developer who quit my job to freelance, I loved having the freedom and flexibility to work on whatever I wanted, with whomever I wanted.
The problem was that I had a hard time finding more likeminded people in Philadelphia. It was easier for me to find collaborators, both clients and people with complimentary skills, in other cities like San Francisco.
Indy Hall wasn’t founded because I needed a place to work, it was founded because I realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was too hard to find people to work with unless I got a job…and that wasn’t an option I was interested in.
Turns out you don’t need to hire people to make them your coworkers.
SHAREMYSPACE: Before you opened Indy Hall, then, you started by facilitating an informal group of local freelancers.
ALEX: Yes. In the beginning we gathered anywhere that had wifi and wouldn’t throw us out if we were going to spend the day there. That started out as cafes, but also pubs and restaurants. I made it a point to contact the location ahead of time to let them know, and give them a chance to say no. The important thing was that we were able to work alongside each other even if we weren’t working on the same stuff. When we worked from a bar like National Mechanics during the day, we’d be able to promise them a captive audience for happy hour at the end of our work day.
By the time we were seriously considering a space of our own, people were asking about it nearly every day. Our gatherings weren’t just about getting out of the house, but about spending time around each other. These “jelly” sessions gave all of us a taste of how much better we worked with that environment, even though all of the locations we were choosing we sub-par workspaces (tiny tables, uncomfortable chairs, etc etc). The turning point was when those same people started contributing to finding a location of our own. All of the locations we’ve grown into since then were found by the members, not by me.
STAY TUNED: More to come on the founding of Indy Hall, and how a great group of coworkers “grows into” a space.