Coworking – a growth industry and a BAM opportunity

When I graduated from business school, no one had heard of coworking spaces; in fact, my three kids who graduated from business school hadn’t either; but my oldest grandson, a current junior in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business sure has.  So, what is the idea of coworking space?

While a group of engineers may have first conceived of the idea in Berlin in 1995, many people credit Brad Neuberg to have first envisioned a coworking space in the US in 2005. He was working at a startup in San Francisco but felt conflicted: he wanted to find a way to combine the feeling of independence and freedom of working by himself with the community feel and structure of working with others.  So, he and some colleagues created a plan which included space that delivered both the structure and community feel he wanted.

In short, coworking spaces provide proximity to shared values, community workspace, synergy and close amenities. Since 2010, coworking spaces have grown at a rate of 23% per year and are immensely popular with startup teams and Small-Medium sized entrepreneurs.  You may have heard of some of the bigger ones like WeWork, Impact Hub, IWG (Regus) or ServCorp.

Advocates claim advantages of coworking such as:

  • It reduces loneliness and makes workers happier
  • It makes for more motivated and successful workers
  • It leads to better networking opportunities with increased connection
  • It provides access to shared and private spaces
  • It gives flexibility and cost savings
  • It stimulates enhanced productivity
  • It provides amenities which promote wellness and work-life balance

Want to know more?  Check this out:

Joel Ballew and his wife Angel left a successful business in the United States to take up residence in Barranquilla, Colombia, South America, looking for opportunities to make disciples for Jesus. Joel, an outgoing personable guy, thought the best way was to humble himself, join a mission agency, and be a professional missionary. For many, that is a legitimate pathway.  But entrepreneurs look for opportunities. Missional entrepreneurs look for missional opportunities, and in language school God said to Joel, “it is time to do what you do best.”

Within the first 2 months of living in Colombia, he realized there was a lack of amenity-driven shared workspaces available for the Latin worker. While there are co-working/shared workspaces throughout South America, many of them were just creating space to work, which some consider too disruptive for a professional environment. He sought to create a space where people could work, grow their businesses, have amenities on site, and worship.

The idea for Co.Labor came out of his desire to create an environment that reflected how he wanted to work and be comfortable in a holistic space. He also had a desire to reach out to the community and support them in their very specific needs through an infusion of support. He founded Co.Labor with the dream of making a difference in lives and communities.  He gets to bring his passion for hospitality and community to independent workers and entrepreneurs, creating a sense of home and belonging for members which is reflective in every aspect of spaces and community.

What an incredible vision for a Business as Mission company!

Co.Labor has a plan for profitability within three years and creates jobs directly in the company and indirectly but promoting and encouraging startups. In addition, they have a foundational desire to make disciples of Jesus and encourage the growth of the Colombian church. Furthermore, his BHAG goal is to see a Co.Labor as a shared workspace in every country in South America.

A company like this opens doors for living like Jesus and sharing the Good News, providing for networking growth, and jobs in the amenity sector which includes a café, hair salon, workout gym, wellness rooms etc. Co.Labor provides courses in finance, marriage and parenting, as well as in startup launch opportunities.  They are starting small, but aiming to scale to 12,000 sf.

IBEC consultants Kevin and Bob have provided key coaching expertise with direct impact on helping mold the vision as well as fleshing out numerous details. Although Joel considers himself an entrepreneur and has owned several businesses, he is immensely grateful for the important expert and relevant consulting provided by IBEC.

Want to see Joel in an IBEC video? Click here.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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