An Experiment In Shared Space
Four founders, four desks, and two companies – all in the same room.
Our time at the kitchen table and perusing random coffee shops was coming to end. In May 2011, Whiteboard began the search for potential office space in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A few months prior, I had the opportunity to meet with Nick Macco, one of the founders of Southtree.com, a company dedicated to preserving memories. I let him know we were interested in a more long-term solution for office space. On May 9, 2011 I received an email from Nick that we had no idea would be a catalyst for both of our companies:
We’re looking at potential options as our lease is up next year. Even tossed around the idea of going in on something with another local business, and any other cool companies (like Whiteboard) that may need it. We are also interviewing with InnovateHere (part of Lyndhurst Foundation) to help get a grant to relocate. Until then, you guys just bring some desks over here and share some space man, we got everything you’d need. We even have a pool table. – Nick
In June 2011 with a handshake, rent, and two desks – Whiteboard moved into Southtree’s office space. Four founders, four desks, and two companies – all in the same room. Also noted, Southtree had one other employee and Whiteboard had a Summer intern.
By January 2012, Southtree had fifteen people processing orders. Whiteboard’s team had grown to five. Southtree received a grant to relocate to Main Street in downtown Chattanooga forcing both of our companies to make a decision on our future arrangement. We made the choice for both companies to move to Main Street.
To date, Southtree has over 40+ employees and Whiteboard has a team of 14 (much more than the 5 people we started with). Along the way, we’ve learned valuable lessons on what it means to work and create together. Lessons I’m not sure Whiteboard would’ve learned if we had chosen the solo route.
The Value of True Camaraderie
Even with both of our company’s growth Taylor, Nick, Adam, and myself all share the same office. How could four executives from two different companies benefit one another? Easy.
Adam and Nick have both shared wisdom in points of tension for decisions Taylor and I struggle to make. On other occasions, Nick and Adam have turned their chairs and asked for our opinions. Everyday the founders of Southtree.com give us raw feedback on user experiences we’re dreaming up and we let them know how their next product should launch. More than anything the trust we’ve built by working together in the same room has been a priceless experience. Camaraderie has forced itself upon us in how we lead and steward both of our businesses everyday.
Since moving in with Southtree.com more business ideas and opportunities have naturally emerged. From memories to websites, state senate campaigns to holding companies. Sharing space with those who carry entrepreneurial spirits are infectious. On the rare occasion that three of us aren’t motivated; it’s guaranteed that one of us is going to inspire us all to keep running the race.
Over the past two years, Whiteboard hasn’t shipped a new brand or website without Southtree’s team giving us their insight. Working alongside Southtree has provided a great opportunity for our team to test methods and experiences. Shared space can make a lot of sense even when paired with unlikely companies.
As more co-working spaces form all over the United States I’m curious to see more organizations trade the luxury of silo’d space for business relationships that create more opportunities.