14 Feb Meet The Founder: Angel Kwiatkowski of Cohere Coworking
Angel Kwiatkowski has owned Cohere coworking, in Fort Collins, Colorado, since 2010 and has done micro-expansions every year since. Cohere started with 1,000 ft2 and are now up to 3,000 ft2 which is a testament Angel and her team’s ability to create a thriving community.
As a veteran of the industry, Angel takes pride in giving back to the coworking community in big ways. In 2010, Angel wrote a book with one of her coworking members about the basics of community building. Shortly after, she published the second book targeted at freelancers. As of this past June, Angel published her third book, a workbook, to help DIY, bootstrapped and smaller coworking spaces with everything from dream to grand opening– Which she considers her most rewarding project to date.
Here, Angel shares how she got involved in the coworking industry, what she does to maintain a thriving community, and gives some pointers to those who may be interested in opening a coworking space of their own.
How did you discover coworking?
I was doing humble work volunteering at an incubator after I was unceremoniously (and necessarily) fired from my dream job in HR at a startup. While I was wallowing at my non-busy reception desk, a friend wandered in and said, “Hey, there’s this thing where people work together but for themselves. It’s called coworking.” That was 2009 and I’ve never looked back.
What inspired you to start Cohere?
I started Cohere because during my above firing, the CEO said to me, “You’re an entrepreneur. Go start your own business and get out of mine!” I had never heard that message so clearly.
After spending the summer under a blanket reading the Harry Potter series from front to back, I began to realize that my latent entrepreneurial tendencies were probably to blame for why I just never “fit” in traditional employment despite having all the traditional markers of success like good reviews and promotions.
In my short time with that startup, I very much preferred to hang out in the marketing team’s room where they worked on web design, PR, SEO, and graphics. I wanted to soak up everything they were: creative, kind, driven and hilarious. When I learned about coworking, I realized that I could have a WHOLE BUSINESS DEVOTED TO HANGING OUT WITH CREATIVE PEOPLE ALL DAY LONG!
Cohere has delivered everything I could ever want in a business for myself. I get to meet awesome people, connect people to one another and help people overcome challenges in their work. Also, we laugh. A LOT.
How would you describe the community at Cohere?
I describe us friendship-based. We don’t care what you DO until we find out who you ARE.
What types of cool projects are you or your members currently working on?
Member Mark fact checks documentaries about science. His latest project was about the dinosaur extinction so we get to hear about how hot the earth was after the meteor hit the Yucatan peninsula and the implications of that.
Member Gina does accounting for a university and she works on Excel spreadsheets that have multiple tabs with 20,000-80,000 rows. I can’t even process the scope of that.
Member Chrysta is a career coach. She is currently writing a book and started a group called SheLeads for women in our city. It has been one of the most inspiring groups I have ever been a part of.
Do you host any events to bring the community together?
We host anywhere from 4-6 events a week but they are easy and often member driven. We enjoy food based events as well as anything that gets us away from our computers. A typical week looks like this:
Monday: eat lunch together in the living room
Tuesday: knitting and conversation group
Wednesday: happy hour
Thursday: walking club
What is the recipe for pulling off an awesome community event?
The most successful events are either events put together and run by members or events I catalyze after I hear of enough interest. We recently started a chronic pain group because several Coherians have chronic pain and health issues. I am a little obsessed with cast iron pans so I held a class on caring for and cooking in cast iron and it was packed!
If you could add one dream amenity to your coworking space what would it be and why? (Yoga studio, rooftop patio, swimming pool)
We really want a shower. Nothing fancy, just a place to rinse off after biking to work or exercising mid-day.
What is your favorite part about coworking?
The people and getting to know them.
What was the most challenging part of operating a coworking space?
That it exists within the city, county, state and federal taxation system. It’s SO complicated.
What are your top 3 tips for someone who is looking to open a coworking space?
- Spread the word and build up community interest and buy-in before you get a space.
- Aim to be useful rather than trendy.
- Ask for input from your members constantly. They always have the answer.