Meet the Founder: Katie Silversmith of ThriveCo
With a background in “listening to other people’s needs” and a huge determination to run a family business that will help her community of entrepreneurs kick ass and thrive, founder Katie Silversmith and her husband Alex decided to start ThriveCo, St. Louis’ newest coworking space. We decided to look a bit into what they do, how’s their coworking space difference and how they decided to embark on this journey.
Tell us a bit about you and your background
I’m a social worker by training, and I’ve spent my career listening to and assessing people’s wants and needs. That’s part of what social workers are trained to do.
My husband, Alex, and I wanted to create a space where business owners, entrepreneurs, and start-ups felt heard and had access to exactly what they needed to be successful. It’s similar to the wrap-around services model in social work. Supporting the entirety of the business, business owner, and employees, can help make the business more successful. We do that by providing our members with access to office space, customized furnishings, services, funding (small business loans + venture capital), and a supportive community. Business owners face enough obstacles—why not create a place that opened doors as opposed to closing them?
Tell us a bit about your coworking space. Why did you decide to open it?
ThriveCo is a personalized coworking space in St. Louis. Our mission is to provide businesses with the office space, customized furnishings, services, funding, support, and community needed to run a thriving business. We opened ThriveCo because we saw this clear need for entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, teams, and start-ups to have access to the resources needed to be successful in their work. The top three reasons the businesses fail include lack of capital, inadequate management, and business plan and infrastructure issues. We provide preventative measures to decrease these barriers and potential pitfalls by offering access to concierge services like business coaching, brand development, human resources assistance, and sources of capital—both big and small. We are also working to address real barriers that entrepreneurs have to starting and sustaining a successful business. One example is early childhood care. We have partnered with one vetted daycare and are working to establish partnerships with others who will provide discounts to our members, as childcare is a significant barrier to starting and sustaining a business for business owners who are parents of young children.
How is it running a coworking space in the family?
We love it! Alex and I have completely different skillsets and strengths, all of which are needed to run our business successfully. We complement each other well. He has a strong business and commercial real estate background, and he serves part-time as our Lead Advisor and manages our financials. He works full-time as an Assistant Vice President at U.S. Bancopr Community Development Corporation. We’re crafting this space to meet the needs of our members, so it’s really important that I’m at our space every day and listening to those needs – as they’re refilling their coffee, getting their mail, chatting over lunch, etc. I work onsite at ThriveCo full-time. My role is to manage the space, and be available for our members. I listen to their needs, validate and ensure I fully understand those needs, and then partner with them to provide needed resources to help them launch and sustain their businesses.
Is it hard to separate the personal and the professional life?
It can be, especially since we have only recently launched ThriveCo (we opened January 14th). Starting a business takes a great deal of time and energy. But we have two small children who keep us busy and bring so much joy to our life, and we have a strong community of support that makes balancing everything significantly easier.
Who’s your target group? What kind people are you aiming to bring in your community?
At ThriveCo, we value access and opportunity for all. We welcome entrepreneurs, start-ups, business owners, small-to-mid-sized businesses, executives of larger companies, freelancers, solopreneurs and nonprofits from any field. We are cultivating diversity in our membership in terms of business sectors and the backgrounds of each individual member. Diversity in perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences makes businesses and workplaces stronger and more successful.
Can you tell us a bit about how your space is divided and what can people book?
When we initially launched our concept to the community on November 1st, the interest in the space was so significant that 3.5 weeks after our launch, we had to expand to acquire more private offices. We now have a total of 5,000 square feet, which includes 12 full-time private offices, one part-time private office, two meeting rooms, an event space, and a sizable, open-concept coworking space with a variety of workstations available. We also provide mail services memberships for companies in need of a physical mailing address in a prestigious business district.
What kind of amenities does your space include?
Our members have access to covered parking, mail services, WiFi, coffee, tea, snacks, a private phone booth, networking events, on-site yoga classes, meeting rooms, printing, and technology for presentations. They have access to small business loans, venture capital, and a variety of concierge services (marketing, HR assistance, accounting, business coaching, legal assistance, etc.). Members also have access to our Work Perks Program, which is designed to support the entirety of the entrepreneur. Running a business is hard work, so we’ve partnered with vendors and service providers in the community who provide some product or service at a discount to our members to make our members’ lives a little easier. This includes discounts to restaurants, yoga classes, massage therapy sessions, and coffee shops, among other perks. It also includes services that work to address real barriers that entrepreneurs have to starting and sustaining a successful business. One example is early childhood care. We have partnered with one vetted daycare and are working to establish partnerships with others who will provide discounts to our members, as childcare is a significant barrier to starting a sustaining a business for business owners who are parents of young children.
Access to all of our amenities is included in the monthly membership fee – It’s an all-in price. What business owners need is options and opportunities, not limitations – every business owner has enough of those, so we try to provide them with opportunities and access. Our memberships start at $300/month for full-time coworking space access and all of these benefits. Full-time offices start at $600/month and are also all-inclusive.
How is your space different from others in the area?
We have three main differentiators:
- We provide our members with access to the office space, customized furnishings, funding (venture capital + small business loans), services, support, and community that they need to have a thriving business.
- We are committed to consciously cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming coworking space. We believe that a diverse and inclusive community is a strong and thriving community. All of our members sign a diversity pledge, committing to holding themselves accountable
tosupporting a community that is inclusive, equitable, and welcomes diversity.
- We are listeners, trained to deeply and authentically listen to and understand the needs of our members, validate those needs, and then partner with the member to move forward. We value the feedback of our
members,and make adjustments to our model to meet their changing needs.
What Exclusive Work Perks offered by local companies does your space offer?
Members also have access to our Work Perks Program, which is designed to support the entirety of the entrepreneur. Running a business is hard work, so we’ve partnered with vendors and service providers in the community who provide some product or service at a discount to our members to make our members’ lives a little easier. This could include discounts to restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, yoga classes, massage therapy sessions, etc. It also includes services that work to address real barriers that entrepreneurs have to starting and sustaining a successful business. One example is early childhood care. We have partnered with one vetted daycare and are working to establish partnerships with others who will provide discounts to our members, as childcare is a significant barrier to starting a sustaining a business for business owners who are parents of young children.
What is your biggest challenge when running a coworking space? ( if you have already encountered any)
The biggest challenge we have encountered thus far was really honing our differentiators and communicating those effectively to the community. The coworking market has exploded across the globe, and so it was important to us to really find our niche and highlight how we are different, in order to attract and retain a solid membership base. Because we are authentically different, we’ve been able to communicate it to the community.
What type of events do you organise to keep your community engaged?
We have monthly networking events for our members and the community, which include a brief 10-minute training on some aspect of networking where attendees walk away with usable skills to apply to the remainder of the networking event. We have onsite yoga for our members. We have a Certified Daring Way Facilitator who will be providing workshops on Brené Brown’s material relating to leadership, courage, and vulnerability. Our members and the community are able to host events in our space as well, which will further enrich the engagement offerings at ThriveCo.
What do you wish you knew before opening this coworking space?
I did not know much about branding before we opened this space, and it has been really interesting to see how the process of the community understanding and gaining interest and trust in a brand progresses. If I had realized the steps of this process earlier, I might have announced our brand a bit earlier in our process to the community.