A Review of Coworking Spaces in Downtown Winston-Salem
It's apparent that everyone is kinda digging coworking spaces. Actually, coworking spaces are not anything new--they were all the rage during the Renaissance in Europe. College libraries are used as coworking spaces, as are coffee shops. And now, in Winston-Salem, you do not have to be affiliated with a college or university to enjoy coworking spaces (but be mindful of the patent strategy considerations, which I discuss in another post). Below, I'll give you a run down of some of the downtown spaces I discovered in the order that I discovered them. Each of these spaces has a distinct etiquette, vibe, and set of perks.
525 Vine St., Innovation Quarter
Flywheel is probably the best known co-working space in Winston-Salem--it's the one place that actually advertises as such. My presence there benefited me and my business immensely. A fair number of my best friends in town are people I met through Flywheel. This space has an energetic, lively, and friendly atmosphere.
Parking. The closest parking lot is one that has a fee for regular use, but if you're going to attend a meeting or event at Flywheel, parking there is free. It's fairly often that people get confused about where to park.
Paid Membership required, but free guest pass. You do have to be a paid member, but last I checked, you could try the space out for free for a day.
Free beer. Free coffee. Enough said.
Capacity. Flywheel is getting close to capacity, in terms of regular membership. If you are on the cusp of joining, I'd suggest you join now, before it reaches capacity.
Industries represented. I pretty much know what everyone is working on in Flywheel. From my perspective, most people there are either working in (A) software technologies or (B) non-profit organizations. There are exceptions, of course. The exceptions tend to be (1) freelancing entrepreneurs or (2) professionals of bigger B2B industries such as insurance or banking.
Privacy, Noise Level, Community Vibe. Flywheel is the most lively coworking space I've seen in town. It has five meeting rooms, and different levels of membership give members different levels of access to those meeting rooms. One can pay an extra fee to be able to use those meeting rooms more.
Privacy is not a high priority for the members of Flywheel--walls of meeting rooms are clear glass panels, so other people can always see what's going on, whether or not you are in a meeting room. There is no guarantee that conversations are eavesdrop-free--there is no sound-proof room. However, the meeting rooms are at the periphery of the main shared space, so someone would have to get pretty close to the meeting room to eavesdrop.
Because Flywheel is a large open space, the noise level is totally bearable (and I like it since I like company), but if you want your coworking space to have library-like silence, this is not the space for you. There is some standard etiquette. Generally, if a person has headphones on, they are not to be disturbed. Otherwise, though, there's a general feel that you can tap anyone on the shoulder and talk to her or him. It's a very friendly space. There's also a kitchenette area where you can store your meals dishes; it's totally accepted to chat over lunch at Flywheel in the kitchenette area.
Community Programming. Regular free programming is available for members, and generally geared towards entrepreneurs. There are too many programs and events for me to list here, so please check out their website. My favorite is the monthly Idea Tap, which is like Shark Tank, but much less stressful and much more friendly in terms of feedback to the presenters.
Storage. For a fee, you can rent storage lockers and filing cabinets to store your things. If you get the membership for designated desk space, you can leave things on your desk. The kitchen has a refrigerator. Many people keep their staple mugs and dishes in the kitchen area.
525 Vine St., Innovation Quarter
The Forsyth Tech Small Business Center is a great resource, and its underutilization as a coworking space baffles me. It's a secret that's too good to keep. It's part of why I'm writing this post. If you want a quiet, private space and easy access to approachable experts, this is the place to be.
Parking. The closest parking lot is free for FTSBC clients. It's fairly often that people get confused about where to park, though.
Membership is Free. Yes, free and open to the public so long as you've registered as an SBC client. And everyone, really, should do that because you have nothing to lose (again, it's free!), and you can gain access to so much by being a client. You do not have to be affiliated with Forsyth Tech Community College as a student, faculty, or in any other capacity to be a client.
Free use of Computers, Printing, Wifi, and Small Business Library. Tremendous. But no free coffee.
Capacity. The Small Business Benter has an abundance of space, yet not many people regularly using that space. There is space galore there.
Industries Represented. All kinds of entrepreneurs and small business owners come to the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center, because programming is abundant at the FTSBC.
Privacy, Noise Level, Community Vibe. Probably because not many people are using the FTSBC as a coworking space, it is library-like in its noise level. It's very easy to get a private room to do one's work and have a meeting, and the rooms are separated by walls and are soundproof.
From my perspective, there are not enough clients co-working there for there to be an appreciable community between the clients who use the space daily, but I may be wrong about that since I am not there every day. There is, however, such strong mentorship there--the Director, Allan Younger, and the staff seem to know every client and also keep each client in mind for business opportunities. There are many experts in different aspects of business, from warehousing to marketing to legal needs and everything beyond and between, it seems. Counselor sessions are regularly booked. There's also loads of well-attended networking and business development programs, and though the group that shows up is always different, there are some clients that are seen regularly at events.
Community Programming. FTSBC is excellent in terms of support for fledgeling entrepreneurs and small businesses. Thia space is vast and resources are abundant. The FTSBC is a great place to do work that requires concentration and/or privacy and gives one access to experts across many fields and who will are there for the purpose of helping you grow your business.
Storage. There is not a place to store food or belongings at the FTSBC, so clients must keep that in mind if they plan on camping at the FTSBC to do their work.
411 W 4th St # 211, Restaurant Row
The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce has a beautiful building right on 4th Street, where there are restaurants galore. It's a membership that would benefit most businesses. Its small coworking space on the 2nd floor is called the "Member Hub" and has a pretty view of downtown trees and buildings. If one wants to work in a very quiet, secluded, bright, and open space, this is a great option.
Parking. No free parking or parking lots are close by.
Paid Membership Required.
Free Printing, Copying Services, Coffee, wifi, and Bottled Water. And free breath mints!
Capacity. 6 desks, and every time that I the visit the space, I'm the only one in it.
Industries Represented. All kinds of industries are represented in the Chamber membership. Since the "member hub" is empty when I'm there, however, I don't know of any industry that is regularly represented in the co-working room.
Privacy, Noise Level, and Community Vibe. Since the room is always empty when I'm there, I can't comment on these. But it can't hurt to be so close to Chambers staff and the programming that takes place in the meeting rooms. In the near future, there will be construction on the floor below the chambers; noise levels may increase.
Community Programming. Lots of programming for Chamber Members, though often it's not in the building. Check the Chambers website to see what's coming up soon.
Storage. There is no formal, designated storage area in this space.
Arts District, leased by Alloy Design and Development
Erdos's main office is here; we sublet our enclosed office from Alloy Design. There is a small and beautifully designed co-working space here, too. We LOVE this location--at least five great restaurants are within a 4-minute walk, and we are just across the street is Bear Mountain Chocolate Factory. I don't think we could be any happier with any other location or space. This was a very lucky find that more people should know about.
Parking. There is free and abundant parking in two parking lots. This is a major perk for our clients who meet us here. So far, no one has been confused about where to park since our office is by two free parking lots.
Paid Membership required. You do have to sign a sublease agreement with Alloy Design, but the people of Alloy Design are very approachable so there may be the ability to sublease for a short duration of time.
Capacity. Only 7 desks, and they are designated. Right now, the space is occupied to capacity.
Wifi for tenants. The quality of wifi here is excellent--so far I haven't had problems with online video conferencing. I can't say the same for any other coworking space in town. Since Alloy Designs is a web development company, they have to keep stellar internet services. When there is the rare internet interruption, it is resolved very quickly. For our law firm, Alloy Designs set up a private wifi network.
Industries represented. At the moment, there is an environmental engineering firm, an environmental news reporter, and an environmental non-profit in the space with Alloy Design and our law firm.
Privacy, Noise Level, Community Vibe. With only 7 desks, it's a small community and we all know each other relatively well. Most of us went out together to check out Crafted, the gourmet taco restaurant, when it opened on Liberty Street.
This coworking space is generally very quiet, and Alloy Designs looks for quiet tenants. The space with 7 desks is open, but there are two pretty offices that have good privacy and a small enclosed room for private phone calls. We occupy one of the offices. There are a shared kitchenette and conference room. When there is conversation, it's often involving all the members of the coworking space.
The telephone room and conference room are not sound proof, and people who generally speak very loudly can be heard fairly well. But if your voice is at my or Jon's decibel level and you're in an enclosed area, it's unlikely anyone outside of that area will hear you.
Community Programming. There is no formal community programming here, although there is a holiday party coming up.
Storage. People in the open space appear to be able to bring their own storage solutions. Since there are so few people in this space and we know each other pretty well, people are not so concerned about theft. Only tenants know how to activate and disable the security system.
Rumor has it...
There are a number of developing spaces downtown that are rumored to be considering the idea of having a co-working space. Some of these are places are Victoria Hall, the Center for Design and Innovation, the Arts Enterprise Lab, the Bailey Power Plant, and two buildings in the arts district that are currently under construction and designed by Adam Sebastian of Stitch Design. Although these are rumors and not confirmed, rumors of this sort gives one the sense of the renaissance of Winston-Salem.