Co-working spaces thrive in Oakland County

As the workforce evolves and more people work remotely, an increasingly diverse array of Metro Detroiters are using co-working spaces to get the job done. Lawyers, marketing agencies, engineers and an acupuncturist are setting up shop in shared work locations throughout Oakland County.

The county boasts several shared or co-working spaces, which usually offer a mixture of desks, private offices, meeting rooms and other office amenities in a collaborative environment for entrepreneurs, remote workers, independent contractors, freelancers and other businesses. The county also is home to several virtual offices that can provide a physical mailing address, phone number, meeting rooms and other business services.

Lisa Schmidt, a lawyer who co-founded PatchWork Collective in Ferndale, said she opened the co-working space this summer to tap into the mobile workforce of people who define themselves by what they do rather than where they work.

Lisa Schmidt and Ben Long co-founded PatchWork Collective.

PatchWork Collective’s members include a graphic designer, a recreational therapist and an acupuncturist. Schmidt’s law firm also operates out of the space. Members get 24/7 access for $220 per month while the daily drop-in rate is $20. Offices and conference rooms can be rented by the hour for $30 to $50, and there are discounts for students and nonprofits. Some offices are available for rent on a permanent basis.

“Mostly we want to be part of the changing work economy … we want to be there for that next generation of workers that just do work differently than previous generations have,” Schmidt says.

Oakland County has thousands of solo entrepreneurs in professional, knowledge-based industries, so co-working serves the area well, says Greg Doyle, manager of Oakland County’s One Stop Shop Business Center and Tech248 initiative.

Over the years, Doyle said he’s heard from entrepreneurs who long for the vibrant, collaborative environment of areas like Silicon Valley or Boston, where people could walk into a coffee shop and easily find several entrepreneurs chatting and working on new ideas. Co-working is starting to create that environment in Oakland, Doyle says.

“They’re great places just to go and really meet up with people, but also I do believe that there’s a good amount of connectivity that results in business opportunities for folks,” he says.

Sharing more than a workspace

Michael Keith strives to provide a spot where people can bounce ideas off one another and find inspiration and guidance at The Office Coffee Shop in Royal Oak. The business is open to the public as a coffee shop and also offers flexible workspace. People can either grab a table and set up their laptop as they would at a Panera or other café, or they can reserve a table, rent a private office, conference room or larger meeting space.

“We have people that are looking to just get their first start and we help collaborate and help them meet their needs,” he says.

Michael Keith created The Office Coffee Shop in Royal Oak for people to bounce ideas around, network, and find mentorship.

Keith works as a consulting engineer and found that when he travels to client sites, he’s more comfortable talking with his team outside of the office. While he said he doesn’t mind occasionally working from home, it gets tough to stay motivated and engaged that way. There are also benefits to working alongside people from varied backgrounds and industries.

“People pass a lot of work around, and that is natural and organic, and it’s without a cost, per se,” Keith says. “You come in, and it’s a functional space, but it’s not like you have to pay $500 or $600 a month to be a part of the community. To be a part, you just have to participate.”

Incubizo also sees itself as more than a place to just rent a desk. The co-working site in Ferndale has hosted events with business and government leaders to discuss improving the community and assisting entrepreneurs.

Christian Fuller of Incubizo, a co-work space in Ferndale

It serves a wide range of clients, including the Western Market grocery store, which uses the space for employee meetings and human resources needs. Incubizo also is working with the French American Chamber of Commerce and Oakland County’s economic development team to serve as a landing spot for international or other outside companies that are coming over to do business with local automakers or other companies, but aren’t ready to commit to large, permanent office space.

“There’s a lot of flexibility that they think is going to be very attractive for helping recruit businesses to Oakland County and grow the economy and so we’re really trying to be able to meet those needs as well,” says Incubizo’s Josh Champagne.

Check out these other co-working spaces in Oakland County:

Byte & Mortar
A play off the term brick and mortar, Byte & Mortar offers both virtual office services and physical office space in Troy. The virtual office includes mail and phone services, so people who work remotely can have a physical address and secretary to answer calls. The office offers coworking and private office space.

The Den
The Den, or Downtown Education Nook, operates in a historical log cabin in Auburn Hills and offers students and community members space for studying, coworking, leisure, and meeting with small groups. The Den is funded by tax increment financing.

Founder Doug Van Slembrouck opened ShareSpace in his hometown of Rochester in 2014 after moving back from Chicago, where he had grown accustomed to taking advantage of the city’s numerous co-working spaces. The site offers shared desk space, reserved desk areas, and permanent semi-suites.
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