SnapSeat Photo Booths Owner and New Britain resident Jonathan Johnson recently opened Cowork New Britain, a new Connecticut coworking space with a mission to help small businesses succeed. Jonathan told Innovation Destination Hartford about how the idea for the coworking space began and shared what he most enjoys about working with Connecticut entrepreneurs.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: How did you develop the business concept?
JONATHAN JOHNSON: Opening a coworking space outside the Hartford area has been an idea I’ve been working on for couple years. An ideal retail/office space became available in New Britain, which is where I personally live and wanted the cowork space o open. The space was used for a similar purpose by Central Connecticut State University as its Community Central outreach in downtown New Britain.
To develop the business concept, I talked to the landlord in July 2017 and started inquiring about leasing. Then I researched how to become a commercial real estate tenant and how to start a coworking space and different business model in this industry.
I also started the New Britain Entrepreneur’s Club on Facebook to gather a community of small business professionals in Central Connecticut. We held our first event last fall with a fun networking event at Alvarium Beer Company in New Britain.
With the success of that group, I felt we had enough momentum and interest to take the leap to sign a lease and get the project started. I contacted the city and expressed my intention to start a coworking space in New Britain. The mayor was very responsive to the idea, and connected me with the economic development department, which really helped facilitate some of the inspection and occupancy requirements. That was a huge help for a rookie in retail space leasing.
IDH: Why open a coworking space in New Britain?
JONATHAN: The hypothesis for a coworking space in New Britain is that there is a need and a number of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and telecommuters in the Central Connecticut area who need office and meeting spaces and will be inclined to use a space closer to home.
There are a lot of advantages to being in New Britain—affordable, available commercial space, central location south of Hartford, access to the CTfastrak bus system and major highways, robust infrastructure and parks, the Central Connecticut State University campus, and a great team in City Hall leading the transformation of New Britain.
I live in New Britain and our family has made a commitment to be part of the revitalization in this city. We want Cowork New Britain to be a resource center for small businesses, offering services that help entrepreneurs thrive. With their success in New Britain, we hope more local talent will be hired, more New Britain commercial space will be rented, and then more visitors will come to the city of New Britain to frequent their businesses.
IDH: How do people find out about the Cowork New Britain?
JONATHAN: We’re using social media to post updates about the renovations and talk with interested people about becoming members.
IDH: What types of people do you anticipate will use the space?
JONATHAN: Cowork New Britain is offering coworking desks, meeting room space, event rentals, and business workshops. Our goal is to host small business workshops, seminars, and networking sessions to provide seasoned entrepreneurs and startups alike information and opportunities to start and grow their business.
We also support entrepreneurs who want an office space to work, receive their mail, use a meeting room available, or rent the conference space for a seminar. Overall, we offer our clients a more professional presence and be more productive than in a coffee shop or at home.
Our space is also available as a meeting and event space for businesses looking to have a team training, host a seminar or information session, throw a promotional party, hold a board meeting, or even host a pop-up shop for a night or weekend. If someone is looking to partner with a space to accomplish any of these business goals, we want to help.
We also will have business coaching available, with a team of partners offering help with marketing, accounting, legal, insurance, and more.
IDH: Do you have to be a member to utilize the coworking space? If so, what does a membership entail?
JONATHAN: We have coworking desks, dedicated desks, and virtual memberships that require a membership. These memberships will include a mailing address, space to work, access to meeting rooms for client meetings, and usage of our amenities.
Our seminars, networking events, and meeting/event space rentals will all be available to the public as well.
IDH: What do you enjoy most about working with entrepreneurs and innovators?
JONATHAN: I am someone who believes that we can accomplish our dreams and our vision of our businesses. It is inspiring to work with anyone who is willing to take an idea and risk time, talent, and treasure to make that vision happen.
I enjoy working with people who believe in their calling, believe in themselves, and get up and make it happen every day. It also takes mentors, mentees, coaches, advisors, experts, and supporters to help. And, as a business, our goal is to create that type of community—Cowork New Britain’s mission is to help small businesses succeed.
IDH: Where do you see the future of coworking?
JONATHAN: The trends show more individuals continue to have decentralized jobs, i.e., notworking in an office for the traditional 9 to 5 employer. And more entrepreneurs will continue to develop small business opportunities in the new sharing economy. Coworking space is hopefully an industry that will grow along with those entrepreneurs and workers.
Find out more about Cowork New Britain
Learn more about Jonathan Johnson’s entrepreneurial efforts in our interview: Entrepreneur Runs Successful Hartford-Area Photo Booth Company