WORK_SPACE has become a destination on Main Street in Manchester for startups, professionals, and artists. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Manager Stacey Zackin to learn more.
NAN PRICE: What is WORK_SPACE?
STACEY ZACKIN: We’re a coworking, meeting, and gallery space housed in a two-and-a-half story historic building in downtown Manchester that’s owned and operated by the town. Specifically, we fall under the town’s Planning and Economic Development Department. Our goal is to help local businesses be successful by giving them an affordable, flexible, hospitable space to launch and grow their businesses.
The idea is that you come here as you’re starting or expanding your business. WORK_SPACE takes some of the pressure off of more traditional real estate by taking care of overhead costs and providing business resources, including the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, access to a business representative from the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, and connections to municipal staff.
And then, hopefully as your business grows, you’ll move from a dedicated desk to a private office, and then eventually outgrow us before moving your business to another location in Manchester.
NAN: The space is also supporting the arts community.
STACEY: Yes. The Galleries @ WORK_SPACE are a third of our space. Artists are entrepreneurs, so having galleries here fits into our mission. We provide artists with a space to showcase their work and we help facilitate the sale of their art and merchandise. We have a large gallery on Main Street that hosts themed shows as well as two non-traditional spaces that feature the art of local artists on a rotating basis. We host programs and openings, and partner with other organizations to teach artists about business, marketing, networking, and online sales.
NAN: A lot of small business activity has been cropping up in downtown Manchester in the last few years. How does WORK_SPACE add to the overall vitality?
STACEY: WORK_SPACE not only has the mission to provide services to our monthly members who work within our walls, we strive to be a destination that attracts people downtown. We have seven media-equipped meeting spaces that people can easily book by calling or emailing us—and we love when people come in and ask for a tour. We can accommodate meetings from two to 75 people and provide parking, A/V, and help coordinating events. While here, many people enjoy the art, explore Main Street, and often walk to one of the great restaurants, breweries, or coffee shops nearby.
Now that the gallery has become such a big part of what we do, we’ve expanded our hours to include a monthly Open House every “2nd Saturday” from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We work with the downtown district and other local businesses to provide reasons for the community from within and outside of Manchester to come visit.
NAN: Going back to the coworking space, what types of businesses utilize the space?
STACEY: We don’t necessarily have a niche; it really runs the gamut from financial advising, real estate and business consultants to technology startups, video game designers, and social media influencers.
What’s great about the diversity of people and industries is that people benefit from each other’s unique experience as entrepreneurs and businesspeople across a wide spectrum of businesses. They offer different insights and new perspectives and colleagues to bounce ideas off of…something you miss out on when working from home. In addition to the networking and relationship building that happens organically, WORK_SPACE hosts networking and business development events.
NAN: Are there specific resources for entrepreneurs?
STACEY: We launched a Growth Peer Strategy (GPS) roundtable for established entrepreneurs where they can openly connect and share. We find that entrepreneurs are so busy with day-to-day activities and meeting immediate needs, they often don’t set time aside for long-term visioning.
With this roundtable, we talk about where they want to be in one, two, five, and 10 years and what seeds need to planted now. Suggested by one of our members, this group creates camaraderie and provides accountability.
NAN: What’s next?
STACEY: We’re intent on growing in the direction that the community needs. We rely on them to tell us what that is and we’re always working to find new ways to engage more people.
Our model at WORK_SPACE is inherently flexible, so we’re well-equipped to succeed in a business world where being able to quickly pivot is a necessity. For example, we transformed one of our small private offices into a digital story studio that can be used for podcasts and creating promotional videos or social media campaigns. It also serves as a Zoom room and small conference room.
We’re currently building relationships with editors and content producers to connect them with our clients who want to generate content but may not have the technical knowhow or the time. And, we’re looking into launching a type of incubator/accelerator that helps entrepreneurs (including artists) create and build upon a sustainable foundation for success.
We’re definitely going to grow, continue to offer different services, and partner with people and organizations that can contribute to our overall mission to foster personal, professional, communal, and cultural development in Manchester.