City Heights Coworking Space Strives To Help Entrepreneurs
Nic Roc and Stacy Keck met each other out of necessity. They were looking to find people to share an office to save money.
"I've been working out of my apartment for as long as I've been fulltime photo, so that can be extremely isolating, it can be very liberating as well," said Keck, who has been working as a freelance photographer in San Diego for 10 years. "You get to a point where you kind of plateau and you reach this place where you wish that you had other people around."
So the two women joined the growing trend of setting up shared office space, called coworking. A year ago they opened You Belong Here, a collaborative work and event space in City Heights.
Roc said the two women soon discovered they wanted much more than just a physical space to work from.
"There was this natural pivot to becoming more of a community space and more of an outreach to small businesses that need a place to connect and engage and interact with other businesses and to share ideas and that's what we wanted to be a part of, create something where people didn't feel alone," Roc said.
She noticed an empty storefront on El Cajon Boulevard between Interstate 805 and Interstate 15 and made her move.
"I loved the way it looked. I loved the façade. I just felt like it was a beautiful space and it was so sad that it was just empty for so long. It was just supposed to be an office space, nothing more than that and what it became was so much more than what I even imagined," Roc said.
Roc and Keck rented out the space, then gutted it, renovated it and transformed it. In addition to offering traditional coworking space, the two also rent out and donate the space to area nonprofits for art shows and events.
"Once we opened the doors and we were having art shows and workshops and we've done film screenings here and collaborated with local nonprofits to have fundraisers, once people started showing up for those types of things, I really realized that I could do more fulfilling work," Keck said.
According to the 2018 global coworking survey, 1.7 million people are working in 19,000 coworking spaces around the world. That's up by more than 40 percent from the year before.
The trend is believed to have started in 2005 in San Francisco for freelancers who wanted the community and structure of an office space.
Crosby Noricks is a business coach and runs a public relations website. She is one of the first three members of You Belong Here and uses the space to work.
"I love being able to bring my branding, marketing, public relations, media knowledge to the table and I also love to learn about different opportunities that I might not be thinking of because I'm so focused in my niche," Noricks said. "So being able to leverage their relationships, their ideas, just so I can see my own blind spots."
You Belong Here offers different memberships ranging from $20 to use the space for a day to up to $200 for an all-access monthly pass. The space offers a kitchen with coffee and snacks, WiFi, a podcast room and a closed-door office.
Nic Roc said in addition to giving her a way to get out of the house, You Belong Here has provided a place to brainstorm with other entrepreneurs about ways to grow her business.
"We had to do a lot to learn about establishing an LLC, getting lawyers, having contracts put together. So these are things that we weren't really doing outside on our own," Roc said. "So by coming together, we had to learn all of these business steps, which is something that we really want to focus on for anyone who is coming into this space. We want to provide them with those resources and the consulting and the help."
You Belong Here is hoping their membership grows and they can continue to provide a place and a platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs in San Diego to thrive.