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posted: 10/28/2013 5:30 AM

Co-working may change how small businesses operate

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No more rolling out of bed and walking across the hall to your office, jammies and all. Co-working is not a home office.

Neither is co-working space an incubator. Small business incubators tend to focus on tech startups looking for funds. The idea that tenants will work collaboratively matches up, however.

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We're not talking typical shared office space either, where, Mara Hauser says, "You walk into an office and close the door."

Essentially communal working space you rent as needed, co-working perhaps is best defined as a community of entrepreneurs who gather in a collaborative setting. In fact, the description that seems to fit Jimi Allen's Gravity Building co-working space in downtown Aurora and Hauser's plans for Catalyst Co-working space in St. Charles and Batavia revolves around collaboration, communal and community.

"This is about networking and meeting other people -- getting away from home," explains Sybil Ege.

"It's communal space. People will come. They may not have a designated area and may sit at a long table, plug in their laptops and go to work -- or they may pay for private space -- but they will come."

Co-working is "a change in the way small business functions," says Harriet Parker. "It's a place to go that's out of the house -- a more stimulating environment, a critical mass of small businesses that need some collaboration."

The idea, Parker says, "is to create a community in the (co-working) space, create a vibe."

Allen carries the communal aspect further. "People are sitting in Starbucks with their laptops," he says. "They need a place to work. Communities need our type of resource."

Allen is owner of Jimi Allen Productions, a visually centered marketing firm in Aurora. Parker and Ege are respected Illinois Small Business Development Center managers, Ege at Elgin Community College and Parker at Waubonsee Community College, Aurora. Both are members of an advisory board Hauser created to help take Catalyst Coworking from idea to reality.

Hauser is president of The Hauser Group, a St. Charles firm that provides interior design project management services for corporations with 10 or more locations. She expects the benefits large companies see in space that allows employees to work collaboratively to translate to smaller businesses at Catalyst Coworking sites.

Neither Catalyst Coworking nor the Gravity Building is ready yet; each expects to open during 2014's first quarter. "We're forming our community first," Hauser says. "We'll have a minimum of 20 members before we open."

Allen has "about 35 (business owners) ready to come in." Members -- membership seems to be part of the co-working concept -- will "share resources. We'll have printers everyone will use. A kitchen. We'll be able to move furniture around."

Members in Gravity Building pay either $350 a month for dedicated workspace -- the same spot everyday -- or $250, which allows you to sit wherever you want that day. Prices and services are basically comparable at Hauser's Catalyst Coworking sites.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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