4 Questions with Liz from PelotonLabs!
In our latest coworking space interview, we spoke to Liz Trice of Maine’s own PelotonLabs. In this Portland, Maine coworking space, tech startups give up the limelight to freelancers and independent workers of all types. Let’s take a closer look at how Liz makes this space work.
Liz: tell us a bit about yourself and Peloton Labs.
“We have a 4,600 sq ft building, and we’re in the West End of Portland,” Liz starts. The space holds about 90 members. There are private offices, but most of Peloton Labs is in an open layout.
“We have more remote workers and freelancers than we have startups,” Liz says of her clientele. “This is kind of a lifestyle town, so people are often moving here and bringing their jobs with them.” Portland, Maine is consistently rated one of the best small cities in the U.S. to live, according to Liz, so many of her members have moved in from economic hubs like NYC and SF.
As a result, the culture and environment at PelotonLabs is a bit different than what you’d find at startup-targeted coworking spaces.
How were you first exposed to coworking, and what made you interested?
Liz wanted to build a place that “people could go to and work on their creative stuff.” It was a casual idea at first, simply meant to pursue creative projects in the company of others.
Later, Liz partnered with a real estate developer she had previously worked with to construct the space. Peloton Labs opened its doors five years ago, and Liz took over full ownership two years ago.
“I like bringing people together, and I like building my network.” Having worked in outdoor education and public policy, Liz had more than enough opportunity to work with people to improve their lives. “I’m a natural connector,” she says, and at Peloton, “I get to connect people all day long.”
What do you think is necessary for a coworking space to succeed?
It’s a common misconception among organizations that help startups and entrepreneurs that what these new companies want primarily business information and specific contacts. From what Liz found of her members, what they really want is “an even mix of encouragement, strategy, and skills/information.” In other words, the moral support of coworkers is at least as important as concrete skills.
Being comfortable in the office is crucial to success. It shouldn’t feel like a place where “you might meet someone important, so you have to be at your best every minute.” That way, it’s easier to talk to colleagues when you have a problem, instead of having to keep up appearances.
What are the best features of your coworking space?
“We’re one of the only spaces in our town that’s staffed, so there’s always someone to talk to.” This allows Peloton to provide hospitality, whether in the form of daily “snacktimes”, locally roasted coffee, and welcoming guests.
There are also plenty of events for members to get to know one another. Every member gets a magnet of themselves placed on a board in the office, featuring a brief bio to make them easier to approach.
About once a week, Peloton hosts a sort of “show and tell” during lunch, where members can show what they’re working on. Likewise, once a month, the space gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell stories about how they’ve progressed through their careers and has made the event into a TV show. Peloton has also hosted multiple Startup Weekends.
Even for those who never present, simply hearing other members share their struggles encourages open dialogue throughout the office. “As soon as you’ve created that relationship where people can show a bit of vulnerability and ask for help,” says Liz, “they’ll maintain that level of trust going forward.”