5 Questions with Patrick from Onward Coworking in Chicago!
In this newest Featured Space interview, we are thrilled to talk with Patrick Aylward from Onward Coworking located in the West Loop – one of Chicago’s most outstanding neighborhoods. As we’ve seen, Chicago is in a coworking boom, therefore we thought it would be interesting to speak to another Coworking Space.
So Patrick, tell us a little about Onward Coworking.
Patrick created Onward Coworking in 2012 with a business partner. It’s in a warehouse, which is now home to the beautifully designed Coworking Space. Patrick told me he used to be an engineer in the construction industry, and now works in real estate. He’s also currently pursuing an MBA. So why would someone so busy decide to start a Coworking Space on top of everything else? “My business partner and I were yearning for something different and new. When we started to learn about the coworking movement, we thought the concept fit our personalities. It was up and coming and there was a lack of space in Chicago, especially in the West Loop.” I inquired if he had any future plans on expanding, to which he replied that he and his business partner are discussing the concept, though no plans exist at the moment.
Chicago’s West Loop
I’ve never been to Chicago. I’d love to go, as it looks like a very dynamic and beautiful city, though some of the finer inner workings have escaped me. Patrick kindly offered to give me a quick explanation on the city’s particularity: Chicago is very neighborhood oriented. The Loop, which is Chicago’s official downtown area, is one of the most important central business districts in the world. The West Loop, home of Onward Coworking, has seen a major growth these past 10 years. Many tech companies moved in, generating a commercial, retail, and real estate growth; which is why Patrick chose that location for Onward Coworking: “It seemed like the West Loop could provide to the community, it would be a great fit because of the feel of the neighborhood: bold, energetic, creative. It matches with the Coworking Space.”
What sets Onward Coworking apart from the others?
“The community of workers: it’s a great group of people. Although we all work in different industries from one another, we all get along and we’re all friends, we go to each other’s birthdays, there’s a happy hour every month..” Certainly sounds like a fun place to work at! So what kind of people would one find when entering Onward Coworking? “We’re not driven towards one industry or one type of worker so there’s a great diversity. A handful of startups, independent contractors, company workers… Onward Coworking is for any individual or group that needs a place conducive to work.” The location, pricing and design are also a part of what makes Onward Coworking so special. Indeed, I mentioned that what I loved about Onward Coworking was that it kind of reminded me of a cottage, with the wooden floors and ceilings. “There’s definitely a cosy feeling, it’s not the largest space in Chicago but it’s a loft building so there’s a particular charm to it.” Oh, and did I mention they have an awesome rooftop terrace with an incredible view ?
What are important factors to create a successful Coworking Space?
“Community, of course. But not just in terms of organized events or collaboration, it’s also about the ability to make friends: forming relationships is a big part of why people join coworking spaces.” And apparently Onward Coworking is a great place to make new friends! Location of course is also a central part for making a Coworking Space great: “ It’s important to be close to things that matter to people. For example, people in Chicago bike a lot and use the L train. So it’s more important to be close to those, rather than a parking lot. You need to understand what type of people you are catering to, then design the space based on people’s needs.”
What are your thoughts on the coworking movement as a whole? How do you imagine its future?
“Coworking is fantastic. It truly changes the way people work, so it’s definitely here to stay. It’s been really helpful for the people in our office because it’s different than trying to sign a long term lease: it’s really flexible for the cost and general commitment. And it appeals to so many different people. It’s crazy to think that not so long ago people used to work from coffee shops! I’m excited to see what’s next.” Onward Coworking has a couple of desks available, so check out their listings here and grab yours before it’s too late! Thanks again to Patrick for taking the time to answer our questions, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for Onward Coworking!