Priorities Change as Coworking Hits the Suburbs

Coworking is taking the suburbs by storm.

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A new trend in coworking is popping up across the United States, and it has nothing to do with the latest in startups or craft beer. In fact, coworking is moving the opposite way: it was born in urban cores, and now it’s spreading outward.

Philadelphia’s HeadRoom is situated in the outskirts of the city, but that’s all part of the plan. When the space opened in 2014, the founders wanted to bring their own entrepreneurial take on coworking.

The HeadRoom founders were well aware that opening in the suburbs would attract a different demographic. Their members were likely to be older, often with families, and they probably had more disposable income than debt-laden 20-somethings.

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Having older members is no reason to be stingy with design and amenities, of course; the space still boasts stylish chairs and coffee from the local La Colombe. At the same time, the space offers pricier, business-targeted services that traditional coworking spaces are unlikely to offer. HeadRoom offers strategic planning services for $2000 and a mentoring program for $4000 a year. It’s the perfect opportunity for older entrepreneurs who can afford to invest a little in themselves.

In an interview, HeadRoom cofounder John Tooher explains that the space provides a “resource-rich incubation environment”. It’s less about community, culture, and amenities, and more about concrete resources that help grow your business. Membership even includes a consultation with himself and his cofounder Dan Lievens, both business veterans with decades of experience.

According to the founders, many of HeadRoom’s members are consultants. This makes sense given that they’ve had years to hone their craft at startups and large corporations alike. At this space, entrepreneurship is less about scaling a startup and more about finding and pleasing valuable clients.

The great thing about working in a network of consultants is that you can rely on one another’s services. Lievens claims that 70% of HeadRoom members use the services of at least one other member.

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HeadRoom’s members are happy to be around peers that are at similar points in their careers, but coworking remains an unpopular option in the suburbs. Driving around, it’s far harder to find a space than in the city. But as people come to realize that coworking doesn’t have to equal big open offices and social events, we’ll see more of these spaces pop up in the suburbs.

As it stands, downtown Philly’s Benjamin’s Desk is already planning a suburban expansion in the coming year. It’s hard to say how big the suburban coworking market is and when it will saturate, but for the foreseeable future, supply is only going to increase.