Startup

Why Coworking Could be Vital to Your Startup

Coworking makes the perfect startup office. Explore the benefits of startup coworking through Jillian Ryan's story:

Why Coworking Could Be Vital to Your Startup

Starting your own business is exciting. In 2014, I made the leap into the startup world and launched a boutique consulting firm to help companies do business in Sub-Saharan Africa. For ten years, I had worked for a prominent international business consulting firm in DC where I advised some of the world’s largest multinationals on market entry strategies, stakeholder engagement plans and strategies to identify and mitigate political risk in Africa. The work was fascinating, but I wanted to build something from the ground up.

So, in January 2014, I started a consulting firm, Geopolitical Advisory Partners, and in October 2014 launched a side venture to fund entrepreneurship training for the many women in developing markets that I had come across in my career.

When I entered the startup world, leaving behind the comforts and stability of a corporate job, I was thrilled…and terrified. I don’t think anyone ever really knows all they are taking on when they decide to launch a startup - especially the mental struggles that come along with it - but thankfully there are several ways you can set yourself and your venture up for success. One of the best decisions I made in 2014 was to join a co-working space. Why is that, you ask?

To start with, it is the people you meet. The benefits of a collaborative workplace – especially for a startup – cannot be overstated.

My recently-launched social enterprise Mariemae works with artists across Africa to design high-quality stationery and office products that we then print and package here in Dallas to market throughout the US. For every product purchased, we provide an hour of business skills training to women entrepreneurs in developing markets. I launched Mariemae as a private sector way to fund a single business skills training trip to Africa, but had little experience in launching a retail business.

Fortunately, I launched this venture from Common Desk and, thanks to the wonders of collaborative spaces, was able to get it off the ground in record time. Rather than waste days polling my network and searching for local recommendations, I found sitting all around me the talented product photographers and graphic designers I needed, as well as several seasoned entrepreneurs I could bounce ideas off of in real time.

The realization of Mariemae from idea to launch ended up taking a mere three weeks, all made possible because I had so many of the necessary players right here at my fingertips. The product of this “side venture” is now carried in stores on the west and east coasts, on several online marketplaces, and has been featured in a variety of blogs and magazines - due in large part to the network of professionals with whom I share an office space.

Add to that the resources you have at your disposal.

Just because you are a startup, doesn’t mean you have to look like one to potential clients. In the world of consulting – especially when you are attempting to woo Fortune 100 clients – you can’t afford to look like anything less than a credible and established firm. The right coworking space can be a great place to bring potential clients. Plus, it gives you a desk and a business address (instead of the dreaded P.O. Box), and a place to hold brainstorming sessions with your team.

Finally, add a vibrant and professional atmosphere.

While coffee shops are great places for informal meetings, they aren’t always great at encouraging you to HUSTLE. The early days in a startup are exciting, but oftentimes grueling, and you need a supportive environment that makes you want to work hard and lifts your spirits. Being surrounded by other coworking members with their noses to the grindstone and an entrepreneurial vibe can be invaluable to keeping you motivated when you hit the inevitable bumps in the road. (Not to mention that it makes the transition from the corporate world to the startup world a little less jarring.)

Launching your own startup is exciting, but make sure you take the necessary steps to set your venture up for success.

Photographs courtesy of Lindsey Miller Photo

written by Jillian Ryan

A Dallas-native, Jillian Ryan is the founder of Geopolitical Advisory Partners, a boutique consulting firm helping companies doing business in Africa develop market entry, stakeholder engagement, and political risk mitigation strategies. Jillian is also the founder of Mariemae, a social enterprise providing entrepreneurship training to women in Africa. Follow Mariemae on Instagram and Twitter for a behind the scenes look at the upcoming Mariemae Business School in Rwanda in March.

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