The Common Desk story that exists today wouldn’t be what it is without the countless stories that happened along the way to help get us to where we are now. These stories are filled with laughter, late nights, almost-mental-breakdowns, and the best of surprises; hopefully you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy remembering them:
Started with Community
It is crazy to think that in 2012, most of Dallas had never heard of the term “coworking”. When I quit my job in commercial real estate to start a coworking space, my real estate buddies thought I had lost my mind. Coworking at the time was nothing but a hippie startup fad that was seen by many as a concept that would only work on the West Coast. To make things even weirder, we decided to to stay away from the more affluent neighborhoods and business districts and plant our roots in an area of town with a rich history, a ton of personality, and a serious upside: Deep Ellum.
Before opening our doors, we first focused on starting a community. During the summer of 2012 we’d meet up at the then Pearl Cup Coffee on Henderson Ave (may it rest in peace) every Thursday at 1pm to share a table and work together. The group slowly grew that summer from 2 people to 12+. At 5:00, we’d head over to Barcadia to play a few games and grab some beers. It was exciting over the course of the summer to share milestones and victories with the coworkers at Pearl Cup. Before my brother-in-law thought of the name, Common Desk, we were called Nest Coworking. I know, it’s a terrible name. Working through these issues, developing a website and social media strategy, and honing in on the right neighborhood were all things in the works while working out of Pearl Cup. I first met Merrick at one of the Pearl Cup meetups. She was there working on her startup, CreateGate. Pearl Cup was my first time to experience how fun and powerful coworking could be. It gave me a ton of faith in the model and proved the need for it.
Office space that looks like a brew pub
In 2012, the best beer garden in town was Goodfriend. This was back when you’d have to go to either Goodfriend or Eno’s to get local craft beer. It was only four and a half years ago, but the only local brewery in town was Deep Ellum Brewing Company.
I loved Goodfriend because of its warm and inviting aesthetic. I’d leave the coffee shop to get there at 4pm with my laptop and work a few more hours with a beer in hand. After doing a little research, I learned that a man named Ryan Chaney and his small construction company called 44 Build was responsible for the design and construction of the bar. Ryan at the time had just started 44 Build. They were passionate and poised to buildout small brew pubs and restaurants in gritty areas of town like Deep Ellum. In our first conversation, he was a bit reluctant to work on an office project. It actually took a little convincing. Once he wrapped his head around the project, his passion grew for building an office space that resembled the aesthetic of a brew pub and could be truly different from the Gensler designs that are seen in every building in Dallas. 44 Build is still responsible for everything we’ve built to date. The vibes they’re able to create helps to make Common Desk fun and a little different.
For those that don’t know, Common Desk is a completely bootstrapped company. We’ve never sought equity investors and have always grown based on our demand and cash flow. This presented a few problems pre-opening.
During the final days of construction we were over budget and had missed our initial deadline for n opening date. Due to this, funds had dwindled down to less than $5,000 to complete the project. hankfully, everything was paid for and in place except for office chairs. For some stupid reason, I idn’t think about how expensive 100 office chairs would be. At $100 per chair, that’s another 10,000 needed to make sure all seats were in place on opening day. To put it nicely, I was freaking ut. I perfectly remember my mom visiting the construction site that day and talking me off the liff (again). Her response to the chair crisis was that she was heading home to pray about it. I emember thinking, are you crazy? I needed her to rent a U-Haul truck and drive around town picking p every $15 office chair at garage sales that she could find. Oddly enough, a real estate buddy alled me an hour later out of the blue to inform me that he had 115 retro looking orange office hairs chilling in a vacancy at one of his buildings. He said that if I could come get them, the nly thing he wanted in return was a margarita machine rented for a party he was throwing for his enants. The orange chairs that everybody has now enjoyed ended up costing about $5 per chair.
On the Friday before October 1, 2012, Common Desk was scheduled to host its first happy hour for the Dallas startup community. We had promised a finished space and craft beer for the 100+ people that had RSVP’d. That morning, I was abruptly woken by the man responsible for installing our security system at 6am while I was sleeping on a blow up mattress in the middle of the original shared area. It was the beginning of a crazy day. That Friday, there were 25+ construction workers through the space, plus an army of family and friends helping to put a few final details in place. With a little magic, Common Desk didn’t look like a complete hot mess at 5pm. We pulled off our first party and the space received its first compliments as a coworking space. With a little luck, faith, friends, sweat and tears, we made it to opening day. Our first day of business was October 1, 2012. We then had 20 faithful members in approximately 4,000 square feet. The first few months weren’t easy or magical. The idea of a dedicated desk being out in the open was very foreign. Three months in, I almost killed the idea of the dedicated desk due to fact that almost all of them were still available. Thankfully we stuck with it and it is now a big reason for the growth and success we have experienced.
The stories could go on for days; check back for more soon!