CASE STUDY 1 - CAMP
I reached out to Megan Hunt From Camp in downtown Omaha. CAMP closed in May 2012 because of financial reasons, I wanted to find our more from Megan about what lead to the closure:
Interview with Megan Hunt at CAMP conducted via email on 25th October 2012
Date you opened: May 2010
Date you closed: May 2012
Where where you based, rural, city, near amenities?
CAMP was located in North Downtown Omaha, a pretty busy and newly developing part of downtown Omaha. It was located in The Mastercraft, and old furniture factory that had been renovated into offices. Lots of young professionals.
How much money did you spend?
I don't have exact figures but our startup costs were probably around 5-6k. Not too much. We had recurring costs on top of that like rent and utilities.
What was the basic reason for closing?
Tell me your role in the creation of your coworking space?
I founded CAMP because I wanted to move my company out of my house. I had also hit the ceiling on my earnings and needed to hire employees. I had a bunch of other friends running businesses and we hung out all the time, especially late at night, and they were facing the same problems. Their businesses were expanding and they wanted a professional place to meet with clients and work with their employees. Silicon Prairie News had built some buzz about coworking with their "Jailbreak" project (that ultimately got put on hold), and the Whuffaoke tour that came through in 2009 brought the founders of some major coworking spaces around the world into Omaha who had a great influence on me too. It just seemed like Omaha had a need for coworking and could support it.
When I went to the open house party a new space at The Mastercraft building in January 2010, I fell in love with the buildling. I had a good feeling about the space and I opened CAMP there six months later.
What do you see as the motivation of your coworkers to use the space?
I'm convinced that people don’t want a fun place to work as much as they just want better coworkers. Coworking should provide community MORE than it provides the amenities you think you need. Growing that community of people who not only needed a fun culture to work but needed physical space was my biggest challenge.
The biggest pitfall I had with CAMP was that the space came before the community. I tried to build a strong network of support around the few core tenants I started with. As is normal for a coworking space, they all eventually moved on, outgrew the space, found new gigs and moved into other offices, etc, and I wasn't able to grow the membership roster beyond that.
You refer to your space in some articles i've read as a 'collaborative space'? That implies that not only were people working beside each other but they were also involved in working together on projects… was this the case? How often did this happen and how did you facilitate that kind of culture?
People at CAMP helped each other ALL the time. Whether it was offering products, time, or expertise, I can't think of any of our CAMP tenants who didn't share their talents generously with the group when it was needed.
How much time did you spend on building a culture in your space?
How much time? It was all I did. We had lots of events and the space was always open for people who needed a place to meet or host a gathering. I spent all my time attempting to build culture.
What did you do to build culture in your space? Did you have a community manager, someone responsible for culture?
I tried to find a community manager and wasn't successful before I decided to close.
Talk a little about the circumstances and decisions that led you to
close the space?
CAMP was funded by me out of pocket. We had monthly membership rates of $350 for 24/7 access, a private desk, etc etc etc, and accepted donations for daily drop-ins. Unfortunately although I tried many different revenue models to keep the space open, CAMP never had a profitable month in the 22 months we were open. It ultimately closed because I couldn't sustain it. I was losing my passion for community building because my bank account was in the red month after month and it was preventing me from having a stable life. I had to just say "enough." I loved the events we had, and I loved the people who came there to work, but I wasn't able to build enough of a community culture.
I think there were things I could have done--a kickstarter, finding a good mentor to help me refine the business plan, dropping the rates, searching for a buyer, etc. I had wanted to further build out the space and create some private rooms which I think would have helped us, but by the time I got the chance to get out of my lease, I just had to take the opportunity. It would have been foolish not to. I did not go into the project with enough committed tenants and I didn't have a good plan B. I would love to try coworking again someday in a different incarnation. I still very much believe it can work in Omaha.