We took some of our favorite snippets from the “Does Coworking Work?” article from the November issue in Out & About Magazine.
Does Coworking Work?
By Ken Mammarella
The secret to a successful co-working space is planning it like a city, Rob Herrera believes, with a variety of amenities, a variety of businesses and chances and space for member businesses to grow.
Herrera calls that “community building,” and following and adapting that concept, “touching a little bit of everything,” has led him to the top of Delaware’s coworking sector.
The Mill, which he began in 2016 in the Nemours Building in downtown Wilmington, will cover 81,400 square feet of space, after the latest expansion is complete. In 2019, The Mill added another location, 20,000 square feet in Brandywine Hundred’s Concord Plaza. And, optimistically in early 2025, there will be another 20,000 square feet in operation in Seaford, as part of a project to revitalize a large, old shopping center and the Sussex County city itself.
Herrera has concluded coworking spaces need to be big to allow for efficiencies in scale to operate and increase opportunities among members to interact. That’s based on two years of working for WeWork (which he called the first national coworking space company in the U.S.), his college degrees in architecture and infrastructure planning, and eight years of running The Mill.
“The office vibe feels great,” says Roger J. Clappe, founder of WhipFlip, a startup in The Mill that uses artificial technology to instantly let consumers sell their car to WhipFlip. “Just great resources. Companies feed off each other and help each other,” he adds, noting that he’s used legal, marketing and video services offered by other Mill members. “You can never know who can use you or who you can use.”
Hiccups on the global growth of coworking included the pandemic. “Covid was stressful,” Herrera says, noting that “shortly thereafter we started getting calls from companies that beforehand would never consider coworking, like large law firms. They see coworking as a way to get their staff to come into the office” yet are reluctant to sign long leases elsewhere.
Offerings at The Mill have evolved as well, including adding outdoor seating, phone booths and a wellness room and eliminating the sound system.
“You can’t make everybody happy with the music,” Herrera acknowledges, noting that portable equipment can be brought in for specific purposes.
And sometimes a key offering is the absence of something. There are no outlets, for instance, in The Mill’s shared pantry. “Nothing kills that vibe” of informal gatherings more than people plugged in, working at laptops, Herrera says.