The first product of the cooperative is a coding academy, Academy Pittsburgh, situated across the street from Work Hard, which is half-owned by the coop. In the future, the coop will invest in members’ projects in exchange for a portion of equity.
Lucas stresses, as did many other coworking leaders spoken to for this article, the importance and benefits of a true coworking community as opposed to a collection of people situated in the same physical space.
At Coterie Company, that community is centered around women. The newest national brand to Pittsburgh, Coterie is located in the penthouse of the Frick Building downtown.
“Our intention from the early days of development was to create a global community of women,” says Coterie founder Joanna Bailey. “We know the value of expanding our circles, meeting women who don’t normally cross our paths, and collaborating with people outside our skill set.”
Members of any one Coterie location have reciprocal privileges at any of the other half-dozen locations nationwide, as well as access to the online network of Coterie members. But why is a women-focused coworking space necessary? “Walk into any Starbucks or Panera at 11 a.m. and you’ll find your answer,” says Bailey. “It’s pretty hard to be taken seriously when you’re navigating an 18-inch table at a coffee shop while attempting to explain your value proposition, give a presentation, and not spill coffee on your potential client.”
Moreover, most coworking spaces are predominantly male environments, and some members at Coterie mentioned being turned off by the dart-throwing, afternoon-beer-drinking vibe of some of Pittsburgh’s other coworking spaces. At Coterie, there’s a full-time concierge on-hand at all times to take care of members’ personal and professional needs. Memberships are by referral and cost $250 a month for part-time access, $500 for full-time.
Another coworking space that draws a predominantly female clientele is Sharpsburg’s Whetstone Workgroup, known widely as the first coworking space in the region to offer on-site daycare.
Founder Jessica Strong says that while other coworking spaces are more tech-focused, hers is geared toward women (and men!) who primarily work in the nonprofit or early stages of beginning a startup. Membership to Whetstone costs $150 per month and childcare costs $6 per hour.
“The traditional 9 to 5 places, as much as they offer flexibility, there’s still a penalty if you take time off to watch your kids, and that penalty is most acutely felt by women,” says Strong. “Having a gap on your resume for a woman is very, very hard to overcome.”
She says that a coworking space like Whetstone allows working mothers to work as freelancers or consultants, keep up with trends in their field and avoid that resume gap. The model has been so successful that she has begun to look for a second location, somewhere in the East End.
When it comes to geography, Strong says that coworking spaces aren’t different from any other bar or coffee shop: people tend to frequent what’s closest to them. That said, she has several members who travel there from the South Hills specifically for the services and community at Whetstone.
In that sense, Strong says “it’s both location and community,” two things Pittsburgh has in abundant supply.