Cool collaborations: The 2015 guide to coworking in Tampa Bay

The term “coworking” is gaining momentum across the nation. It’s no surprise that in the past two years Tampa Bay, an early adopter of the shared workspace model, has seen a significant boost in cool new places to work, collaborate, and even enjoy free coffee, all for a monthly fee.
 
For the self-employed and individuals who work from home, shared space provides a place of work that is more secure than a coffee shop and less distracting than a home office, with the added benefit of a community of entrepreneurial individuals at one’s disposal.

Coworking spots in the Tampa Bay region run the gamut from tech-focused meetups to events catering to creative professionals, so most spaces have developed a unique vibe and culture.

A few things that the coworking spaces typically share: free coffee, high-speed internet access, and a mix of lounge and office areas where members can create or collaborate.

Some things that make them unique: artwork from local artists, gaming tables, networking or tech-centric events, distinctive spaces, sense of community.

A lot has changed since 83 Degrees first covered Tampa Bay area coworking spaces in July 2013. From an Ybor City resource center to a Lakeland-based nonprofit, coworking spaces in Tampa Bay serve a growing and varied population of entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelance creatives.

Here’s the 83 Degrees 2015 Guide to Coworking in the Tampa Bay region.

Coworking spaces in Tampa

CoCreativ
3902 Henderson Blvd.
2nd Floor, Suite 208 
South Tampa


CoCreativ moved from downtown St. Petersburg to South Tampa in 2014, establishing a 4,700-square-feet space on Henderson Boulevard and adding another 2,200-square-feet to accommodate a growing clientele base.

COO and cofounder Jason Stoll says that many coworking spaces “focus on the tech crowd, but CoCreativ's members are from a wide variety of professions” including law, video production, real estate and consulting, along with technology.

Along with dedicated private offices and shared spaces, CoCreativ houses a training room built to serve enterprise clients, trainers and coaches.

CoCreativ is exploring the possibility of opening a second coworking location in Hillsborough or Pinellas County in 2015.

Shared spaces can be had for as low as $49/month at CoCreativ. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30am-6pm, but 24/7 access plans can be made available.

“Most coworking spaces are created to be a local solution to a local problem,” Stoll says, but CoCreativ was developed “with the intention of building it into a national brand.”

CoWork Tampa
3104 N Armenia Ave. 
Suite 2
West Tampa


CoWork Tampa, nominated by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as one of the "Coolest Office Spaces in Tampa Bay" in 2014, also achieved record membership growth and revenue last year.
 
Located in a historic, renovated cigar factory in West Tampa, the cowork space has a 6,000-square-feet loft outfitted with an assortment of community tables and dedicated desks, offices, a conference room and a kitchen. The first floor, vacated by Tampa Hackerspace in 2014, was renovated to include member perks like a “bean bag lounge,” says Christa Beck, the community manager for parent company Uhsome.

Art from local artists, including live plant art, bedecks many of the walls in the space. One other unique addition: a barber who occupies one of the upstairs offices can provide haircuts to CoWork Tampa visitors and members.

CoWork Tampa developed a “coworking passport” program in 2014, which allows members of any coworking space to work for free once a month at any of the 15 participating spaces in the state, from Miami to Jacksonville.

CoWork Ybor
1901 East 7th Avenue
Ybor City


Roberto Torres opened CoWork Ybor and his fusion boutique and tea and coffee shop, The Blind Tiger Café, in adjoining Ybor City storefronts in fall 2014. The small, shared space is home to plenty of hand-painted art, a handful of desks, a conference room, and an informal sitting room area that overlooks bustling 7th Ave in Ybor City.
 
During 2015, Torres plans to grow CoWork Ybor “into a dynamic space that serves creatives. Our mission is to foster creativity. We want every person that joins to bring a skill, share a secret and make the community better.”

Daily access, which includes free Buddy Brew coffee and TeBella tea, is $12 per day, while a monthly pass is $100. 

“This is really a labor of love for us,” Torres says.
 
Oxford Exchange Commerce Club 
420 W Kennedy Blvd
2nd Floor
Hyde Park


At the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club, enjoy an upscale library vibe in the upstairs coworking space where quiet working is encouraged and views of the University of Tampa are evident in many windows. Original black-and-white brick walls and eclectic décor such as green-glass banker’s lamps make visiting this coworking space a treat for the aesthetically minded.

Along with ambiance, snack on fresh sandwiches and enjoy local Buddy Brew coffee and TeBella tea while working in the Commerce Club. 

Conference rooms, private phone booths, a business center, and notary service are available to members. Individual membership is $125/month, while corporate membership for up to 6 employees is available at $625/month. 

Hours are 7:30am-5pm, Mon-Fri, and 9am-5pm on Saturdays.
 
The Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center
2101 East Palm Avenue 
Ybor City


Hillsborough County’s Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) opened in Ybor City in late 2014 to serve as an updated headquarters for the county’s Small Business Development Center and to be the new home base for the economic development program

Inside the ECC space at the corner of Palm Ave and 21st St, everyone from “wannapreneurs” to seasoned business owners is welcome to seek guidance and make use of available resources, says Hillsborough County Economic Development Director Lindsay Kimball.

While the ECC doesn’t officially offer those who use the space memberships, it is a place for individuals to learn more about the economic development services the county provides. Visitors to the ECC can draw up a seat at one of several computers available for research, set up a meeting in one of the conference rooms, or seek business information and free resources from an in-house community partner.

The ECC hosts Tampa’s 1 Million Cups program on Wednesdays at 9am. 

Tampa Bay WaVE First WaVE Venture Center
400 N. Ashley Drive
2nd Floor
Downtown Tampa


In Jan 2015, locally grown code school Gr8code moved into a revamped wing at WaVe that was previously occupied by accelerator Healthbox. The coding camp teaches web development, and WaVe marketing manager Gracie Stemmer says that the addition has enhanced the space.

“We’re really exciting about it; we’ll have more tech people running around, our folks will be able to interact with their students, and vice versa,” says Stemmer. “They’re creating tech talent right inside of our center, which we then foster.”

What makes WaVE so successful, from the First WaVE Venture Center’s coworking space to their startup accelerator program? Focus.

“We’re tech-focused. Our basic level of coworking is open to anyone, but when you get a little deeper into it, we don’t really let just anyone in. We’re looking for you to have a tech company, or be a developer,” Stemmer says. “We’re really here for the tech community.” 

Tampa Bay WaVE is a tech-centric institution in downtown Tampa, but Stemmer says that the accelerator and incubator may be on the move. Now that a federally funded grant WaVE received in 2012 is up, beginning discussions are underway to determine whether the well-known Sykes tower is their “forever location” or if WaVE should move on to a place with more space than the 16,000sf it currently occupies on the second floor of the building.

Basic coworking access is $99 per month and available from 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday. Dedicated desks and 24/7 access are $149-$199; and offices are $300/month.

Tampa Hackerspace
4931 W. Nassau Street
Westshore


Tampa Hackerspace is a community workshop where tinkering meets tech. Formerly housed on the first floor of the Garcia Y Vega cigar factory where CoWork Tampa is located, Hackerspace moved in 2014 to a bigger location in the Westshore neighborhood of Tampa to better service a growing community of creative hobbyists, inventors, makers and artists.
  
In addition to membership access, Tampa Hackerspace hosts weekly open make nights on Tuesday evenings and frequent weekend and evening classes.
 
Specialized tools and shop equipment, many purchased through Kickstarter funds, are available for members to utilize in making projects. Some of the tools available at Tampa Hackerspace include 3D printers; wood shop and metal shop equipment like saws, drill presses, and wire welders; and small electronic parts stock, among many other offerings.

Three sewing machines and a painting easel are also available for use.

The Tampa Hackerspace has an active Facebook community where members or interested parties discuss making, hacking and other relevant topics.

Monthly membership is $50, while a year membership is $500. Regular membership includes 24-hour access, discounts on class fees and free training.

5508 
5508 N 50th St
East Tampa


5508 CoWorking and Collaboration Exchange is set to open later in 2015, and aims to rejuvenate a blighted neighborhood of Tampa.

Renovations to Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan’s old Business Resources Center in East Tampa began in late 2014, making way for a new business incubator and coworking space that caters to modern entrepreneurs.
 
A 10,000-square-feet structure at 5508 N 50th Street is being redeveloped from an empty warehouse into a sleek, modern coworking room resplendent with etched glass and fashionable concrete floors. On the same parcel of land, rows of office spaces have been gutted and renovated with modern fixtures, ready for move-in and able to accommodate up to 80 businesses.
 
5508 was developed to help members maintain their small businesses by providing accessible office space, business center services, mentorship, and links to strategic partners like Hillsborough Community College to an underserved community. 

HCC will also run an entrepreneurship certificate program from the space.

Single, double and quad office spaces rent from $175 to $750. To secure office space, businesses must be a part of the accelerator program. Coworking is available for $79/month.

Coworking spaces beyond Tampa

Catapult Lakeland
331 S. Florida Ave
Lakeland


After visiting successful cities around the country, the Lakeland Economic Development Council found that “many strong communities had a strong focus on entrepreneurs and providing resources to help them thrive,” says Catapult Lakeland cofounder Meg Bellamy. 
 
To help foster entrepreneurs locally, the LEDC opened the nonprofit Catapult entrepreneur center in January 2014, a space now occupied by more than 80 entrepreneurs.

As interest grows, Catapult Lakeland staff plan to focus on helping their entrepreneurial community, revamping their mentor program, and teaching the 9-week CO.STARTERS class.

“We are continually looking for ways to improve Catapult through our space, educational classes and the mentor program,” says cofounder Meg Bellamy. 

A perk unique to Catapult: a commissary kitchen where food-based companies can test out concepts at low cost before investing in their own food trucks or restaurants.

The vibe: local. Lakeland entrepreneurs Jarrid and Robyn of The Poor Porker designed and built out the Catapult coworking area. Adrian and Christie Lucas of Sassakala designed and maintain a “living wall” in the space. 

Coworking space starts at $50/month, while dedicated desks are $125 and semi-private offices are $250. All memberships include 24-hour access.
 
Clear Labs
2529 Central Ave
Downtown St. Petersburg


Clear Labs isn’t a traditional coworking space; it caters to the members of the communications, marketing, advertising and publishing community.

At Clear Labs, “LABrs” provide mentorship, leadership and technical training to up-and-coming students and members of the advertising arts community in exchange for free office workspaces. Mentors must be 10-year veterans of the advertising industry; several are currently professors at local universities.

If businesses or individuals haven’t reached that level of experience, office space is available for $150 per month.

Along with the space that founder Jenn Greacen likens to a teaching hospital, Clear Labs provides Adobe and Wordpress tutorials, monthly learning events and weekly lunch and learns.

“There’s a reason why there’s this sudden flood of coworking spaces,” says Greacen. “The market is demanding it.”

When Greacen wanted to open a shared workspace 12 years ago, people told her that no one would want to work in a place where someone "could look over your shoulder and steal your ideas." By the time she opened Clear Labs in late 2013, the conversation had changed to “What a great idea!”

The lesson?

“As an entrepreneur, follow your instinct.”

The Hub Clearwater Beach
483 Mandalay Ave 
Suite 200
Clearwater Beach


Just steps from the warm waters of the Gulf and Clearwater Beach, The Hub provides entrepreneurs with conference space, meeting rooms and coworking access on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Sleek designs, laid-back meeting space and a hydro massage bed all amplify the beachside vibe of The Hub.

Full-time members have 24/7 access to the space. Daily visitors can use the coworking area Monday-Friday, 9am - 5pm.

HuB Sarasota
1680 Fruitville Road
Sarasota


South of Tampa in Sarasota, the HuB continues to develop a presence; most notably, in the form of the HuB Campus, which allows people to use the common coworking space for a low monthly fee, and the incubator program, which has helped launch more than 20 companies.

The HuB team plans to focus on expanding HuB Campus so that more members will use the space and connect with other entrepreneurs in the community.

All 50 private offices are currently full, but coworking space is available at the HuB for $100 per month and dedicated desks for $300/month.

Want to learn more about coworking? Watch the HuB Sarastoa’s CoWORK show episodes here

TEC Garage
244 2nd Avenue N.
Suite 9
DTSP


At Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s TEC Garage, teaching comes first. 

“In St. Petersburg, there has been more demand for our coaching and mentoring services than a collaborative space for coworkers,” says TBIC President and CEO Tonya Elmore. “TEC Garage follows the national trend of combining incubators with coworking space, not only providing cost effective space for the growing start-up community but for individuals and small businesses requiring similar amenities.”

Since TEC Garage opened in downtown St. Petersburg in Nov 2014, more than 15 new enterprises have entered the incubator program. In addition to a waiting list for clients requiring office space, TEC Garage also accepts new clients who are then coached and mentored virtually, which has proven popular among members. 

In 2015, TEC Garage is focused on expanding program offerings “that better target the individuals seeking the social and collaboration opportunities that work best in coworking spaces and incubators,” says Elmore. 

These programs include office hours, informal breakfasts, group for solo funders, and opportunities for incubator clients to pitch to venture capitalists and receive feedback.

Members can access TEC Garage’s collaborative coworking space 24 hours a day. Coworking membership is $100 per month, while a day pass is $25.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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