Casual Friday doesn't exist at CO+HOOTS — at least not the way it does in the traditional business world. There are no cubicles, and every wall is a window. There are standing desks, treadmill desks, and an open-office floor plan, busied with people wearing jeans. Odeen Domingo, co-owner of the co-working space, is one of them, rounding out his casual look in a graphic T-shirt with a design of the Death Star from Star Wars. He leads a tour of the company's recently finished office space in midtown Phoenix, where he gestures toward a small refrigerator in the kitchen area. Inside is a keg of beer — locally sourced, of course, currently supplied by Wren House — that, come 4:30 p.m. every Friday ("beer-thirty," the company calls it), members talk shop and network around.
On Friday, September 30, "beer-thirty" is briefly giving way to a more public party: Forever in CO+HOOTS. The event, part grand opening celebration, part six-year birthday bash, will run from 7 to 10 p.m. at the new midtown location, 221 East Indianola Avenue, just south of Indian School Road.
Attendance is free, and everyone from current members to curious would-be co-workers can attend. Partygoers can expect to play games, nosh from a food truck-friendly spread, and mix and mingle with business owners and others from the Valley's start-up community. Now that the dust has settled, they'll get a look at the co-working space's mid-century inspired "forever home" and will hear from noted guests including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who represents the city's fifth district, which is home to this area of midtown.
"We wanted to be part of the growth of downtown Phoenix, which I think we did, and now we wanted to move to midtown and be part of that growth and that placemaking as well," Domingo says. CO+HOOTS, the city's largest collaborative co-working space, began the move north from downtown earlier this summer.
"We went downtown because we wanted to help increase that density and bring people in, get people to love downtown. And while downtown still has a ways to go it’s kind of happened!" he adds. "We feel like downtown doesn't need a CO+HOOTS anymore, really. There [are] lots of start-ups that are moving downtown, spaces are being filled. We feel like midtown is that next step."
The move to central Phoenix is the third time CO+HOOTS has changed spaces since its inception in 2010, when it began as an out-of-the-house outlet for Domingo and Jenny Poon to run their eco-friendly design and branding boutique, eeko studio.
In its six-year span the organization has grown to more than 250 members. They've provided rentable office space and start-up support for Uber Phoenix, become the local hub for Minneapolis-based software design company The Nerdery, and has acted as home for auto parts site Revolution Parts, which began with four employees and has since expanded to 40 — and has taken over the former CO+HOOTS downtown. (Domingo says the lease on that building will be up in two years.)
The unconventional office, which encourages members to "co-work, co-build, co-change the world with us," also hosted a number of code workshops, outreach programs, MidWeek MindTweak events, and started their nonprofit, CO+HOOTS foundation.
"Everything was based out of need," Domingo says, noting that CO+HOOTS as a company has even expanded, from husband-and-wife team to eight employees and a rotating cast of interns. And as the company grew, they became "restricted and limited by physical space" downtown.
"When we started CO+HOOTS we knew we wanted to support entrepreneurs and freelancers, but we never knew how much it was going to expand the way it has," he says. "There was no way I would have thought we were going to purchase a building."
But they have. Built in the 1960s, the former architect's office they purchased neighbors a school and federally subsidized housing and comes complete with a Phoenix favorite: on-site, covered parking. Inside, the fluorescent-lit office tops out at three times the size of their space downtown. With 14,000 square feet of space the incubator has been able to offer start-ups more: more office space, more conference rooms, more classrooms, and more privacy.
The move was made possible in large part through a successful Indiegogo campaign, where 242 backers raised $53,960 — exceeding the goal amount of $50,000. That money went to everything from purchasing the building to furniture to signage.
"Our community built itself," Domingo says, adding that partnerships with companies like Heckler Design and Atmosphere Interiors helped furnish the office with brightly colored and patterned pieces. "You don't expect help like that, but when it comes it's crazy."
Private Internet-equipped "phone" booths line some of the walls, while smaller, one-person "conference rooms" snuggle into otherwise dead space. Motivational mantras are written on some walls, and each office has their own street sign above the glass door. These traditional, four-walled office spaces house anywhere from two to 10 people and look out onto a sea of open desks. (Large-scale office space has sold out through the end of 2016, but day rates and conference room rentals are available.)
And there are less traditional work areas, too. Community tables and modern school desks are available at daily rates for freelancers and those who are tired of the coffee shop scene; mid-century inspired desk-and-chair combinations and pod desks are free for anyone to use for a meeting or a personal reprieve, and open "offices" — adjacent to their four-walled companions — house plenty of growing start-ups, like Beth Cochran's Wired PR.
Wired began as a one-woman operation out of Cochran's home and the Chandler co-working space Gangplank. Cochran joined the CO+HOOTS downtown Phoenix location as a member in 2013, and since then her businesses has blossomed in to a four-person, full-time operation with two additional employees who work remotely. Shortly after joining CO+HOOTS, Cochran reached out to other entrepreneurs to start what she describes as a "mastermind group," SuccessLab, to float ideas and strategies — something she says "would've never gotten off the ground if it wasn't for the CO+HOOTS community." The decision to follow that same community to midtown was a no-brainer.
"CO+HOOTS has always been a professional workspace, but in the new space it almost feels like we've grown up in a way. We still have the cool, entrepreneurial vibe, but it feels like we've leveled up in a sense," she says. "It's very inclusive and collaborative. Everyone there has worked hard to maintain a supportive, rising-tide-lifts-all-boats environment. […] The energy and collaboration is there if you choose to engage, or if you need quiet, you can find that too."
Co-working spaces are popping up all over the metro area, as more and more start-ups are gravitating to the desert to set up shop and call Phoenix home. Still, Domingo says the Valley has barely scratched the surface, and the move to a new location is only part of a larger move forward.
"We're still at the precipice of what the start-up community can become," he says, noting that Galvanize, another incubator, is expected to open in the warehouse district in January. "Places like that are only going to help people realize that Phoenix is a place where you can keep talent and where you can find talent.
"We created CO+HOOTs because we were tired of hearing people diss Phoenix," he adds. "We really cared about Phoenix and cared about making Phoenix the place where people want to live and stay and play."
Party with CO+HOOTS and its cohorts from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, September 30, at the new midtown office, 221 East Indianola Avenue. Admission is free, but RSVP is required through eventbrite.com. VIP tickets are available for $99 and include four drink tickets and access to a pre-party dinner at 6 p.m. For more on the company, including future events and rental rates, visit cohoots.com.
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