Co-working rises in the North Bay
Dutra-Cerro-Graden used to have a North Bay office for its commercial real estate work with local school districts and faith-based organizations.
But the company found that co-working in Vallejo's relatively new Green Hive Spaces was more economical and flexible.
“We didn't require a full-time presence, as our activities were driven by our clients' needs,” said principal Landis Graden, whose company has Dublin and Los Angeles offices. “The model saved us money, and the amenities allowed for us to be fully functional, especially with access to the conference room in which we were able to meet with clients.”
Graden is among the dozens of teleworkers, startups and longtime “solopreneurs” who have become regulars or as-needed users of the handful of co-working facilities that have opened in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Vallejo, Ukiah and San Rafael in the past few years. One is set to open in Napa this spring, and another reportedly is on the drawing board for the First Street Napa downtown redevelopment.
Marisela Barbosa opened Green Hive in less than 2,000 square feet at 425 Virginia St., Suite B, a year ago, Its fully booked four office suites, and 14 desk spaces in the co-working area are mostly taken by professionals like Graden who are meeting clients in the city or those who drop in as they pass through the Solano city.
“Our clients have come from Southern California, South Bay, East Bay, Solano, Nevada County and Shasta County and one international business,” Barbosa said. “Some are employees, startups and established businesses. Our conference room has been used mostly by lawyers.”
Roberto Cortez, president and CEO of 13-year-old Monarch Engineers (monarchengineers.com) is part of the three-person team that has the largest private office in Green Hive. The structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering and design firm also has a number of employees who work from home and come to Green Hive to meet with clients at open desks.
“It is a great option since we don't have to lease a large space to house all employees providing conference room availability and other amenities, in addition to being able to expand and contract desk availability to fill our needs in short-term basis,” Cortez said.
Liz Ramos started Engeniate (engeniate.com) team-development consultancy four years ago and run it from a home office, rent-by-the-hour shared offices and coffee shops before landing her own office at Green Hive.
“[I]t is has allowed me to have a clean separation between home and work, which is something I personally needed,” Ramos said.
One of the newest North Bay co-working facilities is VenturePad, opened March 1 by two Marin County entrepreneurship veterans in 3,850 square feet of downtown San Rafael office space at 1020 B St. It has about 30 desks in open-office, communal enclosed “quiet zone” and private-office settings for members plus 30–40 spaces at farm tables, cafe counters and lounge chairs for those who come and go. There are also three conference rooms, seating six to 15.
Co-founders Chris Yalonis, CEO, and Alejandro Moreno, vice president of marketing, envision VenturePad being a blend between a co-working facility and an accelerator–incubator like the former Venture Greenhouse and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Centers location. Moreno was in senior leadership at Venture Greenhouse until it closed in 2015. The incubator side of the business likely will start this fall, after the co-work aspect is fully running, they said.
“The co-working model has proven very successful across the country,” Yalonis said “Marin needs an incubator and accelerator. It also needs need professional services like branding and website design, and we'll offer those.”
They have compiled a network - “C-suite for the solopreneur” - of about a dozen local professional services firms that would offer a discount to members. So for $75–$125 an hour, members can book time with a branding expert, graphic designer, intellectual-property attorney or other expertise startups need.
MINDTANK, THE HIVERY, WORKMIX CAFE, REGUS, WEWORK
Besides the small MindTank Work Club in the town of Ross just west of San Rafael and Mill Valley's women-only The Hivery, Marin has a dearth of options for come-and-go office space, Yalonis said. VenturePad's market research from Census data suggests as much as 40 percent of Marin's workforce could be working from home.
“People say working from home is isolating and can be distracting,” Yalonis said. “Co-working is the antidote for that.”
Two co-working facilities are said to be bound for Napa. Workmix Café, reportedly set to open in May at 950 Randolph St., would be a mix a café with an art gallery, store retail, shared workspace and meeting rooms.