Dream Accelerator: A Conversation with COCO Chicago’s Location and Community Managers

COCO Chicago is a Minneapolis-based coworking space that recently took over a West Loop shared space less than a year ago. COCO Chicago is a bit smaller in size than its Minneapolis predecessors, but its mission remains the same: offer an inclusive, come-and-go shared office space for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small startups.

COCO is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Located in the space previously taken up by Enerspace Chicago, another coworking space, COCO expanded to take over the entire second floor. This means that there are essentially two functioning areas in the space.

Campsites (dedicated, open-space desks that can accommodate up to eight people) are in the front, and startup suites (closed-door office spaces that suit a variety of needs for startups that range from two workers to 10) are in the back. They also have permanent desks, where you can store your things and have dual monitors and stand-up desks. The rest of the space is for vagabond workers, who can sit anywhere; meetings rooms, which are designated by the hour; mother’s rooms and campsites.

The Chicago space is managed by two women, Alissa Busse and Alysha-Aubrey Bursey, and they make a point to befriend their members. COCO hosts events and happy hours as well.

Throughout the space are tables — both small and big, in differing sizes — comfortable armchairs, a shower, phone booths, a giant kitchen and dogs. The front half of COCO is rustic, warm and full of natural light, and the back half is modern, minimal and industrial.

COCO employs the standard 24/7 come-and-go hours, but they also have startup suite rooms on the other side of the office, where anyone can rent a space for months at a time. COCO has moved away from the traditional “square footage” rental model for these suites, as each space varies in both size and perks.

Aside from the campsites and startup suites, COCO also offers flexible, monthly membership plans: an individual member can either utilize “flex” times (a designated number of drop-in times), be full-time traveling members (which allows them to use any of the open desks and meeting rooms at any time of day), or have a dedicated desk (where they can store their office essentials, dual monitors, and standup desks for however many months they paid for).

The Chicago space is managed by two women, Alissa Busse and Alysha-Aubrey Bursey, and they make a point to befriend their members. COCO hosts events and happy hours as well.

From the start, Alissa told me that COCO isn’t the kind of boisterous place that places like WeWork and 1871 are. And she was right; it’s a lot more subdued and has the feel of a college library — but with much better coffee and less fear that someone is going to either commandeer precious table space or steal your computer when you’re not looking. There are a few meetings that happen throughout the day, but for the most part, everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.

COCO supports and encourages those who work best when there’s little distraction, as the coworking space fits a certain vibe: Those individuals and groups that work well in near-silence. The soft hum of an air conditioning and every-so-often bursts of chatter and energy punctuates the ‘80s music that’s softly playing in the background. For a small startup team, made up of two to five people, or even a satellite office, this place is perfect.

On Wednesday, June 14, the Research Specialists at G2 Crowd scattered throughout a variety of coworking spaces. I happily got to work at COCO for the day and was able to speak with Busse and Bursey about their daily responsibilities, the appeal of Chicago’s market and the individuals who daily set up shop at COCO.

READ MORE: Office Administration
What are your daily responsibilities? How many hats do you regularly wear?

Alysa-Aubrey Bursey: I am the Location Manager so that means I am responsible for all maintenance scheduling, planning for renovations/updates, hiring and management of support staff as well as taking on any high level decisions. I also work on demand generation and marketing for the Chicago space.

Alissa Busse: My responsibilities are ever-changing and ever-adapting. I do everything from tours, orientations, upkeep of the space, ordering supplies, creating and executing events, answering questions and troubleshooting problems, listening to members’ concerns and needs and acting upon this information, the social media for the space and making that great coffee throughout the day! The number of hats stacked on my head on a day to day basis could go through the roof.

COCO’s flagship location is in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Why choose Chicago as the first non-Minneapolis space?

Bursey: Chicago is a vibrant city and isn’t too far from our Minnesota roots, so it seemed like the next logical choice. The markets are very different. In the Twin Cities, COCO was one of the first coworking spaces so therefore has brand recognition. Here, we are still working on letting everyone know this is a great and productive place to work.

How deliberate were the design concept and layout choices for the space?

Bursey: Campsites are a signature part of COCO. We find that in traditional coworking spaces there are only two options — work in the open, or work in an office. We wanted to merge the two and it seems to work well for our members. We are open 24/7 to most of our members due to the nature of a lot of business here. People work in different time zones or work better at night vs. the morning. We want to be as flexible for our members as their business models are.

Aside from the collaborative office space, what other services do you offer? What services are most used and most under-used, in your opinion?

Bursey: We offer: Free gourmet coffee and tea all day long, a shower, mothers’ rooms, full-range kitchen, private meeting rooms, phone booths and 1 GB fiber internet. We also have partnerships with Google for Entrepreneurs and LexC, business development opportunities, fun community-based events and happy hours every Thursday. We’re also dog-friendly.

What is the biggest challenge to maintaining COCO Chicago? What is the greatest benefit that you reap from COCO Chicago?

Bursey: COCO Chicago is just a new beast; it is different from Minneapolis. That is its greatest challenge and its greatest strength. Every day is a new challenge and COCO is ready to take it on!

Busse: Since our Chicago location is still only a year old, we are daily evolving our space and memberships to stay current in the Chicago coworking market.

What makes a shared coworking space more attractive and beneficial to members than a regular office space?

Busse: When you are a member of COCO, you become part of a team of over 1,000 members who are all working hard to succeed.  This network of COCO members can provide services, ideas, or education — starting with a simple email saying “Hello.” Our members are encouraged to communicate, network and get motivated. A beautiful space with great coffee flowing is the most attractive vision of a workplace — plus we are dog- friendly!  

What is your ultimate goal with COCO?  

Bursey: Our goal is to be a dream accelerator, to offer beautiful spaces for entrepreneurs and innovative companies to work. We strive to be flexible and work with our members through their working journey.

You can schedule a tour with COCO here as well as check out the membership pricing and structure here.

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