Since the interview began Beta Loft has launched in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Drew is conducting a free "beta test" of the space for people to try out the community.
Greg: Ok, so you have a plan, you start looking for a location. What were the characteristics of the space you were looking for? How many people were you hoping to accommodate? How many square feet does it translate into?
Drew: I knew I wanted a handful of things; Lots of open space, a few small offices, hard floors, something classy. I also focused a lot on location. I wanted something right near downtown, near our Light rail TRAX. My reasoning behind this was because there are no other coworking spaces in Salt Lake and I want the space to be very accessible. I looked at several places on my own and with some others interested in the idea, we found a few places that we could MAKE work. After finding one I would crunch the numbers to see if I could make the ends meet. I finally contacted an agent and things picked right up.
I knew I needed to find a sweet balance between the size of the space and what I thought I could reasonably fill. My hope was to have a space that was large enough that the members' fees could cover the overhead including a manager's salary. I wanted this space to have someone responsible and accessible at all times, a concierge of sorts. My figures pointed to about 25 people. So I was looking for something in the 2000-3000 SF range. I ended up with just under 2,500 SF. Having an agent made all the difference, once he understood what I was creating. We agreed that I needed something that was not NNN and prbly would be best picking up a sub-lease option. I was able to find the perfect space with everything I wanted.
G: What kind of work scenarios do you imagine providing? Conventional desks? Cafe tables? Lounge furniture? Meeting rooms?
D: We offer a nice assortment of desks. Currently we have 2 café like tables or 'big desks' for up to 4 people each, several smaller personal options and some traditional desks complete with hutches and locking filing cabinets. We also have our down-time hang-out area which can be used for work, a simple Ikea couch with a couple of Ikea 'Dave's' and a 'coffee table.' We have one office available, we are turning the other into a mini-studio for podcasting. We also have a great conference room for small group meetings or client meet-ups. It can seat about 10 people. One thing we are finding is that we need a 'phone booth.' The hardwood floors and brick walls mean you can hear everything whether you're prone to eves-dropping or not. We share the space with the sub-lessor, who operates a software development company. We decided to try our arrangement without building a dividing wall right away, which makes our space feel like 4000 SF and they have access to their conference room, which is still outfitted with all of their equipment. They've been fantastic to work with because they 'get it,' they understand the benefits of coworking and want us to succeed.
G: Do you aspire to provide any dedicated media work accomodations? Editing stations? Sound booths for recording?
D: I do aspire. I'm not sure if this particular space will allow that, but I'll get as close as I can. For now it will be outfitted with a single HD edit suite— mine. Though I suppose if someone knew what they were doing I could see sharing it. There is a need for a rentable 'insert stage' in SLC, but again due to the design of this beautiful space... it probably won't work for that purpose. However, in scaling that concept back in size the media solution that comes out is a simple but fully equipped podcasting studio. My plan is to convert a single office, about 10'x12', in the next few weeks into a mini-studio. We will be able to shoot excellent high quality, mulit-cam, graphic-ed, polished podcasts in mere minutes in there. As well as any simple online video testimonials, green screened bits or talking-head stuff. Recording video or audio podcasts will be as simple as hitting a few buttons. I realize that is what many computers tout with their built in cameras and software goodies, but the podcasts coming out of BetaLoft will be of the highest quality. (I've been producing television shows and working in television production for the last 10 years.) We will have the gear that most podcasters dream about.
I do hope that in the near future I can teach the things I love, editing, shooting producing, etc. The space is ideal for training and educational type setups. I see the space filling a need for a 'digital' community center down the road. Like a free Open-Source version of Best Buy's 'geek-squad' or Apple's 'genius bar'.
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