Editor’s note: The following content about KC Coworking Day is sponsored by the KC Coworking Alliance but independently produced by Startland News.
After setting a world record in 2017 for the most people coworking in the same place, KC Coworking Day is set to return Aug. 9 with a party meant to spark even greater creative collaboration, said Melissa Saubers.
“We’ve come up with this unique idea that hasn’t been done in Kansas City, that we know of, and we’re hoping people come, have fun and be inspired,” said Saubers, president of the KC Coworking Alliance, which is organizing the annual event to coincide with International Coworking Day.
The standout feature: PechaKucha-style presentations wherein community members will deliver quick-paced, slideshow-based storytelling. Slides advance every 20 seconds, forcing the presenter to narrate concisely, while balancing the spoken word with compelling visuals for a passionate, complete experience.
Leaders ranging from tech entrepreneurs to artists to freelancers and everything in between will share stories about themselves, their companies and how coworking has helped them achieve new heights in their businesses, Saubers said.
The event begins 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Brookside Gardens — neutral ground at a centralized location between Kansas City’s growing coworking communities, she said.
“We want to highlight all of the coworking spaces and companies, rather than just one,” Saubers said.
The party atmosphere also will showcase eats from Mattie’s Foods and KC Cajun, as well as cocktails and mocktails from Lifted Spirits, The Sundry and Brookside Wine and Spirits.
“We realize there are a bazillion events. It’s virtually impossible to make it to every event that you want to attend,” Saubers said. “So we hope it will be worth it: that you’ll be inspired and entertained while we also join together to celebrate our industry, entrepreneurship, the communities we’re building, and all the ways this metro ticks.”
When Saubers opened her business, Cowork Waldo, in February 2013, Kansas City faced a steep learning curve, she said.
“I put up signs that would say ‘Come cowork with us’ and people would literally think that we were a job placement center,” Saubers said. “They wouldn’t see the ‘co’ part or even if they saw the ‘co’ part, they didn’t understand what that meant.”
Recognizing the market awareness challenge, she connected with Rick Usher, KCMO assistant city manager for entrepreneurship and small business, through a serendipitous encounter during the networking portion of 1 Million Cups. The duo then worked with Herb Sih and Sarah Fustine at Think Big Partners to bring the Global Coworking Unconference Conference to Kansas City in 2014, she said.
The lesson from their counterparts across the globe?
“An alliance makes a city or a metro stronger because you’re all in it together, and you’re trying to raise awareness together,” Saubers said.
They formed the KC Coworking Alliance with five members, she said, noting it now has grown to 15 (though that number recently dropped from 16 with the pending closure of Village Square).
“The beauty of coworking is in the many different flavors,” Saubers said. “You have the tiny, but mighty neighborhood coworking spaces like Cowork Waldo, and then you’ve got the larger spaces like Plexpod, WeWork, or Grid. Then you have expansion all over the metro with Bridge Space in Lee’s Summit, iWerx going into Gladstone from North Kansas City, and Office Evolution in Overland Park. It’s exploding throughout the metro.”
Other members of the alliance include 31w31 The Nonprofit Village, Corbin Mill Place, Eastside Collaborative, eCafe, Ennovation Center, the Enterprise Center in Johnson County, Firebrand Collective, Office Evolution and Spark KC.
Coworking spaces are creative and alive, Saubers said.
“True coworking is collaborative,” she said. “You can go rent an office anywhere, but you can’t build that same intentional community that grows within a coworking space.”
While KC Coworking Day aims to celebrate the leaders of such spaces, as well as the stories of those who have found success within them, the event also is geared toward curious citizens in search of new connections, Saubers said.
“Our theme this year is ‘Independent. Together’ — helping everybody understand that you can be an independent worker or you can work for a company,” she said. “That’s the benefit of coworking: It doesn’t matter who you work for or even if you work; You can be a volunteer at a nonprofit, you could be in government or real estate or health care; it spans all industries, all professions, all types of work. It’s really the amalgamation of the future of work: having a place and a community to grow.”