Trades CoWork provides a professional office environment, storage space, and back-office support to contractors and trades workers who have long been “dismissed,” said William Hayes, an entrepreneur who “sold everything” to fuel the venture.
“There is nothing out there for the small contractors that gives them an affordable option to move out of their house, truck, or garage, and take that next step to grow their business,” Hayes said.
Located at 1701 Troost Ave. in the East Crossroads, Trades CoWork is envisioned not as a traditional coworking environment with shared workspaces, but rather a community that will help contractors grow and thrive, he said.
“The vast majority of coworking spaces are only selling real estate, and they don’t provide any services to help those businesses,” Hayes said. “The one thing that I really wanted to be different with Trades was that we really cared about the success of your business.”
Many independent contractors are too busy with their day-to-day jobs to prioritize marketing, financial record keeping, and other important back-office tasks, Hayes said.
“One of the biggest issues of why small contractors can’t grow is because they don’t do their bookwork,” Hayes said. “Then when they need money to grow, the bank says, ‘OK, we need your financial statements and two years of tax returns,’ and they don’t have that.”
Trades CoWork helps its members avoid that scenario by taking care of payroll, taxes, liability, and workers compensation for them.
The space also works with contractors on the marketing side, Hayes said, so they can present themselves professionally to potential clients.
“A lot of them still use Yahoo or AOL email addresses. . . so we put together very affordable packages to help these small contractors showcase their wares,” Hayes said. “They can get a professional email, professional website, and business cards.”
In addition to professional services, Trades members receive access to mail services, interior and exterior storage, tool rental, private showers, office space, and the on-site “war room.”
A veteran of the real estate and construction industries, Hayes identified the void in 2021 as he looked for office and warehouse space for his property development firm ReuseHomes.
When he couldn’t find an affordable option after six months of searching, Hayes dug deeper into the challenges facing workers in the trades industries, learning that nearly half of trades workers — who account for one-third of the total U.S. workforce — operate a home-based business.
Instead of looking for warehouse and office space for his own business, Hayes changed course and set out to create a space where contractors and trades workers could thrive.
“I did this all on my own,” Hayes said. “I sold everything that I own — sold all my houses, sold all my investments — so that I could cash out and do this. Banks wouldn’t support it, because it’s never been done before.”
Armed with capital and conviction, Hayes purchased a property in late 2021, then quickly “rehabbed” the space into Trades CoWork, which opened in August 2022.
“I don’t like letting the grass grow underneath me, so from initial concept to starting the construction was less than six months,” Hayes said.
“I definitely put my money where my mouth is,” he continued. “I designed, created, built everything. From concept to branding to websites to the actual construction, I did it all in-house.”
Swinging the hammer
With Trades CoWork now up and running, Hayes has already begun looking for more ways to reshape how the trades industries operate.
First on that to-do list is fostering a spirit of collaboration among contractors who have historically viewed each other as competition, he said.
“I believe that I can take three different electricians, sit them down, open up the Rolodex, and I can almost guarantee that — between the three of them — none of them share the same client,” Hayes said.
Once he gets small contractors to start seeing one another as potential partners instead of competitors, Hayes believes that “with the tide, all ships will rise.”
He’s even created a website where plumbers, electricians, and construction workers can connect and share work.
“It’s about time that there’s an environment built where everybody gets along and shares work,” Hayes said.
As Trades CoWork grows — Hayes would like to open four more locations throughout Kansas City, then take the concept nationwide — the company will be able to offer even more benefits to members, he said, including healthcare and retirement plans.
“That’s where it gets really fun, when we open these up in multiple cities, because there’s nothing out there,” Hayes said. “We just need to be able to break through the clutter and let people know that we’re here.”
Ultimately, Hayes said he’s committed to doing everything in his power to help small businesses in the trades industries, which he called “the backbone of the economy.”
“I can do a lot with very little — I’ve done it my whole life,” Hayes said. “I do move mountains. I can’t wait until this grows and gives me a bigger hammer, because all I’m gonna do with that is blaze a whole new way for everyone who’s part of this, and hopefully make the trades mainstream again.”