Working from home seems pretty glamorous: controlling your own hours, guiding your own fate, wearing nothing but sweatpants.
Take it from someone who has lived that life, though. The shine wears off pretty quickly, and the walls can seem to close in around you. It can become lonely, and you can become nocturnal and a hermit.
Enter co-working spaces. Austin has experienced an explosion of them as digital professionals, startups and entrepreneurs seek enjoyable ways to work among others. Community and collaboration are everything–the cornerstones of the co-working way of life.
I recently spent a day working in a space that takes these cornerstones and adds a third: innovation.
Switch Cowork: Changing How We Co-work
Switch Cowork is a hyperlocal co-working company that converts unused restaurants and bars into co-working spaces during the day. Think about it. Austinites love going out to drink and eat, so restaurants and bars are everywhere. During the week from 9-5, though, these beautifully furnished spaces can sit vacant, just waiting for the dinner rush to begin after 5 p.m.
You know what ends at 5 p.m.? The workday. This is where the story of Switch Cowork begins. Founders Christa Freeland and Jacob Morin saw potential that no other company had quite tapped into. Could those in the co-working community use a variety of fully furnished spaces to work from when home gets too claustrophobic, allowing restaurant owners to put their clean and relaxing spaces to work during the day?
Switch started operating in 2016 by trying a couple of restaurants on for size. Eventually it found a home with Rainey Street legend Bridget Dunlap at her eastside restaurant, Trackside. The eatery and bar is spacious, with plenty of open tables and natural lighting. Located in the heart of bustling east Austin, it’s exactly the type of place digital professionals love. The two puzzle pieces fit perfectly.
Since Switch Cowork found its permanent HQ, Freeland and Morin turned their attention to the next two most important items on their to-do list:
- Grow the co-working community of east Austin
- Launch new co-working spaces across the city
Task number one involved creating a co-working environment focused on what its neighborhood needed. Unlike other co-working spaces, Trackside came fully equipped with comfy booths, power outlets, coffee machines and everything else that can cost a new co-working space a ton of money. This financial freedom lets the duo fund community events and keep the price of membership accessible to creatives, freelancers and early-stage startups.
Today you can find Switch Cowork opening the door to community-building and networking events for east Austin’s eclectic community. Artists and non-profit founders mingle with entrepreneurs to create a distinctly Austin culture of creativity and innovation.
East Austin has generally been attractive to the more bohemian and community-oriented Austinites, and Switch Cowork seems to be no different. Within my first hour there, I met an entrepreneur who champions women’s financial literacy. I also met a writer who focuses on showcasing multi-cultural businesses for the community.
I don’t think this budding culture of local support could have been possible without Switch’s innovative solution to co-working. Freeland and Morin converted an empty restaurant into a center for entrepreneurialism and social impact. That’s something I can get behind.
Looking Forward to New Spaces
The next step means bringing Switch’s community-first philosophy of co-working to a new location. Every restaurant and bar in Austin has its own character, and Freeland thinks they’ve found the right fit at north Austin’s artsy pizza bar, Rebel Pizza.
Switch’s Rebel Pizza location cranks the idea of co-working as a business and artistic venture to eleven. The graffiti covering the walls was painted by local artists, and Rebel has already gained a reputation for creative and brave approaches to pizza. It looks like this new relationship will be attractive to younger and more artistic crowds than the quieter Trackside location. Only time will tell, though.
Austinites will never stop eating and drinking, so Switch Cowork should never run out of new ways to adapt the co-working concept. Small businesses and community organizations need to start small to survive, and Switch provides an environment where that can happen.
Switch Cowork’s original Trackside location is 507 Calles St. Updated information at switchcowork.com.
@DustyVegas wants to know:
What is your favorite co-working location in Austin?
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