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Opinion In Market: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to co-work we go

In Market: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to co-work we go

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Content in your little cubicle with photos of the spouse and kids and maybe a sports calendar on the wall? Millennials aren’t.

No, they have to have coffee and “be comfortable” while they work.

You’d think it was written in the Bill of Rights. According to some new research from Thumbtack, a San Francisco-based online marketplace that connects local service providers, millennials are rejecting all sorts of workplace rules that we once thought were etched in stone like those 10 Commandments, though we seem to have broken a few of those as well.

“Millennials are motivated by much more than financial success,” said Lucas Puente, Thumbtack’s lead economist, who conducted the survey. “This cohort finds being an entrepreneur financially rewarding, but they are most focused on being able to pursue their individual passion.” Side note: Millennials use words like “cohort,” too.

Here are some highlights from Thumbtack’s research:

• Millennials don’t go around singing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, choosing independent work and entrepreneurship over traditional employment hours bemoaned by the Backwoods Barbie. Forty percent of millennials plan on leaving their full-time employers to work as a freelancers within five years. (Only 23 percent of workers in Gen X and 13 percent of baby boomers say the same.)

• Facebook, Twitter, etc. Millennials use technology to help grow their business, utilizing social media for marketing (84 percent) and platforms like YouTube to answer customer questions.

• Cash isn’t king for millennials either. Three in five report starting a business to be more fulfilled, not to make more money. This group is focused on work they are passionate about and quality of life in choosing how and when to work.

• Millennial entrepreneurs aren’t tied to a traditional office setting. Only 11 percent of millennials report working from an office, while 27 percent work from home. Twenty-seven percent use public spaces like coffee shops or libraries and 11 percent use co-working spaces. And for those whose craft doesn’t require a desk at all? They reported working from dance studios, flower shops, tennis courts and swimming pools – teaching, coaching and making their products by hand.

There’s a Fort Worth company that looks like they’ve read that report and taken it as a blueprint for their business model. Craftwork Coffee Co. first showed up in Fort Worth in 2016 when it opened a coffee shop/workspace on Camp Bowie. A little over a year later, they opened a spot in the burgeoning Magnolia Avenue area and have talked about plans to expand around the state.

In an earlier interview, founder Riley Kiltz said the original goal of Craftwork was to “draw people out of isolation and into a community workspace.”

They were somewhat surprised – but pleased – to find that the coffee was as popular as the workspaces.

On May 31, Craftwork announced the acquisition of Houston-based WorkFlourish, along with the company’s expansion strategy into multifamily residential developments. The move will merge the two Texas co-working brands and poise Craftwork for statewide growth and the leading “Space as a Service” provider for the apartment industry. The acquisition and announcement came at the final stages of closing in their first round of series A funding totaling $3 million. The expansion will pave the way for an expansion plan centered around the infusion of their coffee and co-working environment into urban residential spaces. In other words, adding a co-working space into multifamily developments. Instead of a rarely-used community space near the pool, an apartment complex could have a co-working space. Residents might get that space as a perk, or at a discount, while non-residents who use the space can drop in while it’s convenient.

Austin will be the first project for the new Craftwork/WorkFlourish combination. Craftwork plans to open a site in the Streetlights Residential property on Domain Drive in spring 2019. The Domain area in northwest Austin is a high-density office, retail, and residential center.

WorkFlourish founder Trevor Hightower, who has a background at CBRE as a managing director, will become president and chief marketing officer of Craftwork. WorkFlourish’s model – as one of the only businesses nationally to operate co-working in multifamily buildings – will be the template as Craftwork expands. Kiltz says it will create more value for developers of multifamily properties.

“Apartment developers are building larger and more expensive amenity areas to attract residents, but far too often these spaces go underutilized and fail to create the sense of community that we desire,” said Kiltz. “The buying behavior of the millennial target market is shifting, and developers need to evolve in order to bring meaningful value to the next generation.”

Which sounds just like he’s read the Thumbtack report.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.

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