From architect to broker, business woman Kelly Fitzgerald created the first coworking space in Chattanooga back in 2013, better known as Society of Work.
What started as a simple thought turned into a crucial need for the community of creatives. Fitzgerald, a creative herself, noticed that the creatives in Chattanooga needed a place to work and grow.
“They just had this need and I thought there’s got to be a solution to that. So I just started doing research and found out that this model exists,” said Fitzgerald. “Then, I got laid off from my job about six months after I started thinking about it, so I thought ‘well, maybe this is what I need to do.’”
Soon after Fitzgerald left her architect job in 2013, she started to create Society of Work. In the beginning, her vision consisted of ideas with no small offices, but rather all open space; this would have allowed for more networking and coworking opportunities. However, she realized that might not have been realistic.
“That was when I quickly realized a hybrid is needed,” she said.
From there, Society of Work was born. Fitzgerald signed a two year lease for the thirteenth floor in the First Tennessee building in downtown Chattanooga and signed on her first clients.
Not long after the coworking space started, Fitzgerald started planning the big move to the Edney Innovation Center a few doors down at 1100 Market St.
“Because I was the only one in Chattanooga at the time with the concept and with the Edney sort of being birthed, they came to me,” she said. “They said ‘we are going to require coworking to be in this building by the developer and we think they should talk to you’ and then it all came together.”
In Dec. of 2014, Society of Work moved to a temporary space in the Edney on floor eight and the idea of the hybrid came to formation. Shortly after, Society of Work claimed their current spaces in the Edney, floor six in early 2016 and floor seven in spring of 2017.
“We basically went from having 2,500 square feet of leasable feet where we were to 8,000 square feet and then to 16,000 and now 22,000,” she said. “It’s a lot, but it’s fun to see.”
Now with over one hundred members, some who have been with Society of Work since the beginning, this coworking space continues to grow.
“The Edney has really been its growth,” said Fitzgerald. “If we had not had that opportunity, I don’t know that we would’ve grown the way we had.”
The Edney provides Society of Work with two floors of numerous private offices, extensive open space for networking and coworking, rooms for conference hours, and even houses the exciting game room. With the provisions and room for growth in the Edney, Society of Work opened up a second location in Jan. of 2018 at 800 Market St. at the Lovemans building. This space provides more room for private offices and coworking opportunities.
With six years of growth and change under its belt, Society of Work continues to create more communal and business growth in the heart of downtown Chattanooga. Besides the continual growth of the company, Fitzgerald herself has also grown in the career field.
“Two years ago I started to think, okay what am I going to do next,” she said. From there she worked towards receiving her real estate license and now is a broker for Second Story Properties in Chattanooga.
From numerous career changes to creating an incredibly successful coworking space, Fitzgerald has and continues to dominate the work field in Chattanooga. It is easy to see her care and concern for the growth of others in this city, especially through her hopes and goals for Society of Work.
“With a lot of new people that come to Chattanooga, we end up being their first stop,” she said. “I think that’s really important because sometimes Chattanooga can be a hard place to plug in, but we help you plug in immediately to people that connect you to others in the community. It’s super important to help people feel welcome.”
Because of Fitzgerald, Society of Work continues to help small businesses, freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and so many others, local and remote, feel welcome in the city of Chattanooga. With two floors in the Edney and a space in the Lovemans Building, downtown Chattanooga houses an incredible coworking space perfect for the creatives of this city.
Written by Abigail Frazier