Coworking spaces: The untapped retail market
Why startup companies should have their eyes on coworking locations
I’m a pecan halves kinda woman. When I go to the grocery store, Market Pantry pecan halves are all I buy from the nut aisle. But every time I walk into my favorite coworking location, I grab a pack of Blue Diamond oven-roasted dark chocolate almonds. I would’ve never seen this brand before, nor would I have purchased this on my own. Why? Because pecans and unsalted peanuts have always been my thing. Exposure, though, made me reconsider that idea. Plus nothing beats free food.
When I go to the kitchen area to get tea or coffee, I spot free Dark Matter coffee. I’m a Taster’s Choice kinda coffee drinker, primarily because that’s what my grandfather always drank. But I try out the Dark Matter coffee out of curiosity. Plus, I know that occasionally this coworking location has Happy Hour and networking events about everything from the story behind this coffee brand to why cryptocurrency will change the world.
And I wonder, “How often do startups market to these companies where business professionals are walking inside in droves?”
Creative ways to get exposure for sales
When I wrote my first book, the first place I went to try to sell it was an African bookstore that I walked past daily on my way to work. The owner agreed to a consignment deal and put it right in the front window display. I definitely would not have gotten that kind of exposure at a more popular brick and mortar bookstore. Anyone who walked past that bookstore saw my name and the outstanding cover art from my first book. Plus my target audience was the type of people who would look for a bookstore like that.
Exposure is the hand that holds both the product and the consumer. Without both, your product gets nowhere. And retail companies and self-starters are having this increasing sales approach when it comes to marketing to entrepreneurs.
In 2018, WeWork (renamed The We Company) announced WeMRKT, a retail space in New York City that would sell 10 products from their members’ companies. These products include soups, plantain chips, juice, imperfect fruit, portable chargers, chickpea snacks and more.
There’s also Made by We, an NYC retail and coworking concept introduced by the We Company. In this market, the company sells handmade cards and stationery, reusable water bottles, wallet and laptop cases to both WeWork members and the public. Not only is this a potential way to connect fellow collaborators, designers and product developers who are already members. It’s also a way to get exposure to the public who may or may not know whose hanging out inside behind a standing desk or presenting Google Slides in a conference room.
While this could definitely become profitable for startup companies who are trying to narrow down who their best consumers are — especially with brick and mortar stores struggling to stay around — there’s also the risk of pushing too hard. No one in a coworking space wants to get to their desk and have other coworkers bugging them to try their new [insert product here]. But if done correctly and in a safe space where coworkers voluntarily want to invest or sell their products, this could be a smart way to sell.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these products work out between coworking spaces and customers. In the meantime, I’m adding a certain brand of coffee and almonds to my grocery list.