The Office Evolution location in Longmont. Courtesy of Office Evolution

How Office Evolution Helps Businesses Thrive

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In the early 2000s, Mark Hemmeter was an early adopter of the work-from-home lifestyle. But with three little daughters around, his home-office setup became increasingly challenging. Hemmeter, who graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business in 1985, went searching for a shared office space and, eventually, decided to create his own—thus, Office Evolution was born.

 

The company opened its first location in Boulder at 4845 Pearl East Circle more than two decades ago. Since then, Office Evolution has grown to more than 84 locations across the United States, serving more than 21,000 members in more than 772,885 square feet of office space.

 

To learn more about this thriving franchise with Boulder roots, I chatted with Diane Mapes, co-owner of multiple Office Evolution locations throughout the Front Range, including Boulder, Broomfield, Louisville, Longmont, Golden and more.

 

Diane Mapes, courtesy photo

How has Office Evolution evolved since that first Boulder location opened in 2003?

 

Over the years, Office Evolution evolved into a much larger entity, providing private offices, flex offices, coworking, virtual mail solutions and meeting rooms. In 2013, Mark began franchising the Office Evolution concept. Mark enjoyed bringing an entrepreneurial perspective to the private office space market. Mark grew up in Hawaii and instilled the principles of “Ohana,” the Hawaiian tradition that references family working toward a common goal, into the Office Evolution culture.

 

Locations have grown in size, and the brand has zeroed in to focus on development in suburban areas with ample parking and accessibility to local businesses. Office Evolution has also placed a significant emphasis on its Ohana culture, with a focus on community, family and a sense of belonging for all members and staff. Today, Office Evolution is seeing increased revenue and occupancy, with leads and referrals on the rise year-over-year. We are committed to providing exceptional workspace solutions that help businesses thrive and we look forward to continuing to grow and serve our members for many years to come.

Who are Office Evolution spaces ideal for and why? What sets them apart? What can people expect?

 

Over the last few years, the concept of the office has evolved significantly due to changing work dynamics and employee preferences. Large corporations are ditching expensive high-rises and long-term leases in search of more flexibility, while small business owners are looking for professional workspace solutions close to where they live. We help solve for both. Our spaces are ideal for entrepreneurs as well as all kinds of small- and medium-size businesses. We also can serve as a spoke in a hub-and-spoke model, where a headquarters can still exist but is supported with satellite or remote offices so that employees can have a professional place to work closer to home.

 

Our client base is diverse and typically will include CPAs, attorneys, financial advisors, small business owners and even therapists. Our Ohana culture sets us apart from other coworking spaces since our priority is making our spaces feel as warm and welcoming as possible for these business professionals. Our community managers are hospitality-oriented and dedicated to ensuring our members thrive in our locations. Our locations foster a community of like-minded professionals who network with each other and share their knowledge. We also offer flexible plans so that we evolve with our members as they grow. An example of this is our member who is a CPA who uses our space in various ways throughout her tax season. During her slow times, she uses our flex office plan, which gives her a dedicated office customized to the number of hours she would like to use it each month. She uses a flex office for 20 hours a month during her slow season and bumps it up to 80 hours as her tax season becomes busier. In Q1 and through April, she uses a dedicated office as she meets more and more clients during her busy months. Then she will go back to the flex office plan as her tax season tapers off.

 

We have many convenient locations up and down the Front Range, so we have some members, such as an estate attorney, who use our meeting rooms at various locations so he can meet his clients where they are, closer to them so they do not have to travel far. Offering this convenience to his clients has really helped his clientele grow and his business thrive. Since Office Evolution is now under the United Franchise Group umbrella, we are partnering with their Venture X brand locations to offer even more options for our members. UFG has recently created VAST Coworking Group, quickly becoming a global leader in coworking with their growing network of brands and locations. Having Office Evolution’s suburban-based model, along with Venture X’s larger urban model, for example, provides a great mix of offerings for our members. Whether it is for a dedicated office, flex office, meeting rooms, event spaces in a variety of sizes or just for a virtual mailbox, we have them covered. If you are a member at any of our Colorado locations, you have access to any of our event spaces or meeting rooms at member rates, which are typically 50% off guest rates. We sincerely care about our members and want to give them the best possible experience at every stage of their business lifecycle.

 

The essence of any coworking space is to provide a comfortable environment for productive work. We go beyond that by offering top-notch assistance through our community managers, a warm and welcoming space, community kitchens and coworking space to network and meet other like-minded professionals. We make it easy for our members to utilize the space however best fits their needs. Our clients are business owners, and our franchisees are business owners, so we understand the challenges and opportunities we all face on a day-to-day basis. We are a family of business owners helping each other grow and thrive. And through our culture of Ohana, our commitment to relationship-building with our members really positions us well to help identify their needs and support them throughout their journey.

 

The Office Evolution location in Boulder. Courtesy of Office Evolution

What impact did COVID-19 have on the company and the coworking landscape more broadly?

 

The pandemic might have devastated some industries, but its impact on coworking has ultimately been a positive. It increased demand for alternative workspace. With the associated increase of remote work and the growth of hybrid working models, the demand for an alternative workspace with flexible plans and solutions has become a necessity for many. We provide the technology, community and space for a plug-and-play scenario.

 

Coworking space also allows businesses to increase or decrease their seating capacity as their needs evolve. Having such flexibility makes coworking a cost-effective alternative to traditional office spaces in which long-term leases are typical. In addition to this, as coworking spaces grow throughout the country and the world, expanding operations into new locations or new markets becomes a hassle-free task. This is an example of the “hub-and-spoke” model I mentioned earlier. Larger companies can offer their employees options of a workspace that is closer to their home, leading to less commute time and burnout. Coworking spaces can help create and maintain a healthy equilibrium between office and remote work, flexing to the needs of the specific organizations.

 

Now is the ideal time for organizations to set up collaborations with the coworking ecosystem to unlock the untapped potential coworking space has to offer. We have so many options of plans to choose from and so much flexibility for these businesses as they expand and evolve. This fluidity, availability of many locations to visit and the plethora of plan options provide so much opportunity to foster a positive work environment that allows people in the ecosystem to share ideas, services, tools, facilities and expertise. Our Office Evolution and Venture X members see their social interactions at our coworking spaces as more fulfilling than the ones they had in the past at traditional offices—due to the mix of other professionals working from a coworking space and the dynamics such communities offer. Coworking spaces aren’t just a place to get work done but also a hub for professional development opportunities like networking and community events. An example of this is our monthly Coffee and Connections which invites all members and guests to meet, network and listen to that month’s featured presenter.

 

Office Evolution has grown to over 80 locations and our partnership with Venture X, now with over 50 locations, has expanded our reach even more. Our growth is proof of the benefits of having access to a variety of flexible membership plans, great locations and a wonderful service culture supporting a business’s evolving needs.

Zooming out, what’s the status of the coworking industry more broadly?

 

The coworking industry will continue to thrive as more and more businesses realize the financial, productivity and employee satisfaction upside that this industry provides. Common feedback from our members includes increased productivity, networking and collaboration opportunities, support for a flexible work schedule, creativity boost and overall cost savings for their businesses. It also allows for a better work-life balance due to a shorter commute time, as well as less loneliness and social isolation from those who were previously working from home. The industry meets so many needs for today’s agile-oriented companies, so as long we continue to create and offer solutions to help solve their workspace demands, the industry will thrive.

 

Our Office Evolution locations offer a welcoming place to come and conduct business. We are our member’s second home, and we make it feel that way with our service culture. Being a larger player in the industry, we see that such hospitality touchpoints are meaningful and impactful, regardless of the size of the business or location. The industry is realizing this as it matures, in that the flexible office model needs to reach beyond just the functionality benefits it provides. How else can you impact members in a positive way? Creating an experience that also has emotive benefits clearly can help differentiate our industry from traditional workplace models. Office Evolution, thankfully, has had a hospitality mindset hard-wired in its DNA since day one. So, we are proud of that and are confident it will continue to impact our members and the trajectory of the industry in a positive way.

 

Geographic distribution and accessibility will be another driving theme moving forward. You will see growth from larger players in the space, through organic expansion and acquisition, creating additional value for their members through a greater network of locations and associated perks. Members of Office Evolution, for example, benefit from being part of a nationwide network of coworking locations where they have access to over 80 other Office Evolution locations in 26 states when traveling. That creates benefits both locally and nationally. Based in Boulder but need a second business address location and periodic office access in downtown Denver? Traveling to another city to meet with a prospective client and need a professional meeting room? No problem. With a branded network, that is an easy solve and a big value-add for many businesses.

 

Additionally, commercial real estate is experiencing a big shift in the office sector. Inventory in most major markets is up, due to traditional office demand being down. This is especially true in downtowns and major business districts. Landlords will embrace the co-working model more and more, realizing its benefits to their local business community as well as how the model can help revitalize underutilized assets. Despite companies not renewing leases and building out traditional office space at the levels they used to, they are still seeking workspace solutions to meet their new, unique needs. The coworking industry is especially well-positioned to solve for such changes.

What does the future hold for coworking spaces, in your opinion? And why?

 

I believe more and more businesses will give up their large office spaces and utilize the flexible office space solutions our coworking industry provides. Be it downsizing from the underutilized office space they have today or implementing more of the hub-and-spoke model noted earlier to better support their employee needs, we have solutions for them. Since you don’t need to sign a long-term lease, spend time and money building out office space or even set up and pay utilities, coworking continues to grow in popularity as a highly flexible and turn-key solution. And brands will carve out niches to best serve the needs of their target membership. For example, having more of a suburban model was Office Evolution’s plan 21 years ago, and that model has proven to be successful and even more applicable in today’s world.

 

We will only see more growth in coworking as businesses realize the value we provide. As a proof point, our Boulder and Golden locations are expanding due to the demand for dedicated offices, flex offices, meeting rooms and coworking. Our Louisville and Greenwood Village locations just finished expansions and remodels. We are also a few weeks away from opening our brand-new location downtown in the Amp building at Logan and 16th Street in Uptown. This location will have 46 new offices, three dedicated meeting rooms, two flex day offices, a therapy flex office, three phone rooms and a generous coworking area. We are so excited that we continue to expand and grow as the demand increases.

What else do you want more people to know?

 

I believe we covered a lot here, but I want people to know that when they walk into one of our Office Evolutions or Venture Xs, they can expect a warm welcome and excellent service. Since all of our locations are locally owned by franchisees who care and want the best for our members, we will ensure that our spaces provide the best possible experience. We are hospitality driven and it shows by the way we treat our members and guests. All of our ownership group, leadership team and community managers live and breathe our core values each day. We walk the walk with our members and ultimately succeed since we help them to succeed. We are small business owners helping small business owners.

 

 

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