The transformative power of a first office

For the small business owner, an office space can provide an added feeling of legitimacy and groundedness

WeWork The Jones Building in Houston. Photograph by WeWork

Companies of all sizes have one thing in common: They all began as small businesses. Starting small is the corner for those just getting off the ground. Learn about how to make that first hire, deal with all things administrative, and set yourself up for success.

We live in an era where remote work has become the norm. We know that it…works. 

Yet having a physical office space has undeniable benefits. It’s the cornerstone of company culture. Shared workspaces signal a collaborative environment. Distraction-free spaces within them can serve as the location for either deep focus or team brainstorming. And an office that is an aesthetically welcoming environment is more pleasant and can foster more creativity than this decade’s equivalent of rows of gray cubicles. 

Having a physical office space can boost employees’ morale and productivity in the same way that starting a work-from-home workday in real clothes and with brushed teeth feels different from working all day on one’s couch wearing day-old sweats.

Four WeWork members tell us how having a physical office space transformed their attitudes and gave a boost to their businesses.

Strength in numbers

After losing his job in the tech industry around three years ago, Dillon Ceglio retrained in digital marketing and got a hot desk at WeWork. He also signed up for a Global Access membership, now known as WeWork All Access, with which he could work from different desks around the world. In 2019, he took advantage of that and traveled the world. 

“I was working as a freelance digital marketer at the time, managing four clients—none of which knew that I had left the country,” he says. “I then strategized, going to cities in Europe that had WeWork offices, so I could trust that I’d have the best internet as well as a place to take calls.” Ceglio spent an extended amount of time at WeWork locations in London, Berlin, Barcelona, and Amsterdam

Dillon Ceglio runs Chubby Snacks out of WeWork Millennium in Los Angeles. Photograph courtesy of Dillon Ceglio.

Thanks to his global WeWork network, he grew his digital marketing business. Then last year, in the middle of the pandemic, he launched another business, Chubby Snacks, which sells healthy, compact peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, out of WeWork Millennium in Los Angeles. Launching a business necessitated an upgrade from his hot desk to a four-person office. 

“We get our best work done when we’re together working,” he says of his team. “Remote work has been fine for us this early on, but there’s nothing better than hopping into a conference room and breaking out a strategy on a whiteboard!” 

Ceglio’s new workspace is both a sign of business success and a motivation to keep going. “As an entrepreneur starting a business that has a lot of overhead—inventory needs, kitchen space, staff, etc.—decisions on how we’re spending money are always top of mind, so it wasn’t until we raised our pre-seed round that I felt comfortable signing the [office] contract,” he says. 

“Having said that, I also felt that gaining ‘ownership’ over the space would be very motivating and would ultimately push me to work harder. By investing in the office, I knew it would keep me on my toes,” he says. 

A dream come true

Professional horse trainer Jane DaCosta founded Metropolitan Equestrian Team in 2010. Her mission: to provide horseback riding and educational opportunities to any child who wants to ride, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Riders also have access to an online education platform where they can take classes in science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as in equestrian-related subjects.

“We change the conversation with students from ‘If I’m going to college’ to ‘Where am I going to college,’” she says in an email. 

Jane DaCosta established Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s home base at WeWork Dumbo Heights in Brooklyn. Photograph courtesy of Jane DaCosta.

Ten years later, after having helped her students obtain more than $1.4 million in college scholarships, DaCosta decided that her staff needed corporate headquarters. It was an idea that had been in the works for a while. Before her mother passed away in 2016, DaCosta remembers her mom saying, “Wouldn’t it have been nice to have your office and be a good example to kids?” 

She found space at WeWork Dumbo Heights in Brooklyn, and within a year she expanded from a two-person office to a four-person office. A WeWork wallpaper that read “This Is Happening,” which she spotted when she started touring potential locations, proved to be prophetic. 

DaCosta has since been awarded a WeWork Black-owned business grant to continue growing the organization. It was MET’s first grant award, ever. “I was in the conference room [when I found out]. I dropped to my knees in tears and disbelief. It was the leg up I prayed for,” she says.

MET has since expanded to other states including Utah, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, and Connecticut, and DaCosta credits WeWork with being part of that success. “Countless thanks to WeWork for everything it has done for my organization, especially the staff at the Dumbo Heights WeWork location. They go above and beyond every step of the way. This office is more than just a workspace—it is my dream come true on many levels,” she says.  

A step toward growth

For the past six years, Colombian creative agency Laudiovisual has provided services including photography, audiovisual production, social media, graphic design, communications strategy, and improvement of corporate image and brand-positioning strategies. But the company’s recent move to the WeWork Barranquilla Carrera location signaled a new phase. 

“Being here is a dream come true,” says CEO Laura López. “Previously, we had been in much smaller commercial premises where we had to assume more costs, for very little space. As our company grew, we moved to better-located places—but none like WeWork.” 

Laura López has a private office in WeWork Barranquilla Carrera where she and her three team members work from.

The benefits of the new space extend beyond the physical. It’s helped boost both motivation internally as well as the company’s image in the eyes of clients. “Our routine has changed completely—it has raised our projection, it has made us much more organized,” López says. “Our clients also see our company differently: Being here gives us strength, support, projection growth, order, style, among other positive aspects.”

Plus, there’s the inherent networking benefit that comes from setting up shop in a place like WeWork. “Being here has connected us with large companies that require our services,” López says. 

Extra privacy and legitimacy 

During a humanitarian trip to Burkina Faso with the nonprofit Plan International, actress and model Toni Garrn met a 14-year-old girl who was incredibly skilled in math but who also faced violence at home for choosing education over marriage. That inspired Garrn to create the Toni Garrn Foundation, in 2016, to promote education and equality for girls. As her organization gained momentum—with signature fundraisers like the Supermodel Flea Market, where she sells pieces of her own and other models’ designer wardrobes—she decided to settle down in a Berlin WeWork location.

“I never went to university, I never had a day job, so it’s exotic and cool for me to have an office,” says Garrn, who started modeling as a young teenager and struggled to balance her education with a burgeoning career. 

Toni Garrn manages her foundation from a WeWork building in Berlin. Photograph courtesy of Toni Garrn.

“We have meetings with governments and the United Nations sometimes, and having this office makes me feel so much more professional than asking them to meet at a café around the corner,” she says. Having an office also reinforces the importance of the work she is doing.  

“This foundation is a passion project…and having this [office] space reminds me it’s a real job,” Garrn says. What’s more, when her work takes her around the world for campaigns and shoots, Garrn will be able to conveniently access WeWork locations across the globe.

—A.M. Higgins contributed reporting

Angelica Frey is a writer and translator who covers the arts, fashion, and food. Originally from Milan, she currently lives in Brooklyn.

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