Mara Houser and Meagan Slavin drive the success of 25N Coworking, a brand dedicated to suburban workspaces with locations in Virginia, Illinois and Texas. Houser, founder and CEO, and Slavin, managing director, spoke to Warren Hersowitz, Yardi regional manager, to discuss business continuity during the pandemic and what’s next for 25N.
Hersowitz: Can you describe how you see the state of the coworking industry right now, amidst the challenges of the pandemic?
Houser: There is ample opportunity for the coworking industry to grow if the companies are able to pivot, have depth, stability with a solid team and the ability to think outside of the box. At some point the coworking industry as a whole will have to offer products and services other than workspace. This is where community and virtual memberships come in.
Hersowitz: What is the current state of operations for 25N?
Slavin: Mara and I made a commitment to each other in March to keep our entire staff employed at 25N. We are thrilled to have been able to accomplish this. During this pandemic we have experienced vacancy at all of our locations that we are currently growing back up to pre-COVID numbers. We feel that we were able to have stability because of the investment we made in our team. During the stay-at-home period we pivoted job descriptions to include virtual programming and rent relief maintenance for our members.
Houser: We’ve seen a significant influx of new members looking for flexible options for workspace. This was challenging, in that we were decreasing seating capacity for social distancing while we had an influx in new seats needed. We turned multi-purpose meeting spaces into quiet flex rooms. Our design allowed us to utilize collaboration and lounge areas also for workspace.
Our meeting business was [near] zero for months, and that has kicked back to just above 50% of where we were pre-COVID because we can accommodate all the necessary safety precautions with our variety of meeting spaces.
Hersowitz: What future plans are in store for 25N and how have they changed from March to where we stand today, if at all?
Houser: 25N is actively working to pursue growth in our portfolio. As a successful coworking model, we have been sought after to bring our product and service solutions to developers. Activity for this has increased and we are excited about new opportunities we hope to announce soon. We are confident that suburban coworking in the hub and spoke model aligns with developers and properties we find compatible with our brand. It’s also a great alternative for those work-from-home independents or enterprise employees looking for a productive, inspirational space to get back out of the house or not have to take public transportation to the city.
Hersowitz: You made the switch to Yardi Kube and Yardi Voyager just prior to the pandemic and, of course, were unaware of how much things would change soon after. What benefits have you seen using Yardi Kube and Yardi Voyager and how do you think the timing of the switch worked well for your business?
Houser: Due to the pandemic, our team had more time than expected to dive into the onboarding process with Yardi Kube during the stay-at-home period. The timing was perfect for us and we feel very grateful for that. Yardi Kube offers so much more than we ever expected. Our whole team took the time to take a detailed look at our company’s operations and daily process and procedures, and then compared our existing process to what Yardi Kube has to offer. We have greatly streamlined our lead generation, sales process, monthly billing process and most of all, our reporting.
Hersowitz: Whether in the near-term or long-term, eventually we’ll have a vaccine or a cure and occupancy will hopefully return to normal levels. When that happens, where do you see the industry headed as a whole and has this been a roadblock to growth or more of a speed bump?
Slavin: This has been more of a speed bump for the coworking industry. If a coworking company can survive this pandemic, I believe they will be set up for success in their future as the entire work culture is changing and coworking will be at the forefront. Virtual memberships will get stronger and continue to grow in popularity. Normalizing shorter term agreements and contracts is where the coworking industry thrives and this is where the demand is headed. It will translate as “more flexibility equals more success.”
Hersowitz: What changes have you seen in the types of members interested in your space, or the types of amenities, memberships or features that they are requesting?
Slavin: Our membership has changed greatly across all of our locations. We are losing most of our solopreneurs, start-ups and small businesses. We are gaining corporate-funded solo employees and virtual employees, as well as corporate teams who have been displaced from their headquarters who are still shut down. Their main request is short-term month-to-month agreements and meeting room space.