3rd Space, a co-working facility in Newark, N.J., was bustling with activity on a recent Friday morning, as a film crew used the café for a shoot and its resident freelancers hunkered down to work.
Located 649 steps from Newark Penn Station in Newark, N.J.—yes, the founders did count it—3rdSpace is 80% occupied, following a soft launch in May, with tenants who range from writers and authors to a nonprofit children’s foundation and a massage therapist.
Situated in the city’s Ironbound District, an area known for restaurants popular with the business crowd, and close to Newark Airport, a hub for business travelers, the 12,000-square-foot space has attracted many out-of-town professionals who need a place to work while on the go.
3rd Space’s team says community outreach has been the key to its fast growth.
However, close ties to the community are what really has helped the space fill up, says Kenny Miles, founding partner, a freelance journalist who grew up in nearby Jersey City. He studied broadcasting at Essex County College, based in Newark and also interned at a local radio station.
“I know the people of Newark,” says Miles. “You have to have someone who knows the people.”
Although WeWork has faced many challenges in recent months, coworking is still a fast-growing trend. Coworking Resources, a publication for owners of coworking spaces, estimates that 2,188 new coworking spaces opened worldwide in 2018, with 1,000 in the U.S.
One reason is the growth of both independent and remote work. An estimated 57 million Americans now freelance, up by 4 million people since 2014, according to the most recent Freelancing in America survey by the Freelancers Union and Upwork.
Meanwhile, remote work has grown 91% in the last decade, according to an analysis by Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics.
With these trends poised to continue, Newark, which is undergoing major downtown redevelopment, has attracted several other coworking facilities, among them Launch Pad and Equal Space.
They are benefiting from an active startup and small business scene helped by the presence of both Audible and Panasonic’s North American operations in the city.
Miles points one sign of the startup activity he sees—“Newark is for hustlers” T-shirts that celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of a city where many solo business owners operate multiple side hustles in creative industries.
“There are so many people doing multiple things,” says Miles’ partner, Ian Palmer, a managing member in 3rd Space, and a former special education teacher.
But even in a location with high demand, running a successful independent coworking space is not easy. In today’s competitive environment, the owners looked for a way to stand out.
That started with building their team. Jennifer Donnolo, president of 3rdSpace, who is also a psychotherapist, looked at 200 candidates before she and her partners chose Miles for his position, which comes with equity in the space. They selected him based on his skill in connecting with others. “Relationships with our members are very important,” she says.
Donnolo, who is married to Palmer, is a co-owner in the family business. Her father, developer and founding partner Joseph Donnolo, is also an owner.
One idea Miles suggested was adding a podcast studio, to tap into the growing podcast trend. 3rdSpace has also hosted a series of community events in its on-site event space. One popular one was a talk on bullying by Mj Rodriguez, star of the FX show Pose. An upcoming public workshop will focus on awareness of human trafficking, an issue that is getting more attention in the hospitality and travel industries as well as from law enforcement professionals who encounter victims.
Flexible pricing has also been a key part of 3rd Space’s strategy. To make sure community residents are well represented among its tenants, 3rdSpace’s team decided to offer a variety of pricing options. The average per capita income in Newark is $19,313, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Options currently range from a dedicated desk in an open area for $99 a month to $1,685 for a private office.
“It’s important for us to have an affordable price point,” says Miles. “There are so many talented people in Newark.”
If the city’s coworking spaces keep growing, the city’s talent pool may soon have more company.