Denver’s newest coworking campus goes beyond a shared workspace. Wayfinder Co-Op, which is dedicated to serving entrepreneurs in the outdoors industry, bills itself as the nation’s first member-run coworking community.
“We reached a point when the idea was selling itself. We realized there was a threshold where the value of that network and community picks up,” says Wayfinder cofounder Chris Baker, owner of Oneseed Expeditions, a guide company that offers worldwide adventure trips. “A space with up to 75 people in a given day holds more power than six dudes in a house.”
Baker—along with cofounders Britten Ferguson of Revolución Rides, an outfitter that provides bike trips in Central and South America, and Joe Ewing of Desta, a technology platform that funnels tour operators to clients sans commission—didn’t set out to create a co-op. In April 2017, Baker was renting an office in a row house near REI with a deck that overlooked the Platte River, sharing the space with a few other companies, including Revolución Rides. After the rent increased, he got together with Ewing and Ferguson, and in a discussion over pizza and beer, the trio started talking about “how to save as much money as possible on rent,” says Ewing, who became fixated on the co-op structure while working on his MBA with a social enterprise focus at Colorado State University. He suggested that they go beyond a traditional co-working space, which allows members to share resources, documents, experiences, and networks, and establish a co-op, which adds financial benefits for members.
Wayfinder is housed in a 7,500-square-foot warehouse on the edge of the Santa Fe Arts District. Memberships for the coworking space range from flex desks, dedicated desks, team desks, and private offices—at a cost of between $275 per month to $1,050 per month (there are two price brackets for co-op members and the general “community” members). They also offer drop-ins for $17 per day and 10-visit passes for $150 per month. The co-op is an optional annual-long commitment for members and costs $10 more than the monthly community fare. Co-op members reap the benefits of joining a collective lease, without actually buying an office property.
“Members don’t have to come on as a partner in the business, but it allows them to benefit from the financial success of the area,” Baker says. “Rather than having to just pay rent, they can build equity in the co-op as well.”
Profits will be generated via event space and conference room rentals, as well as a revenue-share with the integrated cafe, operated by Carabiner Coffee Company. At the end of the year, the earnings will be redistributed to co-op members based off their proportional patronage, or members will vote to reinvest the capital into the office. So far, Kokopelli Packraft, Outdoor Adventure Quest, and Iconic Adventures have already signed up.
“Once we’re basically covering our baseline—our rent and operating spaces for the commercial space—every additional dollar we generate on top of our expenses is then profit that gets moved around,” Ewing says.
Businesses need to be approved to join the co-op (a seven-member elected board of directors is working to establish the onboarding criteria). Generally, co-op members need to be directly tied the outdoor, travel, and adventure industries. However, working in the outdoor industry is not a requirement for joining or dropping into the coworking space. In fact, the community hub was created to appeal to any remote entrepreneur who is personally outdoor-inspired—from graphic designers and architects to attorneys and regional sales representatives.
“That sense of exploration that we share ties in with entrepreneurship,” Ewing says. “Being able to create my own path speaks to me in a big way—it’s an adventure in and of itself—and being around others who are doing the same is inspiring.”
Wayfinder will kick off with public events each night of the upcoming Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show trade show, January 25-28, 2018. Visit wayfinder-coop.com for the full menu of co-op and community membership options.