​Coworking in a Small Space: Q&A with NextSpace San Jose’s Community Manager

By NextSpace on Jul. 06, 2017

Julie Kodama knows the benefits of coworking in a small space. The community manager of NextSpace San Jose, Kodama spent years working for Cisco before making the move to coworking. Though Cisco had a collaborative space project they were trying at the time, she says she collaborated more with people in her first two weeks coworking at NextSpace San Jose than she had in the three months at the Cisco Collaborative Workspace.

I spoke with Kodama about why small coworking spaces lend themselves to community and collaboration, how networking happens in small coworking spaces, and something she calls Bread Tuesday.

Cat Johnson: What is it about coworking in a small space that facilitates connection and collaboration?

Julie Kodama: You see the same people when you go to the kitchen. It’s so small you can’t help but see people and recognize people. What naturally comes out of that is asking people what they do.

As someone who manages a space, I tell people that the beauty of the small space is that I know everybody. I know what everybody does and, for most people, I know something personal about their life. They come share with me because they know I care.

How does that caring between you and the members, and between members, translate into networking and collaboration opportunities?

It’s natural networking. You can’t help but see people and talk to people. My kitchen table holds four people, so, if three people are sitting there together, they’re going to talk to each other and introduce themselves.

I always hear people in the kitchen introducing themselves. The kitchen table is actually quite a catalyst. In the kitchen you should have a kitchen table.

There are a number of coworking spaces in San Jose, including some large ones. When people are shopping around for a space, how do you introduce the idea that a small coworking space could potentially be better for them?

People feel the homeyness when they walk in. When I talk about my member wall, I tell people that my members are the reason I still work. I’m so proud of them. I like to think that the love I have for my members shows through.

When I walk around downtown San Jose, chances are that I’ll run into someone I know or recognize. When I worked at Cisco, I could walk around that campus and never see a person I knew. That, to me, is the difference between a big space and a small space.

When you say you’re proud of your members, what are some examples of what they’re doing?

I had a member come here right out of college in a three-piece suit. He met another member here and started a business that lasted for five years. Now, he’s doing really well. He’s grown up so much from this 22 year-old kid.

Pek Pongpaet started here, by himself, four years ago. Now he has a worldwide team of 40 people. And his team is so fantastic. They’re always having cake and celebrating.

Speaking of cake, I see on social media that you do a lot of organized things around food and eating together.

Every week we have three organized events: Bread Tuesday, Walkabout Lunches on Wednesdays and Happy Hour on Thursday.

There’s also other food. I love potato chips so if I run into a new potato chip flavor at the store, I’ll buy it and put it out for everyone so I don’t eat the whole bag myself. I had one member who, when he left, he came in with a huge basket of every kind of potato chip Trader Joe’s carries for me.

Nextspace San Jose 2

Let’s talk about Bread Tuesday. What is it and how did it start?

There’s a local bakery called Second Story Bakeshop that’s right up the street. I randomly got a loaf of bread on a Tuesday. I was posting on Instagram and the hashtag #breadtuesday came up. I said, “Whoa, who knew it was a thing.”

Now I get bread every Tuesday. This week it was bloody mary bread, the week before it was sprouted sunflower seed. They had maple miso bread. They change their bread offering every week. I just put out some butter or soft cheese. It’s a thing.

In a small coworking space, how do the dedicated desks and offices incorporate with the community?

That really depends. I have some people at the desks who love being part of the community and coming out here. But because all of our desks are in the same place, I also have a number of people who just want the desk community. The offices are the same way.

So, if someone is looking for a dedicated desk or office, what’s the benefit of a small space for them?

You don’t necessarily have to come to Happy Hour or participate in Bread Tuesday but, because the space and community is so small, you can’t help but meet people.

I have a couple of office people who rarely come out but they eat lunch in the kitchen and meet people that way. In bigger spaces, that sometimes gets lost.

For someone who is interested in coworking, or dissatisfied with their existing space, what else would you tell them about coworking in a small space?

We tend to be quieter. Even when we’re really busy, we do tend to be really mellow. This place feels a lot more laid back. Not everyone can be in a big space. All that stuff isn’t for everyone.

Bonus question for NextSpace San Jose member Ania Kaminska:

What do you think the benefits of a small coworking space are?

Ania Kaminska: You have more intimate relationships with people. You really get to know people when you see them over and over. When you go to a larger space you may feel overwhelmed at first. At a smaller space, you feel more welcome.

NextSpace offers community-driven coworking in San Jose, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. To learn more and schedule a tour, contact us at NextSpace.us.

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