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Chicago is really beginning to heat up as a start-up hub. As a result, co-working spaces have been popping up all over the city in its hottest neighborhoods. It seems like you can’t throw a rock in River North without hitting at least three collaborative spaces, and the same can be said for the Loop.

Everywhere you turn there are twenty-somethings hunched over computers, sipping Starbucks or craft beer, hard at work. The city’s co-working spots are their domain, but what about the older entrepreneurs who have families and mortgages?

Mark Rosen is an entrepreneur with a family and a house in Deerfield, Ill. A daily commute to a collaborative space in the city is not logical or practical for him and many others in the suburbs, so what did Rosen do? He brought a co-working space to the suburbs.

I talked to the founder of PLUGIN Workspace about why it’s unique to the market and about suburban living.

What is PLUGIN Workspace?

It’s a shared office in Highland Park. There are 20 workstations, two conference rooms, a coffee lounge and Wifi.

 

 

Why did you open PLUGIN Workspace?

I looked at the broad spectrum of co-working concepts and thought specifically about what would work in the suburbs.

I applied what I know and how I thought people who are married with kids and external demands exist and work. A lot of people who work from home aren’t just ultra-focused on their work for 12 hours straight; there are natural distractions. The other day I had to stop working early to get my son ready for a baseball camp. That’s not a work priority, but a life priority.

These priorities are difficult to balance if you’re an hour commute away, so I wanted to set up a space that’s closer to home.

How old is the workspace?

I started the concept in earnest in the summer of 2012. I really took my time finding a good space and figuring out the details and starting from scratch. I settled on a place that’s close to the train, has parking and is in a center where there are restaurants and places to go.

 

 

I really opened in April 2013 because the physical space wasn’t quite done yet. Now all I need is some whiteboards.

We have a shared model that’s used on a reservation-basis. As I get more people coming in to use it I can make adjustments based on the needs of the users.

What differences are there between the people who use your space versus some of the spaces available in the city?

PLUGIN Workspace caters to a more suburban crowd. Young people are working in the city, as they should—that’s where twenty-somethings belong, drinking beer and creating phone apps.

The people who come here are in the suburbs for a reason: they have a house and they have a family, and I wanted to design a space where people in similar places in life can go and work comfortably, while still close to home.

It’s best when we’re in situations we’re supposed to be in, which is why we send our kids away to college, right? There needed to be a suburban co-working space for suburban entrepreneurs, and that’s what I created.

The space is stylish and upscale, but gender and age neutral so people who just focus on their work.

What’s next for PLUGIN Workspace?

Right now I’m very much in “lab mode,” meaning I’m testing the concept and seeing what the people who come here want. Maybe they want more conference rooms, or specifically assigned desks, or more than one location.

I’m listening to the users and working on fine-tuning the workspace so everybody is comfortable.

 

 

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