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Urban Co-Works curates meaningful connections and mindful growth
When Jeffrey Goronkin set out to launch Urban Co-Works in Schenectady, New York in 2017, coworking was still a relatively new concept. Especially so in upstate regions outside major metro areas. Most people didn’t understand what coworking spaces entailed beyond simply shared office rentals.
But Goronkin envisioned coworking as far more than just desks and wifi. He envisioned communities centered around hospitality where members felt genuinely cared for — where a cup of their favorite coffee would be waiting when they arrived in the mornings, and where they could strike up a casual conversation with the community manager if they hit an afternoon lull.
A human-centric experience is the differentiator
Four years since opening (and relocating) their flagship Schenectady location, the Urban Co-Works team continues prioritizing hospitality as a core tenet. They've discovered it helps cultivate loyal members who feel more like family than customers.
Regional Manager Kristen Guastella sees it play out every day. She explained, “One of our members literally tells me he likes to decompress at the front desk. He comes over and talks about the weather outside — it really changes his whole day. And the person at the front desk makes all the difference.”
From troubleshooting tech issues to adding sound panels for noise reduction per member requests, the Urban Co-Works team emphasizes responsive care. They also look for innate hospitality skills when hiring community managers.
As Goronkin explained, “It's very hard to institutionalize hospitality. It’s a feeling — if you see a member struggling, you jump in to help.”
Spread the word: PR, partnerships and targeted outreach
So how does a new coworking brand establish a foothold when opening its doors in a brand new community?
Thankfully, Goronkin had a deep well of experience in PR and marketing to draw from. So when launching their second site in Pennsylvania, Urban Co-Works focused efforts on educating local markets still unfamiliar with coworking. They told stories of economic impact and community benefit through press releases and media pitching.
“You really want to develop humanized stories that local people connect with — focus on the finances, who’s involved, how it affects the community,” explained Goronkin.
They continue using both grassroots networking and strategic, digital promotions via social media and paid search ads through expert marketing partners like Spacefully. Google My Business helps them stand out prominently in local searches as well.
Economic development partnerships attract established companies
A fortuitous relationship for the brand was forged when Goronkin met Tiffany Cross-Luciani, then the City of Scranton Director of Economic Development.
As part of her purview, Cross-Luciani was seeking collaborative infrastructure that could bring a diverse professional community together within walking distance of the Scranton downtown — fulfilling unmet demand she observed for hybrid workspaces as remote flexibility exploded.
Cross-Luciani helped introduce Goronkin and Urban Co-Works to developer contacts for tours around the city, which aided in securing their new downtown venue aligned with walkability preferences. And she learned more about the model.
“Coworking checked all the boxes,” she said. “Downtown density supporting urban growth, flexible membership options attracting established companies and improved lifestyle convenience for suburban residents now working closer to home.” She has since stepped into the role of the new Scranton Urban Co-Works General Manager.
She noted the variety of personalities under one roof keeps her engaged. “It’s interesting interacting with such a range from energy traders to New York Stock Exchange employees… now situated in Scranton thanks to hybrid work,” she said. Having come from an economic development background, Cross-Luciani thought she had a full grasp of the local working community. “I’m shocked by the number of new people I'm meeting.”
As she explained, the collaborative office solution helps infuse dollars into the economy with more people working, living and spending downtown. And it draws in those from surrounding smaller cities that may not have commuted into the urban core otherwise.
She saw firsthand how the model stimulated economic multiplier effects, making Urban Co-Works a perfect match for furthering Scranton’s revitalization through strategic partnerships.
“This opportunity allowed us to anchor remote workers in the city,” she explained. “People who may live 20 minutes outside but didn’t previously come downtown now have coworking access drawing them into the urban core.”
Rather than drawing mostly solo entrepreneurs, a large share of Urban Co-Works members actually work for established companies that now offer flexible remote-work policies. These organizations are turning to coworking for professional third space alternatives to living rooms and kitchen tables.
Guastella recently recounted how surprised one commercial real estate company was to tour their space and realize the breadth of amenities available for such reasonable monthly rates — compared to traditional office leases of which they know a great deal.
Economic partnerships have proved essential for expansion into new regions, said Goronkin. More so than the traditional office broker channels to fill space. “It's really hard capturing the broker crowd and community buy-in when entering markets with pre-existing coworking competition.”
Smart software lets the team manage multiple sites, and focus on what matters
The Urban Co-Works team continues monitoring optional northeastern cities with vibrant, walkable downtowns for future locations. And they integrate their membership management, meeting room booking, billing and more through Coworks, the leading coworking management software platform.
“Coworks has been seamless for us from onboarding to ongoing use,” shared Guastella. “The team is so responsive addressing questions and rolling out regular updates enhancing features, like the recently released custom community announcements.”
The Urban Co-Works team has formed strong bonds with the Coworks software team that mirror their own member relationships.
“The number one thing that attracted me to Coworks was the communication line we have with them,” Goronkin said. “They were so responsive prioritizing our concerns — it’s been a great working relationship.”
He explained that switching over from their previous provider was a surprisingly seamless transition with hands-on support guiding data migration and member onboarding.
And just as the Urban Co-Works leadership crew continues enhancing hospitality, spaces and amenities, they’ve witnessed similar continual improvements from Coworks through ever-evolving platform capabilities.
The alignment in member-focused values between both companies has led to a true symbiotic partnership as Urban Co-Works scales new locations powered by Coworks software designed specifically for coworking operators.
At the end of the day, Urban Co-Works locations feel as much like second homes as workplaces thanks to the people-first approach instilled across their hospitality-driven operations. Whether they ultimately expand to five sites or 50, providing top-notch member experiences will remain priority one.