Despite our Midwestern location (which many people from other regions call a fly-over area), Milwaukee has a lot to offer. The warmer months bring festivals like Summerfest, Bastille Days and Germanfest, to name a few. With ice skating at Red Arrow Park, cheering on the Bucks and the polar bear plunge in the winter, we don’t let the snow stop us! But those are social things— what does Milwaukee have to offer in the professional realm? A strong startup ecosystem and solid corporate innovation within the area, to name a couple things. And the coworking spaces in the area help our busy entrepreneurs thrive.
Coworking spaces aren’t a new concept to Milwaukee, in fact there are multiple locations in and around the city of Milwaukee that entrepreneurs can choose from when finding a home for their new business—with WorkLofts being one of the latest to join this awesome list of establishments. As as a developer of WorkLofts, Sean Phelan says the space “has brought me into contact with smart, creative people. It has increased my exposure to them and that has been cool.” When asked why he loves coworking spaces, Sean comments that it’s “an alternative to traditional office space and affords flexibility for changing needs as people grow their business.”
Why are coworking spaces, well...working?
Although these spaces were designed to give entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers an alternative to working from the confines of a cramped living room, leaving the rumpled sheets of their bed and even ditching an office space that they truly cannot afford, they’re more than the physical infrastructure. They’re a hub to building a community and are “a destination for innovation in Milwaukee,” says Kenzi Enright, Community Manager at Ward4, “bringing a community together that may not otherwise be united.”
Yes, coworking spaces provide necessary items such as a desk, a chair and craft beer (we’re Brew City, would you really expect anything less?), but there’s more than meets the eye. Joe Poeschl, Program Director and Co-Founder at The Commons says “the true value to coworking spaces is less about the ‘work’ and more about the ‘co’ [community],” and I couldn’t agree more.
So what amenities do these places have to offer? MalamaDoe—a coworking community for women—hosts a free fireside chat series where female entrepreneurs are invited to speak on their success. Our very own Jackie Steinmetz was invited earlier this year where she spoke about being a woman, mother, entrepreneur and more (aka, Superwoman). The Hive Coworking Space provides an exclusive social events calendar to its members. The HUDSON Business Lounge not only has a great location in the Third Ward, but you can get made-from-scratch food and happy hour drink prices all day at the cafe (also available to the general public).
As a member of Ward4, Poeschl says, “You can't go wrong with the tall ceilings, wood floors and cream city brick walls. They say ‘you need old buildings for new ideas’... I'm not sure who they are, but they're certainly not wrong.”
But before you hop online to place your downpayment for a space at one of these locations, I recommend scheduling a tour or getting a free day pass at one, or all, locations to find your true fit (and if you’re still not ready for a coworking space, there are plenty of great free and remote spots to work in Milwaukee).
How does one become a member of Milwaukee’s startup scene?
In a smaller city like Milwaukee, everyone pretty much knows everyone—or everyone knows someone who knows somebody else (it goes on and on). Yet sometimes breaking into a specific crowd can be daunting because a strong community already exists. Coworking spaces make it a bit easier to infiltrate the startup scene, giving entrepreneurs more visibility to members associated within that community. In short–coworking spaces cultivate personal and professional growth.
That’s because people aren’t just looking for a space to work… they want to belong, to create shared experiences with like minded individuals, “which I think adds much value and support when one is considering becoming an entrepreneur,” said Enright. Entrepreneurship is more than starting a new innovative business—well, it is a lot of that, but it’s also about building and belonging to a network.
Poeschl believes there is an easy three step process to becoming involved in the Milwaukee startup scene, which includes:
- Attending an event.
- Asking folks what they do (people love talking about themselves...and midwesterners just love to talk).
- Finding ways to help them.
“Follow those steps and once you do have an [business] idea, your new network will return your helpful favors,” says Joe.
Milwaukee coworking spaces have done a great job of helping entrepreneurs come together and cultivating a strong community of movers and doers who have become a force to be reckoned with. Despite the small size of this community, with the continued support in one another it is sure to grow by leaps and bounds. But hey, don’t just take my word for it, hit up some spots to find out what they’re all about. Here is a list of Milwaukee coworking spaces—most offer a free one day trial. No two spaces are the same, so you’ll have to check them out to see what fits your needs. In the end, all the spaces will help you find a place that’s all your own so your business can call Milwaukee home.