ASHLAND - Josh Coffy remembers flying solo when he launched his business, Flight Media, five years ago.
Starting in his parents basement and eventually graduating into a bedroom office in his own house, Coffy lacked both a professional space to meet clients and a community of like-minded people in those early days.
With his own experience in mind, 26-year-old Coffy looks forward to creating an environment where start-up business owners and freelancers can thrive in shared office space with shared amenities.
The coworking space, called CoffySpace, will be located 43 W. Main St. in downtown Ashland. Coffy purchased and is renovating the approximately 4,600 square-foot building, which has been vacant for 26 years. Coffy aims to open the business in May.
Coworking is far from a new concept. Coworking spaces are popular in larger cities throughout the country and around the world, and similar spaces already exist in the nearby communities of Mansfield and Wooster.
"There's an educational curve because we're trail-blazing for the Ashland area," Coffy said. "The good thing is we're first to market, so we're going to get the attention and be known for it. The bad thing is we have to educate people about coworking space, because 80 percent of people I talk to have no idea what that is."
For Coffy, the draw of coworking is as much about the culture as it is about the office space.
"I need community, and I know the value in surrounding myself with like-minded people who are motivating me, inspiring me and encouraging me," Coffy said. "In business, there are winters and summers. Everyone experiences both of those.
"When you're in the winters, and it freaking sucks, and you're not generating the revenue you want, it's so helpful to have others there to support and encourage you and refer you to clients."
CoffySpace will have a coffee theme and will keep the espresso flowing, in part because Coffy is a self-described coffee fanatic.
"I have a huge, commercial grade roasting machine and I import coffee beans," Coffy said.
But Coffy has also studied coffee origins and concluded that businesses are a lot like coffee.
"In order to grow, you have to be in the right environment," Coffee said. "You have to have the right conditions with the right amount of sunlight and the right amount of water and nutrients to grow the fruit. Then it goes through this rigorous process of washing to even make it to market.
"Businesses are like that. Eight in 10 fail in the first five years, statistically. I always wonder what would happen if they were grown in the right environment, if they had the community and the support, verses trying to do it on their own at home out of their bedroom."
For the past few years, Coffy has benefitted from sharing his own leased office space above Advantage Marketing at 14 W. Main St. with other small business.
Coffy plans to move Flight Media across the street to the new CoffySpace building but to continue leasing the second floor of 14 W. Main St. He will use the space as additional offices for CoffySpace.
"This space already has its own style and it already has a lot of pre-developed individual offices," he said, adding that he has had to turn down several potential tenants at 14 W. Main St. due to lack of space.
While the existing building at 14 E. Main. St. has several individual offices and some common areas, the new CoffySpace building at 43 E. Main St. will be mostly open concept on the first floor. Both buildings will be getting new adjustable desks that allow for sitting or standing.
On the first floor of the new CoffySpace building, leasees will be able to pay for either a flexible membership with access to common areas only or a desk membership with individually dedicated space.
Coffy said he is aiming for a rustic but modern vibe with a semi-industrial feel. The aesthetic includes brick walls, wood floors and gold tin ceilings.
Within a year of opening the first floor, Coffy hopes to expand to the second floor of 43 E. Main St. with conference rooms and meeting pods. At that point, Coffy envisions adding a student membership option for students who want to use the space for individual and group study.
The project is already running between $20,000 to $30,000 over budget, Coffy said, because of two unexpected upgrades Coffy will have to make. He planned to strip the floor back to its original wood but found several patches of plywood interspersed through the hardwood, requiring him to invest in all new flooring. He also discovered a need for an entirely new facade on the first floor of the building.
Since he needs a complete facade overhaul anyway, Coffy is planning to add large glass windows, and hopefully, an awning. The awning would require a change in zoning rules or special approval from the city.
"Anything that's more than flat, we would have to go through a rigorous process of trying to get it approved, unfortunately," Coffy said. "But I feel like if we have the support of a lot of people that are decision makers in the community, we can make that happen."
Coffy has hired Master Builders Handyman Service as his general contractor and is also working with other local contractors, like Ashland Comfort Control.
Though he hasn't begun to market the space, Coffy feels confident he will be able to find enough members to keep the space occupied.
"I don't know the demand," Coffy said. "I just know in my gut this is what we need."