Temporary offices designed to help small businesses
JANESVILLE--Scott Story was looking for a small downtown office for his consulting and life coaching business.
He ended up buying an entire building and launching a new business that he's confident will fill a niche for small startup and existing companies that need office space alternatives.
Story this week opened the doors at My Office-Jvl, a community business and meeting center that he says is unique to the Janesville area.
He remodeled the building at 321 E. Milwaukee Street into a suite of individual offices that can be rented by the hour, half-day, day, week or month.
“I've owned businesses, and often the hardest step in starting them is that first one out of the house,” Story said. “You've got to buy a desk, chairs, supplies, other stuff, and it becomes quite overwhelming and costly.
“It used to be cool to go to Starbucks, the library or a bar to work on your laptop, but that involves too many other issues that aren't conducive to productivity. Anyone who has tried to work at home knows about how difficult it can be.”
Story's business model offers professional and personal office space without the overhead or upfront expenses. A soon-to-be-hired receptionist will greet clients and work with rental customers, and bistro tables sit on the porch fronting Milwaukee Street.
A private office suite that includes a desk, executive chair, lamp, waste basket, meeting chairs and WiFi can be rented for $20 per hour, $75 for the day or $125 for the week. Smaller casual offices rent for as little as $10 per hour.
The building includes a private conference room for eight to 10 people that costs $50 an hour or $195 for a full day. It includes a projector, surround sound, whiteboards and WiFi.
Amenities include break rooms, bathrooms, a copy center and free supplies. Bookings are made either online or in the office.
My Office-JVL can also serve as a virtual office. For $45 a month, customers get an actual business address away from their home, mail collection and forwarding and discounted office space if it's needed.
Story said his customers will include home-based businesses that need meeting or work space, employers conducting off-site interviews, students looking for a quiet place to study or work on a project and small groups needing a place to meet.
“I've got a marriage counselor from Madison who wants one office for a couple of hours every Tuesday to meet with clients in the Janesville area,” he said, noting that My Office-Jvl is only a block from the Rock County Courthouse and will be a natural place for out-of-town attorneys to meet with clients.
Story and his wife spent three months remodeling the building. They spent even more time researching their business concept.
“We did lots of focus groups and meetings, and the main question was 'Will Janesville support this, will the downtown support this?'” he said. “The overwhelming answer was yes.”
Story said he has talked with several downtown landlords who said his office suites would serve an important short-term niche for businesses trying to establish themselves.
“They see me as the step before they come to them for longer-term leases,” he said.
Bud Gayhart, director of UW-Whitewater's Small Business Development Center, said that while he's not familiar with Story's business, the concept has been around for some time.
“It really is another tool that can provide great value for a small business,” Gayhart said. “It can provide a physical presence that adds professionalism to the business.”
John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville, said he likens the concept to an extended stay hotel but for office space.
“There are people with temporary or periodic business relationships in Janesville who could use something like this,” he said. “I suppose there are also some small businesses in our area that need outside meeting or office space on occasion.”
While Story has tastefully decorated the office building, there is plenty of wall space that he will make available to local artists for 30 days at a time, including an open house of the last Saturday of each month.
“I've taken a lot of what I coach and put it into my own business,” he said. “It's not about customer service anymore, it's about customer experience: how was their total experience.
“We're trying to help the community start new businesses and jobs.”