After working for 32 years at the Tennessee Valley Authority helping to promote the region's economic development, Sheila Brooks became a financial professional with AXA Advisors three years ago to help individuals improve their own economic status.
In June, she decided to take her financial expertise out on her own and become an independent AXA advisor, setting up shop as one of the first tenants in a unique new open office setting in the University Towers building near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. As a tenant and member of Chattanooga's new E/SPACES, Brooks has her own office and space as needed to meet with her clients.
"The space and amenities that E/SPACES provides at the price they offer really works out well for me in my first foray out on my own," Brooks says. "I looked at a number of these type of open offices, but this was really the best located and suited for my needs with a really good vibe to it. When my clients come here, they are impressed with the space and enjoy going into the cafe to get some Starbucks coffee or something out of the cooler."
Brooks and other tenants lease what they need when they want it as a member of E/SPACES, which operates similar open office facilities in the Nashville area and will soon expand to Orlando. The 7,800-square-foot open office in Chattanooga includes a variety of options for small offices, meeting rooms and open spaces for workers, along with a stocked coffee bar and other amenities.
"Chattanooga is smaller than the other markets where we have been opened or are planning to open," said Jon Pirtle, chief executive of E|SPACES in Franklin, Tennessee. "But we quickly saw the opportunity and the growth here in Chattanooga, which outside of Nashville is really one of the most exciting markets right now in Tennessee."
"The environment and amenities offer a great office and meeting setting, and we offer a lot of flexible options for temporary and regular use of the facilities here," said Derek Rende, an all-American golfer who graduated from UTC and is vice president of sales for E|SPACES in Chattanooga.
E|SPACES taps into the growing market of mobile professionals who can do their work on computer laptops almost anywhere and often populate local Starbucks, Panera Bread or other coffee shops. The new office concept is appealing to both individuals who want an alternative to working at home or at a coffee shop and also to major companies and organizations that need to rent space for one-day meetings or for special-project teams.
Society of Work, a provider of open office space in both the Edney and Loveman's buildings in downtown, pioneered some of the first flexible, small and low-cost office rental options in the market five years ago when architect Kelly Fitzgerald opened the business in the First Tennessee Bank building in 2014.
"I worked at a few different architecture firms before realizing that I was more interested in the human side of design and not so much interested in how a wall goes together," says Fitzgerald.
In 2015 when the Edney Building was converted into the hub of Chattanooga's downtown Innovation District, the building owners approached Fitzgerald about relocating the co-working space to Floor Six of The Edney. Since then, the concept has expanded to another floor of the Edney and later into the Loveman's building.
Society of Work, which brags that it builds communities, has grown to offer 22,000 square feet in the Innovation District.
"We have two advantages over other small office options," Fitzgerald says. "First is our strength of building community and the ability to help people grow their businesses by making office space a turnkey solution and connecting them with resources both within the Society of Work community and the surrounding small-business community. Second is our focus on design that allows people to work in a number of ways and at the same time feels both professional and comfortable."
Co-working spaces are especially popular in the Innovation District among startups. But they are no longer just a haven for tech entrepreneurs. Financial consultants, law firms, nonprofits and traditional businesses trying to spark creativity and attract more young workers are turning to new office arrangements and leases.
While Society of Work operates only in Chattanooga, one of its rivals downtown, the Regus offices in the Tallan building, is run by a company with offices throughout the world, including 1,035 in the United States. Regus offers co-working spaces, lounges, meeting rooms, virtual offices and a variety of office sizes for temporary and long-term leases. Regus, which is based in Brussels, Belgium, is on the 10th floor of the Tallan Building with 13,300 square feet of space.
"Our continually expanding network of work spaces can be found in cities, airports, service stations, public buildings and railways, enabling you to operate in practically any city in the world," Regus says in its promotions of its offices around the globe.