Office Nomads: A Vibrant Community That We Can Be Part Of

By Dan McComb

Posted Monday, July 7th, 2008

Jacob Sayles, Office Nomads founderOffice Nomads is a coworking space, a community office space for people who don’t like the isolation of working from home or the chaos of working in a coffee shop. It’s also a supporting sponsor of BizJam (where they’re running the networking lounge), and the place where Lara and I host regular workshops. In short, Office Nomads is to the real world what Biznik is to the virtual: a working community. Jacob Sayles founded, funded, owns, and operate the business with his business partner, Susan Evans, and I interviewed him to learn more about how he turned his passion for community into a business.

Q: Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I have always maintained that I was not a business person and that I would never start my own business. I didn’t have a change of heart I just didn’t realize that my passion and drive to create something was leading me down this path. At one point, after we had opened our doors, I took a moment to reflect back to the objections I had and realized I still have them. The traditional way of doing business where “It’s not personal” is absurd and I refuse to act in that manner. Business is fundamentally personal and it’s the human element people are starved for in our excessively convenient, self-serve, corporation dominated world.

I’ve held a number of jobs and worn many hats. In college I worked as an industrial painter at a chemical plant. I got a Computer Science degree and worked at a number of startups writing software. I went to massage school got licensed as a massage therapist. I’ve worked odd jobs as a bartender and handyman and for 4 years I ran a free taxi service here in Seattle to amuse myself and show people it’s not always about money.

Q: How did the idea of Office Nomads come about?

I had been fantasizing about something like this for many years and it continually evolved. In April of last year it had been coming up more and more often so I decided to give it some space to see where it would go. I had heard that some folks down in San Francisco were doing something similar so I searched around and discovered coworking. I knew in an instant that was what I wanted to do and proceeded to make it happen. I met Susan in July because she had been talking with a mutual friend of ours about her fantasy of neighborhood office spaces where people could walk to work rather then drive. She was still traveling in Nairobi but when she got back we met for coffee and it didn’t take long to convince her we should do this together.

Q: What is the long-term vision you have for Office Nomads?

The most important thing to understand about what we are doing at Office Nomads is that for us it’s about building social capitol not making it rich. To achieve this we need a sustainable business and that means making a profit but profits are not our motivation. This makes conversations about competition and franchising particularly amusing to us because that just doesn’t make any sense. We want to build a space that facilitates a vibrant community that we can be a part of. I don’t want to place any restrictions or have any preconceived notions about where this will lead but I’m exited to see where it goes.

Q: Who are your role models / mentors and why?

There are a number of great people in the coworking world and it would be difficult to name them all. Brad Neuberg coined the phrase and Chris Messina and Tara Hunt from Citizen Space in San Francisco have championed coworking from it’s inception. Alex Hillman from Independence Hall in Philadelphia has been a very vocal advocate from early on. Eva Schweber and David Kominsky from Cube Space in Portland were instrumental in the creation of Office Nomads sharing their business plan and startup stories last summer when we were just an idea. Julie Duryea from Souk, also in Portland and Derek Young from Suite 133 in Tacoma have been hugely supportive and we are grateful to have them as friends.

Q: What was the last book you read?

Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters. It’s not the last book I’ve read but it’s one I’d definitely love to recommend. Ethan was part of the group that started the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in the mid 90s and he has some excellent insights into the world of community building.

Q: Why do you do what you do?

I just want to live a full and rich life and surround myself with people who are similarly motivated.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/seltzer Marhta Panama

    Thank you for the interesting read! Alright playtime is over and back to school work.