Cowork CultureSpecial Features

The Secret to Success for this Cowork Community: Diversity + Collaboration

By February 14, 2019 No Comments

A sense of community and purpose permeates the Rising Tide Innovation Center. Kari Ahlschwede stared intently at her computer as she prepared for a conference call. As a customer support lead for You Need A Budget, work can grow hectic. Whenever she needs to step away for a moment of relaxation, Ahlschwede never has to stray. The “Room of Requirement” sits just feet from her standing desk inside the Rising Tide Innovation Center, an award-winning cowork space in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. 

“My company encourages to have ‘clarity breaks,’” said Ahlschwede, one of the first members to join the space. “That room is perfect.” 

The Room of Requirement, named after the fictional secret chamber from the Harry Potter series, features bean bags, a relaxing chair and the kind tasteful décor you find throughout the Rising Tide Innovation Center. 

It’s just one of the features that helps the center not only draw clients but create an inviting atmosphere that fosters community and purpose. Rising Tide is distinguishing itself with collaborative efforts, networking events and a contagious spirit of community. 

Less than a year after law partners Leigh Fletcher, Tina Fischer and Anne Pollock merged their search for new offices with a desire to create a unique cowork space, Rising Tide thrives with more than 50 members. The law firm calls the center in the old McCrory building on St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue home. So too does media marketing specialists iSocrates, Equality Florida and the pretrial justice solution research company Luminosity. 

Luminosity’s Marie VanNostrand said the center is, “good fit” for the work they do. “It gives us access to space that we wouldn’t have on our own as a small business,” VanNostrand said. “It’s a group of people who I think share a sense of civic duty and social responsibility. That seems to be a theme with many of the people who have offices here.” 

Valerie Lavin underscores the theme. She heads community development for Action Zone Tampa, a nonprofit that helps military veterans make the transition to entrepreneurship. Rising Tide partners with the organization with Military Mondays, which provides free coworking for military members and their family members. There are also one-off Mission in Motion workshops on Mondays, and it stages Fireside Fridays, an intimate gathering for veterans where they can pick up pearls of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs. 

“Our collaborative relationship with Rising Tide Innovation Center works really well,” Lavin said. “We’re able to hold our classes and workshops in an environment where it’s a community center. There are people from all walks of life and walks of business. That helps our veterans integrate and assimilate into the civilian community as well as network.” 

For Fischer, herself a former veteran, creating time and space for military veterans was a goal. For Fletcher, who also owns multiple water treatment facilities in the Caribbean, connecting with St. Petersburg’s burgeoning marine science industry was a desire. She’s done that by opening the center to 500 Women Scientists, a group that meets monthly at the center. 

“You don’t have to be a woman,” said Merrie Beth Neely, the St. Petersburg pod coordinator for 500 Women Scientists. “If you’re pro women in science, our doors are completely open to you.  If you’re a scientist at any career level – because our focus is job enhancement and helping scientists with their career skills – we could use mentors. If you’re job seeking, we can try to get you placed or give you tips for interviews and what you can expect. 

“We love this place. It’s a really cool location.” 

Working Women of Tampa Bay also periodically holds events at Rising Tide. In December, business coach Guenevere Morr presented, “Calling All Control Freaks (You Say Control Like It’s A Bad Thing). In February, it’ll present author and coach Liz Lopez, who will speak on “Permission to Dominate: Shattering Barriers for Women in Leadership.

Working Women founder and executive director Jessica Rivelli appreciates that the center’s mission goes beyond just providing snacks and desks and copier machines. 

“I admire what the founders of Rising Tide are doing by creating a gathering space for entrepreneurs and executives to connect and create together,” Rivelli said.

Of course, Rising Tide also draws the praise of independent workers like Ahlschwede who finds a home away from home at the center. Ahlschwede takes advantage of the center’s “Mavericks” category. That designation provides her with a dedicated desk/workspace and other accommodations such as work storage and access to the conference rooms. 

She needed it considering she lives in a sailboat at the nearby marina and needed a work space that wouldn’t be subject to wind currents and the occasional sea gull. She found it, ironically, at Rising Tide – where the oceanic themes match her love of the water.

Kelsey Buxton also has a dedicated desk on the center’s third floor. She works as a platform growth specialist for Fluent. She appreciates the clean areas, rooms to conference and her fellow cowork members, who are “super respectful.” 

“I love it,” Buxton said of Rising Tide. “It’s nice to get out of the house. My gym is right around the block.” 

Attorney Omaira Dauta recently shifted from space she was renting from a firm in Kenwood to a dedicated desk at Rising Tide. She also raved about the downtown location, but echoed a theme expressed by many at the center. 

“There’s a different energy here than being in a more formal space,” Dauta said. 

The Breakers category provides members with hotspace desks, where they can drop in on the center’s open desk areas and get work done. 

There are some accoutrements — décor, furniture, snacks, Keurig machines, private phone booths – that many cowork spaces can boast about. But they might be hard-pressed to match the energy, the vibe and the sense of community being cultivated at the Rising Tide Innovation Center.  

“I think that the culture they’re growing here is amazing,” Lavin said. “For all the benefits you receive here as a member, I don’t think you can beat it.”

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