Percolator Space in Norfolk Virginia

We’re excited to welcome Percolator Space to the Proximity Network! With four locations in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, Percolator Space offers workspaces for teams of all sizes, as well as local perks like a free gym membership and discounts to neighborhood businesses. Passionate about taking away the financial risk of yearly leasing that many entrepreneurs and startups deal with, Percolator is helping bring the focus back to growth and creativity. We caught up with co-owner Bobby Wright to discuss what its been like bringing coworking to Norfolk!

When did you open your coworking space and what enticed you to do so?
We are approaching our third birthday. As a developer of commercial real estate in the local area, I noticed that many of the creative class, entrepreneurs, and freelancers were developing great ideas and starting new companies, but the founder and team were not connected to a supportive community. They were prone to leave the area looking for relationships, mentors, talent and staffing, money and just plain support, especially at the top with the CEOs. As you know entrepreneurship can be very lonely, and if you don’t have a supportive community and team, you can find yourself second-guessing your ideas and your abilities. With this in mind, Percolator was birthed. It also didn’t hurt that as a developer of real estate, I was in numerous real estate partnerships and some of the buildings had vacancies and I felt that we needed to fill those spaces in a different way because the world is changing and the brick and mortar footprint is reducing for most companies. I discussed my idea for a collaborative/innovative coworking community growing within our partnerships, and quickly my partners agreed that it was a great idea. Today, we have expanded to include properties like MacArthur Center in our network of downtown campuses.

Tell us about your space. How big is it?
Percolator campuses are Granby campus 10,000 ft.², Monticello campus 20,000 ft.², MacArthur campus 5000 ft.², and Ford Campus 5000 ft.² with a large outdoor patio.

What kinds of amenities do you have?
We have five collaboration rooms that will accommodate up to 15+ people each, and one training room which will accommodate up to 70 people. Audio/visual accommodations are available with every collaboration/training room. High-speed fiber internet, new Xerox copiers, membership privileges including classes at the contiguous gym downtown (our sister company). B2B discounts with some of downtown’s best restaurants and retailers. Of course, we offer free coffee, tea, and snacks (both healthy and not so healthy).

What sort of quirks make it special?
Our number one goal is to ”facilitate relationships“. We work very diligently and purposefully to get to know our members on as many levels as they will allow so that we can connect them with other members and relationships outside of Percolator. Our openness to share our Rolodex and be a family benefits our members and guests individually and corporately.  We really do try to be very much like family which is difficult as we continue to grow, but it is our commitment to “facilitate relationships”.

What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?
I’ve always loved working with different people, businesses and “dipping my toe” into their world for a day or two as a commercial real estate broker. I love people and I celebrate their success so creating an environment that is attractive to others and finding like-minded people has been easier than I expected. Every day is different and most days are so fulfilling, I literally thank God for Percolator…it is my calling.

What has been the most surprising/unexpected thing about operating a coworking space?
When I first started Percolator I anticipated most of Percolator members would be millennials and to my surprise, our campuses are populated with many generations. I am finding that some of the best ideas are coming out of empty-nesters! It’s never too late to start a fresh idea and take it to market.

What’s your favorite story about one of your members?
We have so many wonderful stories but I think my favorite is with a technology company that was interested in a flex desk for one month. I was encouraging them to consider our area as a growth market and explaining that we are hungry for tech jobs. With thousands of highly trained veterans entering the private sector market each year, it’s difficult to find all of them local careers, especially if they are interested in the tech sector.  Long story short, while ”facilitating relationships” and introducing key people that could help them find quality engineers etc., they started to grow and are still here two years later with a significant number of employees. Their original goal of having a desk for one month to accommodate a certain project turned into a full-fledged office. The low risk of having a desk/office and the supportive community HELPED this tech firm generate the business they needed locally and gave them the confidence to stay. This was not their goal but they found a hungry talented market, and they were comfortable staying because the financial commitment is only month-to-month so there’s little risk. When you remove financial risk from the mind of the leader, it allows a person to really focus on their passion and art form without the pressure of making a five-year lease commitment work. This freedom allows the leader to remain passionate and excited, attract others to their cause, and not only survive but grow their company.

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone wanting to open a space?
If possible, partner with your real estate manager/owner and create a financial environment between the real estate ownership and the coworking owner where you share in the profitability of the startup, removing the pressure to make rent and allowing the community managers to do what’s best, focus on the members.

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Percolator Space Coworking Conference Room

Percolator Space flex desks at coworking space

Percolator Space private desk