When Kevin Lawrie decided to launch one of Staten Island’s first shared office spaces in 2013, his initial idea was to start lean and gain all of the necessary insight into what the borough’s temporary renters were looking for.
“We had shared desk space, a couple of chairs and a communal spot for coffee,” Lawrie recalled. “In my experience with co-working models I knew some companies wanted desks and dedicated conference rooms while others liked to huddle together around bean bag chairs. We started with an open model to simply test the waters.”
Lawrie, a software engineer who couldn’t find suitable workspace for his own work needs, first launched the business out of necessity but soon took on the concept as his main business objective.
Located on Bay Street in St. George, his innovative LaunchPads venture doubled in square footage and operated at 90 to 95 percent occupancy for years – many of his clients grateful Lawrie had finally brought the idea over the bridge.
“When we started, there was not a lot of demand for open co-working space; in fact this market was not overly familiar with the concept,” Lawrie said. “Yes it was popular in Manhattan and other urban environments but it had not yet reached Staten Island.”
But Lawrie found luck with clients from New Jersey and Long Island – who wanted to be in close proximity to Manhattan without having to pay the borough’s high rent. An extension of his business – LaunchPods – was created six months into the venture to cater to clients who wanted more private space. And over the past several months, the company completely reinvented itself yet again to suit the changing needs of the local co-working community.
“Our lease was set to expire at 60 Bay Street and there was a lot of competition for the space,” Lawrie said. “We started scouting out potential new locations but commercial space for what we do is hard to come by and co-working as we knew it with LaunchPads was all but being erased.”
An opportunity on the North Shore’s evolving Minthorne Street presented itself and Lawrie jumped at the offer.
“This site was going to allow us to change the product we were offering at LaunchPads,” Lawrie said. “At the end of the day we are still offering shared office space and co-working environments but the vibe and the overall atmosphere – everything is different here.”
Located on the site of the former GoalMine Health Club, handsomely positioned among Flagship Brewery, DaddyO’s BBQ and the new Flour and Oak pizzeria, Lawrie’s new co-working environment has taken on a much grander design and range of amenities.
“This new space allows us to be more creative with our service offerings,” Lawrie said. “Because this space previously housed a luxury health club we can now offer our clients use of saunas and showers and we have one large footprint to house all of our open, co-working office space.”
Now called Enrichmint (a play on the site’s location in both Richmond County and Minthorne Street), the facility features a range of drop-in co-working memberships with minimal commitment and financial outlay. The only element Lawrie has extensively upped is the cool factor.
“Bay Street is predominantly full of attorneys and government agencies so the surrounding area of our old space was not completely desirable to our co-working client base. It’s hard to sell a lifestyle destination when there’s nothing appealing in close proximity,” Lawrie said. “But this footprint allowed me to flip the switch and do something higher end. All of the surrounding development here is certainly a big draw.”
Enrichmint also has more capabilities: There’s bigger conference rooms and drastic tech upgrades – clients have access to a 120-inch projection screen and are able to do all of their presentations wirelessly. A mobile approach is also being employed by Lawrie.
“Our app will allow constant contact,” he noted. “Clients can let us know if the building is too cold right from their phone.”
There are also “coffee bar memberships” for freelancers who don’t want to work at home but are too distracted by the background noise at Starbucks. And a lounge will feature amenities like craft beer on tap and flavored water.
For Lawrie, it’s the perfect snapshot of the ongoing co-working evolution.
“So much is changing in the co-working space right now,” he concluded. “This concept is so wildly popular in Manhattan – WeWork has over 100 locations in the city alone – but here on Staten Island it’s still growing. And now I have six years of metrics to help me apply to what we’re doing today. There is a strong need for co-working environments here and I think Enrichmint will grow and be replicated in other parts of Staten Island and beyond.”