“Community is key to Gather’s success,” says Savannah Bolin, regional director. “We’re not just another office space. We really bring people together.”
Small business consultants Doug and Polly White wanted a professional, inspiring space to work instead of meeting in coffee shops and homes. They saw an inspirational space with fun aspects on a trip to Denver, which inspired the opening of the first Gather in 2014 in Richmond. They chose to add fun aspects, such as podcast booths, beer on tap and cold brew for members. They wanted diverse groups in the space to build community. Today, there are three locations in Richmond, The Hampton Roads Hub in Norfolk and its newest location at Tech Center in Newport News.
Doug, chief executive officer, handles Gather’s financials and oversees construction and contracts. Polly oversees human resources and operations. The third managing partner, James Crenshaw, handles marketing efforts.
“I’m excited to bring the community workspaces that have been so successful in Richmond to the Hampton Roads area,” Crenshaw says. “Gather members form organic relationships.”
Newport News native Bolin oversees Hampton Roads Gather locations. “I understand the need to be more progressive in this area by bringing something in like this,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity on the Peninsula, having Tech Center and Gather here.”
Catie Gardner and Rico Robinson are community managers for Tech Center’s Gather location. Their goal is to help build community and familiarize themselves with each member’s business and their needs. They greet members’ guests, prepare refreshments daily and maintain an attractive environment. They also plan events, give tours and sell workspace.
“This is exactly what people who work remotely need,” Gardner says. “It’s motivating, connective and it’s about growing a small business while also being social.”
Gather offers monthly member events, including Cookie Happy Hour, Salad Club and happy hours onsite and off.
To bring awareness to the business, Gather does a lot of digital marketing and getting out into the community through local partnerships, involvement with local business chambers and nonprofits and immersion in the community.
Gather memberships include: 24/7 access to all five locations; a business address with mail delivery; conference room usage; copier/printer/scanner/fax machine; kitchen space; and freshly-ground, local coffee. Gather has its own fiber network with extra firewalls available.
Gather’s menu of membership options has something for everyone: a co-working membership (with month-to-month commitment); a dedicated desk membership (with three-month commitment, then month to month); and private office memberships (with 12-month commitment).
Coworking is a low-risk way to get involved at Gather. About 25 percent of members start there and convert to a private office for additional privacy and storage space. A member’s logo can be placed on his or her door.
Gather boasts more than 800 members in all. Tech Center’s Gather will have 350 members when full.
Companies come to Gather from all over (North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC), wanting to expand to the area.
“Being a native, it’s exciting for me to help these companies and Hampton Roads grow,” Bolin says. “They’re not getting locked into a long-term lease so it’s an affordable option. As your company grows, you can grow into the space without being locked into a contract. We definitely are invested in Hampton Roads and plan more locations here. Our goal is to have three or four locations in every market so members can have meetings in all of those locations.”
Gather has won many recent awards including Inc. 5000’s award (2019) and CoVaBiz Magazine’s “Best of Business Awards” in 2019.
Gather for Good, the organization’s charitable effort, brings in local nonprofits to highlight them to members and encourage them to donate items like blankets, school supplies or detergent and toiletries for a women’s shelter. It also offers space for nonprofits and networking groups to hold events.
“We are planning a collaboration event with Virginia Living Museum (VLM) since we named our conference rooms after nine of their animals,” Bolin says. “VLM will offer small animal talks for Gather members during lunch.”
At Gather, members have inspirational people around them, motivating them to work harder. Members transition to new positions while at Gather and some even gain freelancing work in the space.
Bolin says, “We’ve had people who lost a job and came to Gather to do their freelance work. It’s neat to see them grow and gain new business deals within the space. We attract freelancers, Fortune 500 companies and consultants. We have a large variety of ages and professions from one-person companies to huge corporate groups.”
Michelle Humphrey, consultant for an Anchorage-based firm, came to Gather looking for a workspace with Internet access and privacy.
“I like that I’m not alone in my house all day,” she says. “I found this place with basically everything I need to work productively.”
“My favorite part is bringing the community together, remembering when I sold them their office and now seeing them really enjoying it,” Bolin says. “It’s neat to see people and companies who would never collide normally, start chatting and mingling over coffee.”
TO THE POINT:
Gather Workspaces, LLC
Address: 700 Tech Center Parkway, Suite 200, Newport News, VA 23606
Contacts: Catie Gardner and Rico Robinson, community managers