Work/Place at Oyster Point: A flexible working environment

Ilima Saenz, Work/Place office manager (photo by Cathy Welch)

Oyster Point is now home to a new venture that answers a need discovered by a local real estate developer.

“As an owner of office properties on the Virginia Peninsula, I noticed that the smaller the space I had available, the quicker it leased,” developer Bobby Freeman, explains. “Work/Place provides an opportunity to learn from each other, share what they do with others and grow around other small companies.”

Freeman opened Hampton’s E-Commerce Center, a storage, work/place and shipping facility, on November 4. He subsequently held the grand opening of Work/Place at Oyster Point on November 8. Northern California native, Ilima Saenz, is Work/Place’s office manager.

“Many of our contacts for small offices were small businesses, new businesses and nonprofits that were coming out of people’s homes,” Freeman says. “These folks wanted small spaces that didn’t have multi-year lease commitments. “These spaces are inexpensive and allow for larger conference spaces for meetings and common areas for social gatherings that are so important to small nonprofits.”

Community Knights, Inc., a local nonprofit that helps public schools and other nonprofits with fundraising, is one of 10 Work/Place members as of mid-March.

“The organization had grown to a level where running out of our homes was not practical,” says Jennifer Brown, board president and CEO. “We hold small meetings in our office and board meetings after hours.”

Membership categories (which run by the day, week or month) include a furnished private, lockable office with a post office box and 24/7 access; a semi-private office where members share the same office space and can secure their belongings as well and have post office box, 24/7 access, use of the lounge and its amenities; a dedicated desk which can be secured; and a hot desk which can be leased by the day or week and is a popular choice for traveling businesspeople.

Members receive utilities, cleaning and maintenance services, individually dedicated high-speed business hard-wired Internet and Wi-Fi. They are protected by high-tech cameras and a security system.

Most members use their leased space after hours and weekends. They receive refreshments, use of the kitchen, lounge, conference room and phone room, as well as a designated amount of free printing.

Saenz greets members, conducts tours of the facility for potential members and handles all communications by phone, email and in person. She also helps members move in. Members can work outside regular working hours and hold meetings/events while Saenz is there to set up and protect other members’ property.

“Work/Place provides a place for small businesses to interact,” Freeman says.

Work/Place plans to sponsor seminars for members bringing in experts to talk about various topics that may be relevant to its members: anything from insurance for small businesses, how to market on the Internet and how to plan for your financial future.

Saenz enjoys helping members have a place to work away from their own office and seeing them meet and network.

“My satisfaction is seeing them succeed and grow,” Saenz says. “It’s a place that’s inspiring to them.”

While not working, Saenz spends time with her four children, ages 9 to 16, and loves to travel to Bali and Vietnam. She looks forward to visiting home in Hawaii. She is a canyoning enthusiast, especially since she almost injured herself before an expert friend showed her the safer way to participate in the sport.

The location of Work/Place at Oyster Point is perfect, Freeman says. “The serendipitous discovery of this place allows us to save money and not put it into maintaining a building,” he explains.

“Our biggest obstacle is getting folks to understand what Work/Place is, what it offers and who it fits,” Freeman explains. “Marketing is important, but eventually it will be word of mouth that will tell our story.”

The Oyster Pointer moved to Work/Place at Oyster Point on March 1.

Work/Place at Oyster Point
Address: 733 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Ste. 170, Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-534-9164

About Cathy Welch 73 Articles
Cathy Welch is a Hampton Roads-based writer, photographer and book editor. She says her life is an eclectic mix of career and FAMILY. She earned our Bachelors degree in business administration at Christopher Newport University, minoring in Spanish. Her career has been full- and part-time as an administrator, an engineering assistant, a bookseller, a merchandiser, a naval photography layout assistant, an office manager, a grant writer and a human resource manager, all giving her experiences that feed her writing. She fosters pups and does what she can to bless those who are in need, whether human or canine. She can be reached at 757-870-0768 or at

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