A Boulder-based company is celebrating its 15th birthday and opening more than 29 new franchises this year.
Mark Hemmeter founded Office Evolution before co-working was a widespread trend.
"Back then, I had to explain to people what we do," Hemmeter said of the beginnings of mainstream co-working. "They didn’t get it."
Hemmeter said that in the beginning, there was a limited demand for those kind of spaces, but the recession changed that. Rising unemployment, fewer traditional job opportunities and companies reducing office space led to demand for more alternatives to classic office space.
He also attributed the rise in popularity of co-working to the expansion of the sharing economy, with examples like the Cloud, AirBnb, and Uber.
"After the recession, people were willing to change for flexibility and the ability to change quickly," he said.
The shared office space industry started picking up between 2011 and 2012, Hemmeter said.
Office Evolution started franchising a year later in 2013.
The company announced Monday it would be opening its thirteenth Colorado location in Longmonth, at 1079 South Hover Road.
Not the typical co-working office
Though many imagine co-working spaces as millennials in sweatshirts sitting on beanbags and writing code, Hemmeter’s company is different.
"Our target market is a little different than what you’re thinking- our client base is 40, 45-years-old and older local business owners," he said.
They’re mostly lawyers, accountants, business owners and consultants, he added.
With those professions, come the desire for more privacy and space they can meet with their clients.
"They don’t want big open spaces," he said.
Hemmeter said he likes the fact the vast majority of Office Evolution’s clients are small business owners, because he gets to surround himself with independent, smart, successful people.
His clients are owners of their own businesses too, which in turn makes for a large network of business owners, he said.
"It’s a super dynamic industry — it’s exploding," Hemmeter said of his small business clients. "It’s really fun."
The power of franchising
Franchising has been a huge factor in expanding Office Evolution across the country.
"If you think about it, you’re partnering with a local entrepreneur — we were really lucky to attract some local business leaders," he said.
Having local owners in charge of each franchise is a "humungous differentiator," Hemmeter said, because it helps to have someone who lives there and understands the market.
Office Evolution franchises focus on smaller towns, rather than going urban.
"We have one in Denver, but we don’t do RiNo or LoDo, he said.
Office Evolution has 42 open locations now and Hemmeter predicts it will be between 60 and 65 by the end of the year.
Three opened in just last month, in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, N.C.
Franchising is driven by where Office Evolution finds "great franchisees," Hemmeter said.
Because there is a "huge market" of these professionals looking for space to meet clients and work outside of their homes, Hemmeter said focusing exclusively in smaller towns and suburban areas has been a great success for the company.
When someone reaches out to Office Evolution about opening a franchise, Hemmeter said a mutual interview process takes places before they decide to partner up. Then, they work with Office Evolution’s internal real estate team to select and design space, and Cushman & Wakefield to secure leases.
Most of the time, the franchise leases space in an office building, though some are actually looking at buying space.
Because Office Evolution is a brand, there are similarities in all the locations — furniture, amenities and colors.
Though the spaces feature what typical co-working would — cool kitchen area and lounges — there are private areas in all of the locations.
Office Evolution has 13 Colorado locations in:
Aurora – SouthlandsBoulderBroomfield – InterlockenDenverDenver – Cherry CreekFort CollinsGoldenGreenwood Village – DTCLakewood – BelmarLittletonLone Tree – Park MeadowsLongmont – South HoverLouisville
(Across the United States, it has locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennesee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.)