Fashionistas and geeks in stilettos and sneaks packed the snug-but-artsy co-working space called LAB Miami in Wynwood one evening last month, celebrating the launch of SewLove.co, a fashion company co-founded by sisters Sabrina and Silvia Scandar that uses crowdsourcing.
By day, Sabrina is a laptop-toting “LAB rat” herself, who became a member as soon as it opened in June. When it came to finding a venue for her big event of about 100 friends and supporters, the LAB was a natural choice.
That community center feel is exactly what the LAB co-founders — Wifredo Fernandez, Danny Lafuente and Elisa Rodriguez-Vila — are going for. The trio met at Ransom Everglades, went away to different colleges and made their way back to Miami to start the business.
They want the space to be an inviting gathering place for the creative class, with space for entrepreneurs of all types to open up their laptops and collaborate by day, and come together for classes, parties and other community events, too. Their space — LAB stands for Love Art Business — has a creative and social entrepreneurial vibe, attracting members in education-focused start-ups, nonprofits, Web design, photography, fashion, film production and improv. “The place needs to breed creativity,” said Lafuente, sitting at the communal work table they built themselves, with local art hanging around the room.
Yet, their 720-square-foot space was always designed to be Version 1.0. Now it’s time to scale. What’s ahead: a 1,289 percent expansion.
The LAB team, backed by a group of investors, plans to open its 10,000-square-foot space this winter, with event space for meetups, classrooms and phone booths. And it’s not leaving in the neighborhood: “We feel this is the best place in the world to experiment,” said Fernandez.
“Our goal with LAB 2.0 is to truly be a campus for social innovation by providing a robust educational platform, access to mentors and experts, funding opportunities and a collaborative work environment.”
LAB is not the only company bullish on co-working. About a dozen co-working spaces — all with different personalities but all geared largely to the entrepreneur — have either opened in the few months or are in the plans for South Florida, most of them in Miami. They join two of the first to open their doors to entrepreneurs: MiamiShared downtown, which has hosted many tech events over the last two years, and Buro Miami in Midtown.
Most spaces charge around $200 for membership to use communal desks, tables and lounges with full wifi and plenty of amenities, all designed so an entrepreneur can move in immediately without hassles. Most don’t require leases — an attractive feature to bootstrapping start-ups, and will offer a free day to try the space out. All these spaces offer far more than a virtual address.
A couple of miles south, for instance, on the 11th block of the glitzy Brickell corridor, workers are in high gear putting finishing touches on Pipeline’s co-working space. Step off the elevator at the 8th floor and look west, and you are greeted with floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping views of downtown.
The co-founders of Pipeline Brickell, Philippe Houdard and Todd D. Oretsky, first began talking about their business several years ago but didn’t think the time was right. Now it is, they believe, with both the number of independent workers and interest in entrepreneurship exploding. “Working at home can be an extremely lonely experience. When you step into this place, you do start to build your pipeline, your network.” said Houdard, who previously founded SkyBank Financial and Developing Minds Foundation. “If you are an entrepreneur, it really helps to have the veterans around.”