The Right Space for the Right Work: a Q&A with Dorothy Rogers-Bullis of Saratoga CoWorks

Dorothy Rogers-Bullis is a founding partner of Saratoga CoWorks, the first coworking space in Saratoga Springs, New York. She recently spent time with Deskworks to share some of the valuable insights she’s gained in her journey providing a collaborative space for entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, and independent professionals – and what helped her once struggling space turn into three flourishing sites!

Could you share with us the origin story of your spaces?

In this busy town known for its horses, health, and history, we have three spaces, all within walking distance from each other. Each space has private offices and coworking opportunities. The coworking capacities, as you know, depend on the day, and really, the season, while our offices are leased by the year. But back in 2014, we bought an original Skidmore College building to be our first space. We already had our commercial furniture and construction business, drb Business Interiors, so when we bought this building, many of our contacts reached out to us, asking if there were some offices or small rooms where they might be able to work. So, after some deliberation, we decided to open a coworking space.

How might your role as an entrepreneur impact your choice to open coworking spaces?

As an entrepreneur, I was very excited by the opportunity to support those that need space to start a business. When you start a business, typically your biggest challenge is your lease. Where are you going to work? And how will you come up with first month’s rent, last month’s rent, triple net, internet set up, copiers, printers, etc.? Before you even work on your business model, you’re already paying for all of those things, and it becomes very difficult to succeed. We’ve seen it. So we set up our lower floor for a stereotypical coworking space, and it was pretty bad for the first six months. But it did get better, and we filled the entire space. Then we found another space, a former bowling alley downtown, and we designed and filled that space almost immediately. Finally, in March of 2021 we bought our third location, and put our biggest coworking space inside, completely designed and fit out with our own interior construction product, Falkbuilt.

You mentioned that in the beginning stages of your first site, you were struggling, then, suddenly, it started to thrive. What was the shift that helped that occur?

Back in 2014, there was nothing really in this industry. We had to go to our bankers seven times to get a loan. They just didn’t understand it. They thought, “Why don’t you just rent out the space to one company?” Finally, I had them all walk across the street from this bank, in their navy suits, white collared shirts, red ties, and see our space. And I told them, “Most of the businesses in the United States are small businesses, right? And they all started somewhere? Well, whoever rents space from here is going to eventually grow out of it, and guess where I might send them to get a loan?” And boom, I got my loan. But we did have to explain to people over and over why they needed Saratoga CoWorks. And as I mentioned earlier, it comes with everything for one rent. You come in with your laptop, and everything here is yours. You don’t pay for utilities, internet, office set up, copiers, nothing. And there is no HOA fee. Essentially, you have to tell people why they need you, and that’s what we did for six months, and then the word got out. And now, we have three spaces!

What is the community like that you serve? Do people go between the three, and do each of the spaces have different themes or vibes?

Brenna: There are certainly different vibes in each space. Our Broadway center, which was our second one, is a very social lot. They’ll have wine on a Friday, or sometimes on a Tuesday. They’ll chat with each other.

Dorothy: Professionals connecting professionals, as we like to say.

Brenna: Whereas, our original location has a lot of people who are more private and keep to themselves. It’s a lot quieter compared to the community at Broadway, where they take calls, are very social, and have Happy Hour with each other.

Do you think that the spaces naturally develop into these collectives?

Yes, but the layout of the space has a huge impact on the way in which people interact. The more open the space, the more conducive it is to communication, and thereby, community. The aesthetic design impacts the experience. Our latest space, for instance, was designed with two-person offices, as a lot of people were looking for private spaces. But the fantastic kitchen, made out of our FalkBuilt system, makes for a communal opportunity. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t want a private office. They can go home for that. So it always depends on what is available and what individual people want.

Indeed, the vibe of a center is created as much by the aesthetics of the space as it is the needs of the members. It’s good to have a social area, and a quiet area, where everyone can be satisfied.

That’s right. To create community, you have to have both. And that’s exactly what we do. We consult in this regard, not just for coworking spaces, but for all businesses. We’ve been at it for ten years now, and we’ve gotten quite good at creating the healthy balance of both. We make people successful in their space, and help them be productive. It’s our mission statement: professionals connecting professionals.

How does Deskworks help you manage your spaces, and help you scale and thrive?

It’s such a luxury to not have to worry about recurring billing. I couldn’t imagine if I had to produce, send out, and keep track of invoices every month. Having it be an automatic thing, with the automated pull of their fees then put into our account saves so much time. For some companies, that task alone is one person’s entire employment. Additionally, the member independence allows for them to update their own credit card information, or book their own conference room reservation. It really saves us time, as do many of the other automations Deskworks offers.

How would you advise another space operator considering Deskworks?

There has to be a lot of training, upfront, to be able to utilize any software, and that certainly includes Deskworks. Luckily, the onboarding process is extensive, and software support is free. So yes, we’d advise other space operators to consider Deskworks. Absolutely.

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