When Jana and Keith Harper returned to Seattle a few months ago, after spending a couple of years in New York City, they decided that they wanted to create a smaller version of a coworking space like Studiomates, where they’d been working in Manhattan. Once the decision had been made, they signed a lease and had The Mill, a brand-new coworking space, up and running in less than two weeks.
The Seattle area already has a number of coworking spaces, including Office Nomads, just a few blocks away, and various other members of Coworking Seattle. So I asked Keith and Jana how they differentiate their offerings from the other spaces in the area. The Harpers are creative professionals themselves — Keith is a graphic designer and Jana is a web application developer — so their primary goal for the new space was to attract a group of like-minded and compatible creative people. While there is one “drop-in” desk available, The Mill’s major focus is on “dedicated desks.” They told me that they are looking to create something more than just a space where workers come and go; they hope to create a compatible group of creative professionals who can generate ideas, help each other and enjoy shared lunches and events. They even envision that the group could conduct design reviews and debug code.
One thing that The Mill is not: corporate. The Harpers made a conscious decision to create a low-key space, so just about everything is recycled, including surplus furniture from the University of Washington and rugs and knickknacks from the local thrift store. About the only new item in the space is the whiteboard wall, which was so new that the paint was still drying when I visited. The artwork that covers the walls is borrowed from artist friends, and the coffee beans will come from another friend. The vibe is so informal, in fact, that Keith and Jana kidded about needing to start “corporate Mondays,” when everyone would dress up.
However, the Broadway Building, where the coworking space is located, is new, and The Mill has access to a shared conference room and kitchen (although the building and the neighborhood have many restaurants). It is centrally located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, across the street from Seattle Central Community College and next door to the landmark sculpture of Jimi Hendrix. The Harpers point out that while parking is available, there are several bus lines serving the location, and a new streetcar and light-rail line are under construction, meaning that their colleagues might well walk or take transit to The Mill.
The Harpers’ vision seems to be gaining momentum, as they have already filled half of the eight desks available, and they have been talking to other startups and creative people that they think will be a good match.