Last summer, Josh Hicks and his then-fiancée Shelby Larsen, both photographers working from coffee shops and their homes, had the idea of creating a “studio-like space” for work.
“I was not encouraged or inspired to keep editing or keep taking photos because working at home was just so awful; I did not enjoy it anymore,” said Hicks, co-owner, space manager and member caretaker of The Fellow.
Hicks said he and Larsen talked about the issues with working from home or from coffee shops to come up with the idea of The Fellow.
“One day it was like a lightbulb of, ‘Why don’t we get other friends, photographers, get a studio space, edit from there together and split the rent?’” Hicks said.
The word spread quickly and three more people from different backgrounds joined the couple to create what became the first co-working space in Manhattan.
Hicks, Larsen, Matt Amick, Caleb Amundson and Derek Richards combined forces to create an interactive and motivational place for the Manhattan community known as The Fellow.
Co-working space is defined by the Harvard Business Review as a membership-based workspace where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting.
Larsen, co-owner, event coordinator and volunteer coordinator, said that they are shaping the space to the needs of the community. What once started out as something only for photographers, today focuses on the needs and wants of the community.
“If you look at the outcome of it, there is only a percentage of us that are photographers and that was our initial mindset,” Larsen said. “Now, so many people want to utilize the space.”
Based on this idea, Amundson, co-owner, visual and branding coordinator and art curator as well as K-State graduate student in interior architecture and product design, took over the design of the space.
“The concept for this space was the Aristotle quote, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,'” Amundson said. “Basically, (that’s) the entirety of what The Fellow is — it’s only as good as all the members coming together, the collaboration that can be achieved.”
Additionally, the place and its logo represents a matrix, where the brackets represent the space and the individual numbers inside stand for the members. This is his representation for a collaborative and interactive space, Amundson said.
The place also hosts what they call 11/25, which are two hours during lunch time where business consultant Jeff Koenig and financial adviser Tim Weddle are available to help members with their own business or projects.
Another benefit for members is the possibility to further their education with weekly community workshops or, as the owners and members call them, “conversations,” Hicks said. The idea behind this is that a member will share knowledge on his field of expertise with other members, according to Hicks.
Some of the businesses that are founding members of this space are Duell Construction, which helped with the renovation of the place, JNT Company, which designed and named the conference room and Arrow Coffee Co., which provides the members free coffee every day.
Today, The Fellow has more than 50 members and its leadership team is expecting to get to 100 by the end of this year. However, according to Larsen, the main goal is not in numbers but in making the members feel valued, appreciated and helping them spark their businesses by providing an inspiring cooperative space to work in.