‘Ohana’ – Hawaiian for family – is an important attribute of this coworking franchise organisation, which is seeing more and more couples running their own businesses
While the COVID-19 pandemic tears at the fabric of our everyday lives, it cannot and won’t stop the power of our ‘Ohana’ (Hawaiian for family). This strength is born from the incredible community of franchisees who were introduced to our core values from day one.
We know first impressions matter; and for our prospective franchisees, they are invited to embrace our culture right away. In fact, during our Join the Ohana Day (known as the ‘Discovery Day’ for most other franchise organisations), our CEO, Mark Hemmeter, reads our core value statement from beginning to end. As we sit around the table (now done via Zoom) we can see from the expression on our franchise candidates’ faces how important culture is and whether a connection is made. Did they lean forward? Did they nod their head in agreement? Did their eyes light up?
Our core values are rooted in five areas: respect, Ohana, win-win, ownership, and authenticity. The culmination of these core values is found in our rally cry: “Dreamers, Risk-Takers and Doers. Inspired Here”. This Ohana of Dreamers, Risk-Takers and Doers (DRTD) are comprised of our franchise owners and members who share the same profile – business leaders who are small business owners and remote workers. They are rooted in the community, want safe and affordable workspace close to home and draw inspiration from each other and the spaces they are in.
The case for coworking
I joined Office Evolution in 2018 because I have a passion for the coworking/space-as-a-service category. I have run sales, marketing and advisory services for more than 900 of these locations across 65 countries. I was elated when introduced to the concept. There was something incredibly different about this group and I wanted to be a part of the movement. I was floored by the calibre of the Ohana, including the franchisees and their members and our team members in the corporate office. And, I thought the niche that Office Evolution owns in the category, as the only national network of locally-operated workspace close to home, is unique with high barriers for replication.
“The team set out to start a business together that could help them not just support local entrepreneurs, but become a pillar in their business community”
Each Office Evolution location is owned by a passionate and dedicated franchisee who lives and works in the same community their location serves. Our franchisees come from a wide variety of different backgrounds, experiences, and communities, and our model allows them to combine their expertise to create these knowledgeable and strong ownership groups.
Perfect for power couples
Many of our franchisees are what we call husband-and-wife “power couples”. These dynamic duos often come from corporate backgrounds or have previous entrepreneurial experience, which provides them with the business acumen to run a successful Office Evolution location but also provide their members with the necessary tools and resources to help them connect, innovate and thrive.
Scott, Cindy, and Katie Baroway own three Office Evolutions in Colorado. I had the pleasure of being driven to the airport by Cindy during one of my visits, which gave me an opportunity to learn more about her family’s inspiring ownership story. Cindy is incredibly active in their local community through her nonprofit work, as well as being involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and several business associations. Scott owned his own building and rented office space to local attorneys prior to becoming involved with Office Evolution, so he was familiar with the coworking concept. The duo combined to utilize their collective networking skills and drive to help others to open their first Office Evolution location. This duo become a trio when they decided to bring their daughter onboard to handle the marketing, technology and operations. They combined their individual skillsets to create a strong family ownership group that delivers outstanding services to their local communities.
I had one of the best site tours ever with Mark Gottlieb and Jackie Blyth- Gottlieb, who recently purchased a building for their Office Evolution location in Roswell, GA. While sitting in the third row of a minivan, I quickly learned that they are both avid and competitive tennis players, family-oriented with a love for cars. That resonates with me! We also explored the passion they had for the Office Evolution model which was a perfect extension of their career backgrounds. Mark is a commercial real estate developer with experience developing over 100 CVS pharmacy locations over the past 25 years, while Jackie is a marketing and technology professional.
The team set out to start a business together that could help them not just support local entrepreneurs, but become a pillar in their business community. They realised Office Evolution was for them after seeing the support the corporate office and franchisees provide to each other, a sentiment that has only strengthened during the pandemic. The duo has utilised their prowess to further expand the Office Evolution presence in the greater Atlanta market and we are eager to see the success they will have at their Roswell location.
Another perfect example of what makes Office Evolution such a special franchise is Michael and Kelly Wielgus, who are committed to opening five locations in the Jacksonville area. I had a chance to meet this dynamic duo while visiting Jacksonville with my daughter to see the Women’s National Soccer league play. My daughter and I toured their location and when we arrived at the kitchen, Kelly made my daughter a gourmet hot cocoa. I imagined then the incredible care they must take with their members. I learned that both Kelly and Michael had experience working at higher education institutions in finance, with Michael eventually starting his own student loan company. Having prior business experience, Michael was drawn to Office Evolution’s model and he and Kelly quickly became members of our Ohana.
Both worked hard to bring about their first location, and upon opening, they committed to learning the business from the inside, working as joint business centre managers for the first eight months before ultimately hiring someone on full time. Their prior experience with finance, coupled with their dedication to running a successful business to help bolster their local community, has made them an integral part of growing our brand.
As demand for accessible, safe, and affordable workspace close to home continues to rise, our brand is poised to continue our remarkable growth trajectory. The intersection of franchising and coworking has the unique opportunity to help business people on both sides of the equation win. And, that makes for a great day at work.
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak serves as chief marketing and development officer for both franchise development and brand at Office Evolution.