“People are themselves here. There is no pretense of being something that you’re not, and it’s very accepting.”
Digital media. Leadership consulting. IT. Photography. Publishing.
These are just a few of the hodgepodge of industries you can find collaborating, grabbing coffee together and working side-by-side at ORCA Coworking in downtown Mason.
Coworking centers have been on the rise in recent years, and according to Cincy Inno, it was predicted that in 2018, more than 2.3 million professionals worldwide would be utilizing this business practice.
A coworking space is essentially a shared office environment where independent workers from a vast range of industries can pay to utilize the space consisting of personal desks, conference rooms and a number of amenities (cafes, gyms, Wi-Fi, etc.). It is an affordable space for the telecommuter, business owner or freelance worker who is tired of working from home or a coffee shop and wants to work in a social, energetic environment with others.
Named for killer whales that work united in a pod, ORCA was born out of Self Sustaining Enterprises, a local nonprofit organization, and spearheaded by Aaron and Rachel Pitman in October 2017.
ORCA currently offers two types of memberships: a monthly drop-in rate of $109 a month or a personal desk for $229 a month. Both include 24/7 access with a personalized keypad code. Those interested can also apply for a six-month or 12-month financial need-based scholarship to help jumpstart their business and increase revenue. Contact them to book a tour of the facility or to try it out free for a day.
408 Fourth Ave., 513.622.9004, Mason, TheORCACenter.com
“ORCA Coworking aims to be the hub for creatives of Mason to network, collaborate and to innovate,” Rachel says.
“When you are an entrepreneur, it can be pretty isolating,” she explains. “So as cheesy as it sounds, one of the cool things about a coworking center is having friends to talk to and take lunch with. And we’ve even seen some people that come from completely different industries that end up meeting and collaborating on a project. It’s been really cool to see.”
Members of ORCA represent a wide range of demographics. Members are between 19 and 60 years old with the average member being around 40. According to Rachel, lots of members are local parents who work independently and may have a home office but find they are more productive in an open office environment.
Andrew Conrad started as a charter member of ORCA and now is a part owner. He once worked in coffee shops but found it difficult to network there and have meaningful conversations with the people he met.
“I love the community, and I love the ability to work in a different seat every day,” Andrew says. “But the biggest thing is probably the flexibility between having quiet spaces to focus but then having access to people that I want to hang out with whenever I’m feeling social."
Andrew owns a couple companies and through networking at ORCA Coworking found a supplier to partner with and then started an e-commerce business.
“In e-commerce, having a really dedicated supply chain is huge,” Andrew says. “And the fact that we know the owner of the company sits right over there, that gives us access to everything he is providing. It gives us the ability to vertically integrate without the expense of doing so, and that’s just one of the benefits that we have from working here.”
A huge benefit for Bethany Butler, director of operations, is that you are far removed from office politics, which gives workers more margin to be productive.
“I love how authentic it is,” she says. “People are themselves here. There is no pretense of being something that you’re not, and it’s very accepting. It creates a very comfortable atmosphere, and I think that’s almost invaluable because it is really hard to find."
“I love the flexibility between having quiet spaces to focus but then having access to people that I want to hang out with whenever I’m feeling social.”
A Unique Space
According to Rachel, who is the managing director, the group took a gamble as there was not a lot of data surrounding coworking centers in the suburbs. But they were sure it was what the City of Mason needed.
“Aaron and I have worked out of coffee shops, and we’ve done the hop-around where you get frustrated because it’s loud, or you get kicked off Wi-Fi, or you can’t really have much privacy if you need to have a meeting,” she says. “And our goal has always been to make [ORCA] a community, a collaborative landmark especially with its location being within walking distance of downtown Mason.”
ORCA Coworking has a modern industrial feel, as the building was once a manufacturing plant where Ermal Fraze notably invented the pull-tab opener for beverage cans. The decor is wood and black metal with steel accents.
The inside is bright, open and filled with a variety of desks, some rented to specific members, and others open for drop-in guests. Several walls are lined with “pods,” or private meeting rooms, and the back leads into a large conference room featuring a giant, vibrant mural painted by a local artist.
A large portion of ORCA is the cafe featuring a kitchen where the walls are lined with mugs bearing either the names of members or buzzwords for guests like Hustler, Motivator, Trailblazer or Wanderer.
Another treasured aspect of ORCA is that it’s focused on the local community.
From happy hours and game nights to a lecture series and more, ORCA frequently partners with the community and neighboring groups like the American Legion and the Mason Food Pantry. All are added bonuses of a membership.
According to Bethany, ORCA Coworking is also a nonprofit organization, and some of its profit goes toward economic development in Jos, Nigeria, through self-sustaining enterprises.
Moving forward, ORCA plans a major expansion by May 2019, moving the entrance of the building; enlarging the cafe; and building a huge front deck to be used for ORCA Market, a “hybrid offering of local crafts, artisan goods, food items and more,” Rachel says.
ORCA has partnered with the City of Mason to bring more foot traffic into the downtown area and plan to have weekly events and live music involving Mason High School students.