20. Suburban Coworking, Virtual Offices

Welcome to episode #20 of the Everything Coworking Podcast!

This week my guest is Hasan Mirjan, Founder of Spheremail and Spherepad. He started both at about the same time. As he shares during the interview, he started Spherepad, a coworking space, in 2008 in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and at the time, friends and family warned him of a low chance of success due to the bad economy and an unproven location. So to hedge his bet, he started Spheremail, a virtual office management platform, to diversify his revenue streams. It turns out that both ventures were successful.Spheremail is currently in 29 states and four countries, UK, France, Australia, and Canada and growing.

Hasan was an entrepreneur from an early age, experimenting with many different businesses, including chicken farming. These days, he is going all-in on coworking as a space owner and operator and as a service provider to coworking spaces. He is also leading the charge to purchase the buildings in which he operates his coworking spaces. He recently bought two buildings in the fast-growing San Francisco suburb, Santa Rosa.


Hasan on suburban coworking:

  • Yes, it can work and over time, it will grow

  • Find a fast-growing suburban area relatively near an urban center

  • Try to find a location in or within walking distance to the downtown/amenities

Hasan on purchasing real estate:

  • Consider buying a building in which you want to operate your coworking space

  • SBA financing is available - requirements will vary

  • Diversify the building - have tenants in addition to your coworking space to reduce the risk if your space doesn't work

  • There's risk but there's much more potential upside than you can get from the leasing model

Hasan on the benefits of virtual mail/virtual office:

  • There is no limit to the number of memberships that you can sell, unlike coworking seats

  • One of Spheremail's top virtual office locations has over 300 members (which is about $16k/month in revenue)

  • The average mailbox rate is about $50/month

  • It can provide a pipeline of future coworking members

  • It can diversify your revenue stream

  • The service is simple to run. On average for every 100 Spheremail members, you need about one hour of time to sort mail each day.

Tips on succeeding with virtual offices:

  • Treat the Spheremail members as you treat your coworking members so that you may have the opportunity to convert them to future members.

  • Remember that price points are important - you may have more success selling a higher number of memberships at a lower price point.

What do you think coworking will look like in 5 years?

Hasan thinks a lot more coworking spaces will open, and that we will see more suburban coworking.  He predicts industry consolidation. He also expects that larger corporations will start to dismantle some of their larger real estate and move coworking into their spaces.

Resources from this podcast:

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PodcastJamie Russo