Panel Video: What makes coworking feel like home?

How do you make a coworking space feel like home?

What are some of the little things that make you feel comfortable in your work space? Is it a friendly face who knows your name? A quiet corner for napping? Beautiful art on the walls?

We recently participated in People at Work Summit, a virtual coworking conference organized by our friends at Indy Hall in Philadelphia.  During our panel discussion, we got a chance to ask this very question to three of our members. It was fascinating to hear right from our members themselves exactly what they do to feel at home here at Groundwork.

Here’s the full video. It’s a high-energy, 30-minute panel discussion and it is super insightful about what life at Groundwork! (or at any coworking space) is really like:

Buzzards Bay Buzz

The Brilliant Simplicity of “Notworking” at the Business Buzz

Business Buzz at Cork

Throwback: The first ever Business Buzz at Cork!

Whether you’re self-employed, entrepreneuring, or just getting your hustle on, networking events are a great way to get your name out there. Networking comes in lots of forms and formats: from the early morning coffee meeting, to the casual cocktail hour, to more formal setups with guest speakers or icebreakers.

While I fully support all such networking events and recognize how useful they can be, I also find that they feel like… work. At the end of a long day, grabbing a stack of business cards and pitching Groundwork! over and over again is frankly the least appealing activity I can imagine.

Business Buzz: Notworking for the Win

Enter the Business Buzz: New Bedford’s premier “notworking” event. What is notworking? It’s the antidote to networking: no business cards, no pitches, no pressure, no work.

The “Buzz,” as it’s affectionately known to regulars, was born a little over two years ago. With Groundwork! still in the early start-up stages, Dena and I met with Shonna Ryan and Kevin Pelissier of Civic Support, a local non-profit that provides digital marketing support to other non-profits. The four of us decided that a casual and low barrier-to-entry social event was missing from New Bedford’s social scene. We envisioned a space where young professionals could meet each other and have “real conversations,” not the shallow and transactional ones that are so often the case at networking events.

Buzzards Bay Buzz

Notworking at Buzzards Bay Brewery in Westport.

The Buzz has grown steadily over the years with a cast of regulars and new folks popping in to check it out. We typically meet in a different bar in New Bedford, but we’ve recently branched to Buzzards Bay Brewery and a couple of locations in Fall River and Dartmouth. A few months back, Shelley Cardoos and Jeremiah Hernandez of EforAll joined the organizing team, so we get lots of local entrepreneurs in the mix. And as our Groundwork! membership has grown, our members count on the Buzz to get to know each other outside of the coworking space.

At our last Buzz we really broke the mold, organizing a BBQ and wacky sailing race with the folks at Community Boating Center. A great time was had by all, and we’re looking forward to more such events in the future, perhaps even a return to CBC in the fall.

CBC Business Buzz

Buzzers getting ready to sail the open seas!

Simple, dependable, and open to all…

This month we return to an old favorite, Slainte Irish Pub on lower Union Street. Slainte has a roof deck that overlooks the harbor, and as long as it’s not crowded with UMass students on a late Thursday night, this spot is truly a hidden gem. (See more info on the July Buzz.)

It’s a simple formula, really: Set aside a couple of hours once a month to chat and connect with friends, and perhaps meet a couple of new faces. Add a cold beer or whatever you prefer to drink, and you get what we like to call “notworking.” All are welcome to the Buzz, so follow its Facebook page to stay in the know of future events.

Business Buzz Slainte

A Buzz favorite: the roof deck at Slainte Irish Pub.


Maps and Legends at Haskell Gardens: A Conversation with Steven Froias

Haskell Gardens

Haskell Gardens is a haven of exotic trees and plants.

Haskell Gardens, a New Bedford hidden gem, will serve as the backdrop for work from local artists starting this Friday. The show is called “Maps & Legends Two: If by sea…” and is curated by our very own  Steven Froias. If you haven’t been to Haskell Gardens yet, it’s a peaceful six-acre oasis located off of Shawmut Ave. Founded over thirty years ago by horticultural legend and New Bedford resident Allen C. Haskell, the garden holds a unique space in New Bedford’s history, making it the perfect spot for a show called “Maps and Legends.”

We know Steven Froias best as our “Groundworker at Large.” True to his moniker, Steven is a man about town and he’s behind many great initiatives in our city. He created the New Bedford Bookfest, a bi-annual festival featuring local authors and publishers, and he did the logo design for Love the Ave, a movement to promote Acushnet Ave as an international marketplace. Steven is also an artist himself, and his vintage stenciled signs recall a sense of the past with a contemporary, playful twist.

Froias has a keen eye for all the little and unexpected things that make neighborhoods and cities great: from New Bedford’s hardware stores to its corner shops, from rising stars Tim Cole and Jeremiah Hernandez, to noticeable improvements in New Bedford’s architecture and street scene. Froias has elevated the Groundwork! blog to become a chronicle of New Bedford’s past, present, and future, celebrating the quirks, accomplishments, and successes of our city in real time, as the story unfolds.

So it makes sense that Froias’s own description of “Maps and Legends Two: If by sea” reads:

Maps & Legends refers both to the history of New Bedford and its sense of itself in the larger world. Viewers are invited to embark on a voyage of discovery that includes the artwork, the stories and this very special place, Haskell Public Gardens, a Trustees of Reservations property.

I asked Steven to answer a few questions about the upcoming show, his practice as an artist/writer/curator, and what makes him so curious about New Bedford. But before you dive into the questions, take note: Maps and Legends Two: If by sea opens on Friday, July 14th from 5-8PM. At 6PM, New Bedford residents will share their own legends as part of a storytelling hour emceed by Groundwork! member Shelley Cardoos.


Curator Steven Froias on the loose at Haskell.

What inspired you to curate shows at Haskell Gardens?

Well, first of all, it’s a beautiful space. Every cliche you can think of – enchanted garden, hidden gem, urban oasis – applies to Haskell Public Gardens. And, it’s in my neighborhood! Which leads me to another reason to get involved there…it was at a neighborhood Ward 3 meeting that I met the garden’s on-site horticulturist, Kristin McCullin. She came to a freezing winter meeting to introduce the park to people living around it and let them know it would be opening later that year in the fall.

Like you, Sarah, and your partner in co-working crime, Dena Haden, and so many of our friends and co-workers, it seemed here was another person offering New Bedford focus, energy and talent. As we’ve all experienced at Groundwork!, that sense of purpose and commitment from the people around you inspires you! Kristin encouraged area residents to get involved in the park, and I was thrilled to let the gears start turning in my mind as to what I could bring to this very special place.

In your words, the theme “Maps and Legends” refers to New Bedford’s own history and its sense of itself in the larger world. This theme resonates in the topics you write for the Groundwork blog, and also with your own artwork. What drives this curiosity for you as a writer, curator, and artist?

Hmm, I think it all comes back to Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been a fan of the great detective since I was a kid and like to think I bring that same sense of searching for answers to everything I do – whether it’s art or writing or organizing events. I like to dig deep to solve the case and bring to light what’s underneath. With the art, it’s providing a connection to the back-story. With the writing – especially with the posts I’m fortunate enough to get to write for the Groundwork! blog – it’s all about the here and now – and the future. Any city – but New Bedford in particular – is a puzzle of many pieces that constantly needs to be sorted through to solve. It’s an adventure!

Can you talk about the artists who will feature in this year’s show, and why you chose them to show work?

They’re amazing! Kelly Zélen and Zachary M. White are the stars of this show. I believe in seizing serendipity when it rears its head. After first discovering Kelly’s work for myself at Kilburn Mills Studios, and then asking her to appear in last year’s Maps & Legends, I kept hearing people say how impressed they were with her sculpture. Jeremiah Hernandez – who as we know is curating a huge show this week at Groundwork! – spoke about his respect for her work. I have great respect respect for his opinion, so was confident I was on the right track asking her to be one of the two featured artists for this year’s Maps & Legends.

As for Zachary M. White – here’s some more serendipity. As so often happens, though I had met Zach before, I only recently discovered that he’s a maps aficionado and artist. Naturally, I found this out at Groundwork!, which is why I call the place the Center of Gravity in New Bedford.

Zach had brought some of his prints to show TDI fellow Jim McKeag and Dena, and luckily I was there. When you mount a show called Maps & Legends, what more could you ask for than a prolific, talented young artists producing stylized…maps!

This year you are adding an element of live storytelling to the opening exhibition. What kinds of stories can we expect?

Well, as you noted above, I get to tell lots of stories on the Groundwork! blog. I do this by looking and listening everywhere throughout the city – the game’s always afoot and I’m always on the case! I thought it would be nice to let people hear it from the source – directly from some of the people who have caught my eyes and ears and provided me with material.

It’s also inspired by the Community Conversations Jacob Miller organized for AHA! New Bedford this past winter – and I’m happy to say Jacob has helped recruit some people to come to the opening and share their stories – their New Bedford Legends – with us all under the skies. Again, Jacob is one of those people who are passionate about doing new things in the city, and I’m always down with collaborating with someone like that.

What do you love most about living in New Bedford?

The fact that the story never ends. Too many people try to pigeonhole the city – and sometimes in very negative ways – but it constantly fights back. It’s a scrappy place and hold its own. It’s still evolving and actually writes its own story. You can try to place it into a context or wrap a narrative around it, but really, it’s a perpetual mystery that challenges you to always reevaluate the evidence and….start again. Catnip for a writer!

Camp Wild Child

Why every adult should go back to summer camp

Camp Wild Child

These adults played hard at Camp Wild Child in the Berkshires.

As a coworking space owner/operator, I spend a TON of time thinking about how create an environment that lends itself to the formation of friendships and real connection.

These days, adults don’t make new friends easily. Our interactions are reduced to like, love, or LOL. We drive around alone in our cars listening to podcasts. At the end of a long work day, we catch up on our favorite Netflix or Amazon series. We can conduct almost every business we need online, so we don’t even bump into people running errands or standing in line. No wonder we as a people feel lonely!

I’m passionate about coworking because it’s a return to face-to-face interaction, community, and real-life friending.

Now, I’m also passionate about camp.

Lakseide Camp Wild Child

Sittin’ on the dock at Camp Wild Child.

Camp Wild Child is summer camp for adults. It is the brainchild of Christin Marshall, a recent grad of the winter EforAll cohort, so we’ve watched her develop it from idea to launch at Groundwork! over the months. The premise is simple: go back to camp for a weekend, and find your inner Wild Child. Camp Wild Child takes place in a beautiful, rustic setting: a real summer camp complete with a waterfront, cabins, and dining hall. There are activities galore: workouts designed by CrossFit instructors and a burpee mile challenge for you intensity junkies out there; archery, hiking, bonfires, and kayaking for the traditional summer camp types; SUP yoga, self defense, water skiing, and wake boarding if you’re one of those millennials who likes to try new things.

And then there’s the true magic: no cell signal, and no WiFi. The sort of detail that causes initial panic, followed by a collective sigh: aaaaaaaaaah.

Views of the Berkshires

We could see MA, CT, and NY from this perch.

I attended the inaugural edition of Camp Wild Child last weekend. As an entrepreneur, I was stoked because Christin nailed the logistics! As a nature lover, I was swooning at the full moonrise over the lake and the smell of pine forests. And as a coworking space owner and crusader to end loneliness and isolation among adults, I was convinced that this concept is nothing short of revolutionary.

Our motto at Groundwork! is “Work together. Grow together.” At camp you could say: “Play together. Be together.”

We cheered each other on during the burpee mile, chatted over meals, shot bb guns, and basked in the sun together. And each night we did what humans have been doing for hundreds of years: we gathered around a fire.

This ancient and primal tradition still holds great power: as sparks shot into the air, secrets were shared and bonds were created. It felt utterly natural, simple, and free.

Now I’m back in front of my computer screen, but fortunately I’m at Groundwork! so I can find my way into a random lunch conversation in the kitchen soon. And I’m already looking forward to my next weekend to unplug and reconnect at Camp Wild Child in October. Will I see you there, friend?

Full Moon at Camp Wild Child

Moonrise at camp.

Jeff Golenski

Member Spotlight: Jeff Golenski

“At Groundwork, there’s a community here that I can be a part of and reach out to for ideas if need be. It’s like being in an office, but everyone just works at different companies. It’s something we’re only going to see more of as our workforce moves more towards the digital space.”

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GW Goodbye 4
Nick LeBlanc
Napping at a coworking space

Is napping at coworking spaces really a thing?

Napping at a coworking space

Artist Tim Cole snoozes after installing a solo show in the GW gallery.

We probably owe the evolution of the modern workspace to those posh campuses in Silicon Valley: game rooms, couches, gourmet food, yoga, and car washes seem like great perks to improve employee quality of life. But is it really just a clever trap to ensure that you NEVER leave the office?

Coworking: Work with options

Enter the coworking movement. One of the guiding principles of coworking is that we show up to work at the office because we want to… not because we have to. And yet many of our spaces feature similar perks: at Groundwork! we have a hammock, bean bag, dart board, and ping pong table.

I’ve visited many spaces that have a nap area incorporated into the office layout:

Do people really, actually sleep at coworking spaces?

While the answer is yes, napping has yet to become a common phenomenon.

At Groundwork! our favorite napping area is the large blue bean bag in the Doug Out room. You can reserve this room for 20 minutes, lock the door, and snooze without worry of interruption. I’ve had some epic power naps in the Doug Out.

Doug Out Bean Bag

GW member Doug Lane uses the bean bag in his namesake room.

We also have a hammock for folks who don’t mind sleeping out in the open. I’ve napped in the hammock: throw a scarf over your head and put your headphones in, and the rest of the world disappears.

Still, many people chuckle at the sight of me taking a nap:

Did she have a rough night?

The truth: sometimes I get that late afternoon slump. And rather than reach for the caffeine or waste time sleepily on Facebook because I can’t focus on anything else, I elect to close my eyes for a few.

Napping keeps me on task. After a 20 minute power nap I return to my desk and get a couple more hours of high productivity before I leave the office.

The perfect work life balance

It’s a pretty exciting time to be alive, and the work day is evolving quickly. While some of us pursue Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week, others throw themselves into marathon days of coding, gaming, and napping. I’d like to think that coworking offers us something in the middle: a space where work and life seamlessly integrate. At a coworking space you can meet friends, socialize, take a nap, and get shit done so that you have more time to get outside, play with the kids, or do whatever it is that makes you happy.