By GREGORY ZELLER //
The Spur is now open for business, and pleasure.
At least, what founder Ashley Heather calls a “pop up” version of the Hamptons’ first-ever shared-office space, which will officially open the doors of its new 10,000-square-foot “private co-working and entrepreneur’s club” this summer but for now is gathering strength inside the friendly confines of the Southampton Social Cub.
The Spur – the physical embodiment of i-hamptons, a Southampton-based “community and resource guide” for East End entrepreneurs spun out of the White Space Group, Heather’s Manhattan-based digital-creative agency – held it’s “pre-launch event” Saturday at the club, and on Monday, Heather’s networking and socializing hub officially opened.
Inside the Southampton Social Club, Spur members will find a well-appointed 3,000-square-foot space including work desks, a private conference room and comfy lounging areas, all within a few paces of the social club’s dining and other amenities.
It’s just a taste of what members will enjoy inside the 10,000-square-foot club when it opens later this year, according to Heather, who noted that the appetizer being served now inside the Southampton Social Club is already tantalizing prospective members.
The founder already counts 40 members in his member’s-only guild, which will set a hard cap at 100 individual members while it inhabits the social club but will make room for corporate memberships when it moves into its new digs.
Those first 40 members include 35 who signed up “sight unseen,” Heather told Innovate LI, and another five who signed up on Monday, The Spur’s first official day in business. Heather figures to reach those 100 members by the end of January – despite a rigorous qualification process that has already turned away some interested applicants, he noted.
“This is a private member’s club and we’ve turned down some people we feel aren’t a good fit,” he said. “Part of the learning process is being delicate about it, but trying to create a certain culture, rather than just taking money from whoever comes along.
“Who are they? What are they like? Is what they’re doing [as a business] interesting? Are they going to fit in? These are the questions we’re asking,” Heather added.
Finding the right members is just one of several challenges for The Spur, which will use its months inside the Southampton Social Club to gather critical intel that informs how things ultimately shake out at the new 10,000-square-foot facility.
“One of the biggest challenges is finding the right balance,” Heather noted. “For instance, determining which will be the more popular spaces – do we need more work desks or more lounge area? What should the price points be? What types of members should we be focusing on?”
One question has already been answered: While co-working spaces are often viewed as a haven for bootstrapping startups with few resources, even entrepreneurs with plentiful personal resources need a place to find their professional footing.
“Many of them work from home or from Starbucks, typical for solopreneurs, but the reality is, those are not very inspiring environments – and most people don’t want to invite people to their homes or to Starbucks,” Heather said. “Most people’s home offices do not look like our club looks. And you can meet a client here and then have lunch in a convenient environment.
“And because we carefully curate the members, you have the support of other members who are all in the same entrepreneurial space,” he added. “It’s Networking 101.”
For instance, Kathleen King, founder of the uber-successful Southampton-based Tate’s Bake Shop, is one of The Spur’s earliest members – an ideal person for eager entrepreneurs to rub elbows with, Heather noted.
There are other, more pedestrian challenges to running a successful co-working space – for instance, last week’s harsh weather delayed some deliveries, so the temporary Spur opened without a full supply of office chairs (expected Wednesday, Heather said).
But learning as you go is the mark of any successful entrepreneur, and while “there have been some tweaks” in The Spur’s strategy and planning, according to Heather, they’re all for the better.
The founder was especially encouraged by the strong turnout for Saturday’s pre-launch event, which attracted Southampton Village trustees and a who’s-who of regional businesspeople and other local dignitaries despite frigid single-digit temperatures.
“Everybody is getting a lot of positive feedback about the space and what we’re doing, Heather said.
With the main club still months away from opening, the entrepreneur is so confident in the co-working-spaces-for-wealthier-locales model that he’s already thinking expansion.
Presuming he fills his 100-member dance card in short order and then finds equal interest in those future corporate memberships, the entrepreneur believes The Spur can be replicated in other high-end ZIP codes – including in “resort towns around America.”
But Heather is mum on where The Spur may go (the word “Florida” did slip out) and for now is most focused on getting his Hamptons base solidified.
“Our next step is to open the real venue in the summer and then expand into four locations on the East End,” he said. “Then we will look at other resort towns around the nation.
“But first, we want to be 10 minutes from every entrepreneur on the East End.”