Today on the blog we’re interviewing Kay Dee, the founder and CEO of MELD Coworking in Austin. MELD will celebrate its first birthday in April 2019, and Kay is giving us a behind-the-scenes glance at what it took to create a coworking space from scratch.
Tell me a little about yourself! What were you doing before you opened MELD Coworking?
Before opening MELD, I was a freelance graphic and web designer. I’m from Serbia, and I’ve traveled and moved frequently throughout my life. My grand goal was to have the flexibility to work from home, which sounded amazing to someone who had never actually tried working from home…
When I finally started to work from home in Denver, I felt lonely. The lines blurred between work and life, as I was always at home and I was always at work – they were the SAME place! After just a few months I had to make a change. I combed through Denver and joined a coworking space, which is where I fell in love with coworking.
What inspired you to start a coworking space in Austin?
I was planning on moving to Austin, and I knew I wanted to be more involved in connecting people, organizing events, and collaborating. I was at a fulcrum with the impending move, and the inspiration came to start my own space that would reflect what I love about coworking: a community where people could build both business and personal relationships.
Long story short: working from home and loneliness provided the spark, while my move to Austin provided the inspiration to start a coworking community.
What was the greatest challenge in starting your space?
I have learned such a variety of disparate things that I don’t know where to begin. As a small startup building from scratch, even the basics were entirely new to me!
A couple of examples: How to find the right plumbers (yes!), what to talk to an architect about, social media marketing, SEO, public speaking, where to find the right sign company, even the array of flooring options that exits – all random stuff ? And the Austin building permit process…yikes!
What is unique about MELD?
Relationships are the key to success, both professional and personal. In MELD, people actually talk with each other, collaborate, make friends and work together. I find that coworks all try to fit this into their business plans, but the culture and success of the community concept varies greatly in each space.
For instance, MELD emphasizes an open and shared floor plan. There is an intentional shift away from private offices, and the private rooms that we have are dedicated to core productivity functions like phone booths and meeting areas.
Another unique thing is that MELD is literally in a house. A bright blue house at that! Our space is friendly, homey and comfortable. The vibe is casual-professional, with a hint of Austin fun, and it’s accessible enough for each member to feel like a part of the community. MELD’s slogan is “Work from home away from home,” and my goal is for members to capture the essence of home but still have the amenities and productivity features that an office should provide.
Why did you choose central Austin?
Location was a vital part of my decision about where to establish MELD. When I first encountered this property, everything about this space just felt perfect for the concept I had in mind.
Truth be told, if I didn’t discover this property I doubt I would have found anything that matched my inspiration. Blocks from campus, walking distance to the big consumer hub of Guadalupe St, and in a deep-rooted, vintage house… this was the perfect building and location for my vision, and it’s somewhere where I’d want to work myself.
Besides that, MELD is in central Austin near the vibrant Guadalupe drag in North Campus. Coworkers can stroll to bars, coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, even gyms and yoga studios. We love our neighborhood, and it’s such a convenient location.
MELD has been open for almost a year now — so congratulations on that! What has been your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?
Our community is the cornerstone of everything we do here, and it has been a joy to meet so many people and build that thriving sense of community that I envisioned.
One of our members recently came into to MELD carrying videography equipment. He needed to film a video to use as his entry for a prestigious business competition, and it was amazing to see all the other members pitch in and help him film it.
A year ago, none of us knew each other — and yet here we all were on a random Wednesday, acting in his movie, cheering him on, and supporting his professional dreams. Full-circle moments like that make all of the lessons and challenges worth it.
If you would like to visit MELD Coworking and meet Kay Dee, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to set up a tour, and you can stay for a trial day to work productively at MELD and enjoy our bottomless coffee.