The Coworking Franchise Model: A Conversation With The Wheelhouse

Learn what it takes to start a coworking franchise with The Wheelhouse.
By Kelly K
November 15, 2022
The Wheelhouse coworking space - coworking franchise model

Starting a coworking franchise can be a great way of scaling your business when you’re ready to grow. It can be an effective way of growing your business quickly, depending on your business model and goals. 

We wrote an article breaking down everything you need to know about starting a coworking franchise, including the drawbacks and benefits for both franchisors and franchisees. 

In this article, we’ll be looking at what it’s really like to grow and operate a franchise with the help of Optix client, The Wheelhouse.

The Wheelhouse coworking space - coworking franchise model
Source: The Wheelhouse website

Meet The Wheelhouse

The idea for the Wheelhouse came after self-employed co-founders Harry, Alex, and Sanjay found themselves missing the community and creativity of an office environment. When they couldn’t find the perfect place to work, they decided to create their own. 

Thus, the first Wheelhouse location was born.

Now The Wheelhouse has over 10 locations serving hundreds of members across the UK. They offer high-quality, affordable, and friendly spaces with a variety of work services including:

They also offer a ton of valuable amenities including complimentary coffee, tea, and printing facilities to foster a flourishing community of like-minded individuals.

“What makes The Wheelhouse unique is we want to provide places to work and meet that are genuinely warm and friendly as well as the norm of well-equipped and good value.”
The Wheelhouse coworking space - coworking franchise model
Source: The Wheelhouse website

Growing with the franchise model

With one successful location underway, it was time for The Wheelhouse to consider how they were going to expand.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to growing a coworking business. From a location strategy to receiving funding, founders often spend a lot of time and energy into finding out what the best fit for their business is.

For coworking space operators, this typically includes creating a network (ie. chain) or growing as a franchise. While a chain may be a better choice for some, there are multiple advantages to expanding your business under the franchise model:

  • Expansion at a faster rate
  • Lower risk
  • Less upfront capital
  • Increased brand equity

For The Wheelhouse, the franchise model was the best way for them to bring their popular work model to multiple cities, and quickly.

“As founders we had been working in beautiful, corporate offices. Every day there was delicious coffee, wide open atrium, and large desks with comfy chairs. Then we became self-employed and life moved to the kitchen table and depressing, soulless cheap office rentals. So, we found a space in a converted chapel and set up the first Wheelhouse. Work-from-homers, hybrid teams, freelancers and start-ups deserve places and services that make them flourish not wilt. We realized there were a lot of cities and towns around the UK without friendly, good-value places to work, so off we went!”
The Wheelhouse coworking space - coworking franchise model
Source: The Wheelhouse website

Trials and tribulations

Expansion plans do not come without their challenges. Coworking owners and operators can face a number of challenges when looking to expand their business, from choosing the right location to securing the right kind of lease or management agreement.

Franchise expansion can also bring with it obstacles that need to be overcome. These could include things like:

  • Reduced control over your business
  • Relationship management with franchisees
  • Cost and time required to develop training processes

Most operators don’t anticipate a global pandemic being their number one challenge. However, that’s exactly the situation that The Wheelhouse found themselves in.

“Our number one challenge? COVID. Don't run a coworking and meeting room business during a ‘you must work from home’ global pandemic! But we survived, and with the world of work more local and more flexible now, we hope The Wheelhouse is offering what people are looking for.”
The Wheelhouse coworking space - coworking franchise model
Source: The Wheelhouse website

Advice for getting started

Starting your own franchise is not a small feat, and certainly not something you’ll do overnight. While it can be a business goal, it’s rarely the first step.

For most operators, you’ll need a proof of concept before choosing to expand. Your first space is an opportunity to really lean in and figure out what works (and what doesn’t). If you’re just getting your space off the ground, we highly recommend optimizing your first coworking space before you expand

When you’re ready to go for the next step, you’ll want to make sure you’re being as detail-oriented and meticulous as you possibly can be to deliver an outstanding user experience. 

Having a high standard and delivering high quality experiences on a consistent basis is one of the things that truly sets The Wheelhouse apart from their competitors.

“Sweat the small stuff. Work out what elements are crucial to your brand and deliver them consistently.”

It pays to learn from others

No coworking operator wants to go at it alone. One of the best things you can do, whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned veteran, is to learn from those around you and take inspiration from people who have successfully done whatever it is you’re trying to do.

For those looking to build a successful coworking franchise, The Wheelhouse is an ideal organization to take inspiration from. 

They’ve managed to scale their business in a short amount of time with the help of a franchise model and a clear vision for what it is they’d like to accomplish.

Special thanks to The Wheelhouse for collaborating with us on this piece! To learn more about The Wheelhouse, you can visit their website or Instagram page.