Deborah Schoenblum and Rachael Berezin met nearly twenty years ago while working at a non-profit. They were both practicing therapists and despite working together briefly, they became fast friends.
Many years later, Deborah ran into Rachael while renting an office in the same building in New York City. Catching up, they quickly realized they were both using their offices part-time and renting them to other therapists on their off days.
This sparked a new and innovative idea for on-demand hourly offices designed specifically for therapists and other mental health practitioners. From here, Brooklyn Hourly Offices was born.
Now, Deborah and Rachael run a thriving coworking space where they provide not just therapists, but a wide array of professionals with a clean and quiet space to work.
We spoke to these two incredible women to learn more about who they are and what it takes to start a successful niche coworking space.
Meet Deborah and Rachael
Both Deborah and Rachael are exemplary examples of coworking leaders with an incredible amount of knowledge and insights to share. Neither one of them imagined ever owning a coworking space, but they’ve found great success with their efforts.
For Deborah, the journey has been about stepping outside of her comfort zone and doing something new. “I love being a therapist, but it is also really fun to do something different.”
For Rachael, it’s about driving home the idea that you can be different and still create whatever it is your heart desires.
“I am a neurodiverse person and I work with neurodiverse people to help them feel comfortable in their own skin – to take risks, be themselves, and own who they are. This is an example of one of the things that I’ve done that has resulted in a lot of positive things,” says Rachael.
As newcomers to the flex industry, Deborah and Rachael have a wealth of knowledge to share about finding success in doing something different. Here’s five key takeaways from our conversation to help aspiring coworking owners find their own success.
1. Identify a specific need
Therapists need a professional space to see patients. But because many therapists work part-time, it can be difficult to justify a traditional office lease.
“A lot of therapists have a regular job or a family and they see clients part-time just in the evenings, just a few during the day, or in the mornings. So having a full-time office really doesn’t work for a lot of therapists,” explains Deborah.
This leads many mental health practitioners to rent other people’s offices to reduce the cost and commitment required in having their own. However, this option presents other challenges.
“When we started, there was an hourly therapist/office rental space, but you had to talk to somebody to book and you had to do a tour,” says Rachael.
“Then, all the offices had other people’s degrees on the wall and were personalized to other people. Nobody wants to use a space with somebody else’s credentials on the wall.”
Many therapists are then stuck when it comes to growing their private practice and becoming entrepreneurs. To establish their brand and build credibility, they need a beautiful space to see patients – a space that is usually out of their budget.
This presented an opportunity for Deborah and Rachael to fulfill the need for affordable, low-commitment, professional spaces that those in the mental health industry could use to grow their private practice.
“We had both rented from other people hourly and it was never a great experience. You had to call somebody every week to book. You had to send a check in the mail. And you couldn’t use it for an hour here or an hour there - there was always a commitment.”
2. Embrace a DIY attitude
Opening a coworking space without an office rental or real estate background can be very intimidating. For Rachael, it was never something she expected.
“I’ve always been very business-minded and entrepreneurial. But the whole office rental industry, I just kind of fell into it. It wasn’t something that I really planned for,” she explains.
Being that Deborah was new to the industry as well, they both had a lot to figure out to get their idea off the ground. They started by doing some research to understand how feasible the idea would be.
Once they were confident it could work, they embraced a do-it-yourself attitude and figuring things out as they went along.
“We didn’t have a business plan or anything. We were just like, let’s try it,” says Rachael.
Embracing trying new things and stepping out of their comfort zone has led Deborah and Rachael to success as they prepared to do something completely new and different for both of them.
3. Start small and be open to change
In June 2016, Deborah and Rachael opened Brooklyn Hourly Offices with three offices in one suite. Their hunch was right – there was a need in the community and the offices filled up quickly.
Members appreciated the on-demand hourly office availability and how it enabled them to grow their private practice. Thanks to Deborah and Rachael’s innovative new idea, they were finally able to access affordable office space.
This success led them to almost tripling their original office space for a total of eight offices.
Starting small and expanding only once they were able to prove out the concept enabled Deborah and Rachael to confidently take a chance on something new, without taking on too much risk right off the bat.
It’s also given them the opportunity to discover new ways of their office being used that they didn’t necessarily expect. Although the space was created for therapists, they’ve had a variety of professionals use the space, from tutors to freelance marketers. All of these learnings have come from starting small and being open to new changes as they go along.
“We’ve had lawyers use our office on an as needed basis. Tutors. Somebody who has an Etsy business. A few HR people to interview. It’s all people who need that level of privacy.”
4. Prioritize service and hospitality
So what exactly has made Deborah and Rachael so successful in their mission to grow a successful business?
They prioritize service, hospitality, and truly meeting the needs of their members.
One intentional choice that the pair has made is in how they price their memberships. Since opening their doors in 2016, they haven’t raised their prices. Offering affordable office space for their community is integral to what they believe in.
“We haven’t raised our prices at all since we started,” says Rachael. “We haven’t raised our prices because we are very committed to keeping it affordable for the people that are using the space. And we definitely put those people first.”
Apart from affordability, they also service the area quickly and do whatever they can to give their members an exceptional experience. They fix problems immediately and they stay hyper fixated on how to give their members the best experience possible.
Another key decision that Deborah and Rachael have made is to use technology to provide an exceptional user experience when it comes to booking, invoicing, and accessing the space. They use Optix to help automate the day-to-day and provide a seamless experience for their members to be able to access their offices on-demand, by the hour. It’s made all the difference in growing their business.
“We care deeply about our users and our members’ experience. We really want them to have a good experience, and it is extremely important to us.”
5. Create opportunities for community
Now that their space is thriving and the pandemic restrictions have fully lifted, Deborah and Rachael are turning their attention to building community for their members.
“When you work for yourself, whether it’s as a therapist or a freelancer, it can be a very isolating experience because you’re not going into an office and seeing other people or having meetings with your coworkers,” says Deborah.
“We want it to be less isolating to work for yourself. We want to form a community and be able to do cross referrals with other therapists.”
With their flexible membership plans and beautifully designed offices, Deborah and Rachael are fostering community by empowering their members to grow their businesses while connecting with like minded individuals.
“We’ve helped people that are newer therapists and want to start their private practice to be able to start really slow and build their practice,” says Deborah.
In the future, Deborah and Rachael plan to hold events for members, like happy hours or networking mixers, to help bring the community together and foster more connections.
Two extraordinary coworking leaders, one beautiful space
Deborah and Rachael both agree that they have a tremendous amount of pride in what they’ve been able to accomplish.
They’re proud of themselves for having the courage to take a leap of faith and do something different – and that leap has paid off for not only themselves, but the lives of thousands of mental health professionals and in turn the health of their community.
Thank you Deborah and Rachael for sharing your incredible story with us! To learn how Optix is supporting this ambitious pair in their journey to grow, check out the Brooklyn Hourly Offices customer story.