After serving as Head of Community for a then-fledgling WeWork, Lisa knew she wanted to open a shared workspace of her own…she just had to figure out what would make her space different than the others.
Fast forward a few years and that vision has come to life with New York’s Primary, a thriving workspace community focused on providing its members with holistic wellness solutions from fitness classes to healthy snacks to deeply intentional interior design. Without further ado, here’s Lisa’s ‘future of work’ in her own words.
Landing on the ‘wellness’ concept
My journey started in the early days at WeWork. I was amongst the first several employees at WeWork back in the very beginning. And when I say ‘early’, I mean the team was literally just Adam and Miguel as co-founders, plus Miguel’s brother Kyle when they hired me.
I was hugely inspired by what we were doing. During my fourteen months with the company back in the early days, I helped open the first two New York City locations. After that, I left and went to work within a different area of the real estate business.
I knew that I wanted to open my own shared office space business, but at that point I wasn’t sure how my space would be different. And so I kept shelving the idea for the next couple of years.
Eventually, I found myself out in Portland, Oregon with my mom. While there, I started eating cleaner, greener, you know just in general being exposed to the nature and trees and doing more yoga and meditation. And it was a real gamechanger.
After living in New York for so many years, the idea hit me like a brick. There was no shared office space business giving small business owners the tools that they would need to able to care for themselves better, thereby allowing their business to prosper. And with that, Primary was born.
Bringing the Primary vision to life
I feel we’re ahead of the curve in our mission to integrate the wellness amenities onsite. As we were opening in May 2016, WeWork was starting to introduce yoga and meditation classes in their conference rooms. We continue to hear about coworking and shared office spaces offering meditation classes, yoga classes, wellness education, panel discussions, and other things of that nature.
The idea of wellness integrated directly into a workspace is definitely trending upwards. I think that it’s really here to stay. The world is starting to recognize that when you take care of yourself, everything in your life including your business survives. And that’s been my mantra from day one.
And what does health and wellness look like to us? It’s quite holistic. Onsite, we have a studio where we host about 20-25 classes a week (yoga, boot camps, etc) that are included in your membership with us. We have a cafe where we offer things like vegan pastries, healthy snacks, kombuchas, and coconut water so that you can fuel your body. And the third element is the beautiful design and aesthetic of the space. We have a lot of soft edges, rounded corners, a lot of light, plant life, preserved moss, and photographs of landscapes. Really, the space is just filled with things that visually make you feel more calm and at ease, which is so essential when you live and work in a city. And studies will tell you that when you feel better in your body, you’re more focused and productive. Then ultimately, as a business owner, you can potentially make more money and be more successful.
Testing the ‘Primary hypothesis’
We’re thrilled with what we’ve created so far. We opened the doors back in May 2016. To date, we have about 25,000 square feet, which includes 65 fully enclosed offices and about 84 seats in an open coworking space.
The space feels so warm and that’s what we hear from everyone. People come here and they say ‘This is the nicest space I’ve been to in New York City.’ It feels so good here. It doesn’t feel cold. People actually want to spend time here. It feels refined and professional and our members feel comfortable bringing an investor or business owner to this space. But we always tell people, ‘It’s hard to describe what Primary’s all about; you have to just come down and be here.’ Because it’s really all about the feeling, how it feels to actually be in the space.
Our sort of ‘hypothesis’ for the business was specifically around the wellness amenities onsite. Would our members actually use them? I’d say probably about 25% of the community really religiously attends the exercises classes we offer. Another 50% of the community engages with the classes periodically; maybe they’re not in boot camp every Monday or attending yoga every Thursday, but periodically throughout the month they’ll engage with the classes. And then there’s another 25% of the community that haven’t tried a class, or at least don’t attend with any sort of regularity. And really they just love the accessibility of the cafe, the overall beauty of the space, and the location of the building.
So overall, the classes are definitely a success. And I think it’s plain to see that the number one contribution we’re providing overall from an environment perspective though is actually in the design of the materials and the look of the interior. It really sets the mood and allows the people in the space to feel calmer and more relaxed, while Primary remains a deeply professional work environment. So it’s a great balance in that way.
What’s next for Primary
We have two handshake deals to expand into our second and third locations. When those go through, it’ll mean potentially another 80,000 square feet. That means quadrupling our footprint here in Manhattan within the next 6-9 months. For now we’re focused on expansion within New York. However once we’ve got three to five locations here in the city, we’ll be taking on the world. We’ve got our eyes on London, Chicago, San Francisco, and Toronto, specifically.
And this expansion feels really exciting for us. We’re ready. We really feel like we’re in a big period of growth and that this is just the beginning for us.
Lisa Skye Hain, Co-founder of Primary, as told to Mara Savina Falstein exclusively for the Optix blog.
The ‘Future of Work’ series shares insights from thought leaders who are on a mission to drive the future of work forward. We speak with members of our diverse network of entrepreneurs, journalists, flexible workplace operators and others, then distill their insights into a 5-15 minute read you can enjoy while sipping your cup of coffee and preparing to start your day.