Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Common Desk boosts business in Deep Ellum one startup at a time
When Nick Clark opened Common Desk in Deep Ellum in October 2012, he had a vision bigger than just creating a workspace for startups and freelancers. He wanted to build a community.
“Right off the bat, I recognized Deep Ellum as the community that we want to be in,” Clark says. “There’s a rich creative community here, and a lot of people have started their stories in Deep Ellum.”
Located on Commerce Street in the heart of the neighborhood, Common Desk is a 5,000-square-foot workspace designed to accommodate multiple companies at a time, from individual entrepreneurs to established firms, such as tech-friendly driving service Uber. Clark says the big draw is the collaboration that can’t be found from working at home or in a coffee shop.
“There’s a rich creative community here, and a lot of people have started their stories in Deep Ellum,” says founder Nick Clark.
Common Desk members can pick from a menu of monthly access levels, from “coworking,” just an open space with differing hours, up to “dedicated,” with full access to different offices.
Clark says that he got the idea for Common Desk after leaving his career in commercial real estate. People were contacting him for one- or two-person offices, but they were unable to commit to long-term leases.
“I was getting enough of these phone calls, and it became apparent there was a need out there for a very flexible, open, shared working environment,” he says.
Dallas has a couple of coworking places, including SpryRocket (previously Workahus Lodge) on Greenville Avenue and Weld in the Design District. But SpryRocket is smaller and cheaper, more for individuals, and Weld is primarily for photographers. Clark says that SpryRocket and Weld have been supportive of him.
“Studies have actually shown that the more coworking places that open in a single town, the more that all of them become successful,” he says. “I think it just shows that we’re all in the business right now of educating people on what this is.”
Clark is quick to point out that despite the relaxed aesthetic, Common Desk is still a working, professional environment. The large conference rooms and offices among the open collaboration areas are designed to host clients as well as foster a community.
“People still don’t know what coworking is,” Clark says. “It’s amazing to me how many entrepreneurs working on their startup or working freelance are just grinding away at coffee shops or at home and not making any connections.”
“It’s amazing to me how many entrepreneurs working on their startup are just grinding away at coffee shops or at home and not making any connections,” Clark says.
On that note, Clark says he has been proactive in getting clients to work at Common Desk. The company went after Uber particularly strong, he says.
“Those are the type of companies we want in our dedicated spaces because we can still have that cool community, startup vibe,” he says. “I see it as, if we get more of those types of groups to Dallas, the more we can put Dallas on the map as a great city for a startup, which in many ways it is.”
Common Desk has put together a board with other area investors, including Scott Rohrman, who has been buying up neighborhood properties as part of a revival master plan, to work on an event next fall focusing on Dallas entrepreneurs and how they “started their story.”
“It’ll be a weekend, almost like a mini SXSW,” Clark says. “We’ll shut down Main Street and bring in some startup CEOs and people who are recognized in Dallas that maybe aren’t tech people but can tell a good story.”
It’s all about putting Dallas and Deep Ellum on the map as places where startups and small companies can thrive. “It’s going to be a way to be like, ‘Hey, we’re actually doing some things here. It’s not all going on down in Austin,’” Clark says.
Common Desk currently has a waiting list for the dedicated side, and the company will soon begin working on an additional 4,000 square feet in the back of the building for more offices, as well as a patio. After that, Common Desk has right of first refusal on the building next door, which could be turned into more coworking space.
But Clark says that the focus will always be on quality and cultivating the community side of Common Desk even as it grows.
“We’re so ingrained with what we’re trying to do with the entire neighborhood,” he says. “It’s definitely not a cookie-cutter type of place. I think our individuality is one of our biggest selling points.”