Co-working spaces come to South Jersey

A writer, a coffee shop barista and the vice president of a start-up walk into a Haddonfield building.

It's not a joke. It's a real work day at Kings Hall.

They sit down at desks in a long row and flip open their laptops in the "co-working" space where more than a dozen small businesses are side-by-side, sharing desk areas, water cooler banter and entrepreneurial ideas.

"Some people have mobility in their corporate structure. For others, working from home may not be as productive," said Devon Perry, owner of the three-building campus on Kings Highway with her husband, Sean.

Perry, a mother of three kids under the age of 4, runs her public relations and crisis management firm from the first floor of 2 Kings Highway West, a modern building compared to the two historic homes the Perrys purchased to convert to co-working hubs.

Renovations at 8 Kings Highway were completed earlier this year while construction to update 14 Kings Highway is ongoing.

"We lower that invisible barrier you'd find at a coffee shop," Perry said as writer Matt Skoufalos, barista Krista Sassani and Gridless Power's VP Andrew Leonard sat in a row next to her.

The environment — a study hall for start-ups — fosters creativity, according to Skoufalos, a Haddon Township blogger who started NJPen.com. Co-working space conversation often spurs an idea for a story, he explained.

"For the type of work we do, having a place that isn't a coffee shop is useful," Skoufalos said.

"This is for people who don't need their own office. These are the new office parks."

Co-working isn't new or unique to South Jersey. Several spaces in Philadelphia, including Benjamin's Desk in Center City and Indy Hall in Old City, draw hundreds of independent co-workers.

In South Jersey, the workspace model is a few months old, according to Jake Gordon, vice president of Cooper's Ferry, which runs Camden Colab.

Six months ago, the co-lab opened a co-working area in connection with Drexel and Rutgers universities' business incubators, also housed in the city's Waterfront Technology Center.

"Co-working is really related to technology," Gordon said.

The Camden facility has 29 co-working clients, including a cardiovascular health equipment company and the nonprofit group Girl Develop It, which encourages and teaches women to write software code and build websites.

Inside the Kings Hall complex, entrepreneurs build tech ventures like VisitSouthJersey.com, TechStarters, and Tassl, a smartphone app connecting alumni to their colleges.

"The value is not just in the physical space of the desks ... it's being around people in similar fields to foster intellectual vitality," Gordon explained.

Perry said Kings Hall has become a clubhouse for area commerce.

Members — paying about $299 a month to work from the Kings Highway offices — started regular think tank meetings to help boost each others' businesses. In the first meeting last month, members met to brainstorm ideas for a growing law firm working on the premises.

"You meet people you wouldn't go out and meet otherwise," Leonard explained.

Reach Carly Q. Romalino at (856) 486-2476 and cromalino@courierpostonline.com. Follow @CarlyQRomalino on Twitter.