The business of co-working spaces has boomed so intensely in the last few years that we’ve begun to wonder if anyone works out of a regular office anymore. WeWork alone operates 36 spaces in the greater metropolitan area. The formula can feel like a simple derivative of the startup office: a ping pong table, endless coffee, some sort of artisanal cider on tap. And yet a space in Brooklyn has created a co-working place with vibe all its own. Laptop-toting workers commingle with refreshed yogis who’ve just completed their sun salutations rather than having stayed up all night coding and drinking Soylent. Instead of a space focused on valuations of 20x revenues, New Love City is place for freelancers to find calm and productivity outside their homes.
The symbiotic relationship between work and yoga seemed like a natural to founder Jen Jones, who left a successful career in advertising to launch the zen-like venture. Her space, with abundant natural light and visually soothing décor, is designed to soothe the stressed-out freelancer or entrepreneur. Jones explains that it adds up to “lots of weirdos doing strange jobs and going against the norm flowing through our studio all day long, either for yoga or to work. It’s a really cool thing to see and I’m proud to be an incubator there–in either direction.” Prices at New Love City are reasonable. One day of co-working plus yoga is $40; the monthly rate is $300.
Jones, who recounts her startup story with a sharp sense of humor and self-awareness, says that launching New Love City wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows and Om. “As a person who understands how insanely challenging it is to run and fund a business around your passion and ask it to support you, I applaud each and every person who is trying to get by in this way,” she said, adding, “I am probably a bit out of the loop in terms of America as a whole, but I think this kind of work and offering is the future.”
Before opening New Love City, Jones’ path wasn’t unlike many Brooklynites with a side hustle. She completed a yoga-teacher certification course and started teaching part time while still at her full-time job. The tug of the wellness world led her to quit her desk job and work at I.AM.YOU yoga studio in Little Italy as both a manager and teacher. A natural go-getter, Jones soon had a feeling familiar to many would-be entrepreneurs. “There was a moment when I realized that, after managing and teaching in studios for a year, I was doing an awful lot of work on a project that was not, and would never be, my own project. And there was really no reason why I could not have my own thing instead,” she said.
The aforementioned epiphany took place on a Saturday, and the next day she began figuring it out over Sunday brunch with her husband, who she describes as “part business partner/sounding board/leader of the free world of organizational design.” They began running numbers. Yes, on a napkin. Numbers soon turned into an investor deck and business plan. The mission: to create a yoga and co-working mecca in a converted warehouse near the Greenpoint waterfront. By Monday, she toured the space she would soon occupy.
Tips & Takeaways
- Why yoga mixes with working: “You’ve got these really fascinating people coming in and out all day long just so happy to be at yoga and that makes for a really pleasant, calm place to hang out.”
- On competition in the wellness market: “This shit wouldn’t be exploding if there weren’t a consumer need and interest. I don’t think you can oversaturate, and I don’t often worry about competition.”
- On creating value: “I focus on taking care of my staff. If your teachers are well-treated, well-paid and shown respect by the studio owner, if the studio space feels clean and welcoming, if the offering is something of value, I think you can make a pretty big impact.”
She had come across something “potentially cute” on Craigslist, and went to see it with an architect friend. The rent would be “affordable in the real world,” meaning with the help of a small loan but without taking on investors. The space was “boring,” but had a skylight and large windows, literally shedding light on its potential for transformation. She signed the lease on the next day and started construction just two days after being handed the keys in July 2015. When the first classes at New Love city took place less than a month later, the business had gone from ideation to open doors in less than two months.
Jones has written about the Herculean effort of taking a former office space through demolition and beautification. The process involved getting her hands dirty with renovation work, as well as sacrificing financial security and much of her own household furniture. “I poetically white-washed a wall by myself, by hand, in 98-degree heat, something Tom Sawyer managed to get out of,” she says. “That was a crazy month.” The result, however, is minimalist and soothing. The whitewashed, exposed brick and elements leftover from the original structure imbue it with an easy elegance, an antidote to uninspiring, uninviting gyms.
After starting with just the basics, New Love City has expanded its programming. Example: MIND BLOWN, The Headstand Lab, where “We’ll take a look at alignment, geometry and the balance of strength and flexibility necessary to safely spend time on your head.” For those who want to graduate from student to teacher, New Love City has a class for that. In the fall, the studio will offer a 200-hour, yoga-teacher training course (standard tuition: $3,500).