After bringing its babysitting services to a Hamilton-Lauraville space last year, The Cube Cowork assumed operations of all 15,000 square feet on April 1.
With the move, the Cube is taking over for Function Coworking Community, which ceased operations after more than two years in the Harford Road main street space.
It brings a big expansion for The Cube, which will mean offices, area to host a larger event space, meeting rooms and areas for content creation. And it will be able to grow a staffed play area for children, so that parents can focus on getting stuff done. For cofounder Dr. Tammira Lucas, who leads a number of entrepreneurship initiatives in the city focused on families and economic opportunity, it’s a personal milestone, as well.
“This is much bigger than me expanding a coworking space,” she said. “This is really setting the tone for Black women entrepreneurs and showing them that, there is a possibility to do everything you want to do in business, but also providing a space for Black women to grow their own business and careers.”
The Cube was launched by sisters Lucas and TaKesha Jamison in 2016 from a smaller space in Towson’s Stoneleigh. Lucas said growth to this point hasn’t been easy. Indeed, new ventures often aren’t, and the disparities faced by Black entrepreneurs made it harder. But with the opportunity presented by the expanded space, Lucas wants it to be a model for others. Along with looking to continue to create a community, she is also paying attention to how the business model can be set up for further growth to potentially other spaces.
“Black women-owned businesses do not last as long or do not generate as much revenue as white male-owned businesses, and that’s because we are not designing models that will scale and we’re not thinking about multiple revenue streams we can have in our business to make it sustainable,” Lucas said.
Lucas is seeking to support other Black-owned businesses, as well. Along with the space she provides, she’s careful about working with vendors from the community, and is planning an area where folks will be able to shop goods made by Black-owned artists and makers, as well.
It’ll be opening at a time of flux for models of in-person workspace. Coworking was on the rise prior to the pandemic, leading to growth of the shared workspaces in Baltimore. But the pandemic meant many people were working from home, and even as they reopened, coworking spaces had to put restrictions in place that limited the typical free movement and collaboration that was a hallmark of the spaces. Lucas believes that with more reopening, folks will be seeking space outside the home to work.
At Function, the model was centered around part-time memberships that allowed access to a private office, so the idea was that the coworking was in the office itself rather than a mix of shared tables and dedicated offices. It also had gallery and community meeting space centered on community building in Northeast Baltimore.
Function cofounder Gene Ward said the space was starting to hit its stride after a year and a half. And due to the nature of coworking’s nature of being abundant in space but low on staff, the business was unable to qualify for many government loans. After reopening, Function was able to begin to rebuild membership, though the rates were lowered.
“The total number of members was approaching pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “Revenue was not.”
Ward thinks that the model could’ve grown given time. But with the short-term challenges wrought by the pandemic, the landlord ultimately offered to forgive back rent in exchange for terminating its lease. The Cube, in turn, was approached by the landlord with an opportunity to take over the space.
Ward said Function was focused on creating a diverse space, and had majority-Black membership. With The Cube, it will now be Black-owned.
“For it to be a Black woman-owned coworking business, I think that’s a really positive thing, especially in Northeast Baltimore,” he said.
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