Originally published Thursday, April 27, 2016 in the Wilmette Beacon
By: Alexa Burnell, Freelance Reporter
Balancing a full-time job with full-time family responsibilities is never an easy task. Add to that a daily commute, and it can often seem that there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
George Rafeedie, of Wilmette, faced this very challenge and decided to come up with a solution to ease his time-strapped woes, not only for himself, but for others in the same boat.
Rafeedie is the president and founder of his own communications firm, Tell Your Story, located in downtown Chicago. While he loves going to the city over the years, he found that on certain days it wasn’t always necessary or productive. He tried setting up shop at home, but with small children and the temptation to take care of a few household chores too, he lost focus, and began to think of alternatives.
CoWorkers offers shared membership and private office options, as well as conference room rentals plus a combination of desk space, lounge area and other amenities.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love going to my office downtown — I love the vibe. But, there are days I just don’t need to head to the city. I find I can accomplish more by staying nearby, but I still need a place outside of my own home or a coffee shop to get things done.” Rafeedie said.
As luck would have it in 2013, Rafeedie met a like-minded individual and fellow Wilmette resident Mike Chookaszian, a commercial real estate investor, who struggled with a similar dilemma. The two put their entrepreneurial spirits together and soon created CoWorkers — an affordable, flexible working space in downtown Wilmette offering folks a real work-life solution.
It’s now three years since CoWorkers’ inception, and there are now 35 shared members. There are four private offices for those who desire it, and shared work spaces too. CoWorkers has private phone booths, small kitchen space and conference rooms which are often outsourced to other local businesses for evening events. Some members work on an unlimited monthly plan, using the space more frequently, some use the space less often; CoWorkers accommodates for both needs.
While Rafeedie and Chookaszian’s initial goal was to provide quiet work space, their idea has grown in ways they couldn’t have imagined. CoWorkers is not merely 3,000 square feet of space, but rather its own community. Members network with one another and some have even joined forces, developing new business ventures along the way.
Brian Stafford is also a Wilmette resident with expertise in the technology arena. He sought work space at CoWorkers to create a better work-life balance, but got more than he bargained for.
“Working at CoWorkers has been the best decision for me. I can get more done working close to home and it is the perfect solution for a work force that is moving towards remote working conditions,” Stafford said. “Plus, it has led to new work opportunities too.”
Stafford met fellow CoWorker Lauren Peddinghaus, a business owner, who joined in 2014 so that she wouldn’t have to commute to her Lincoln Square office on a daily basis. She was searching for the right technology person for a potential new business venture and Stafford was looking for a new challenge. Soon, the two founded CondoGrade, a company that rates condo associations based on their financial health, crediting CoWorkers for their chance meeting.
“CoWorkers is a great place to meet other people who are doing interesting work,” Peddinghaus said. “It’s great to work in an environment where everyone is doing different business, and have different specialties — many new business ventures are happening here.”
Rafeedie is thrilled that the idea for private workspace has developed into business ventures for Stafford, Peddinghaus and many other members.
He adds that there is an economic impact for the entire Village Center too. For example, CoWorkers often take clients to The Rock House and Valley Lodge Tavern for lunch and coffee. On Tuesdays, many of them take advantage of Nick’s Taco Tuesday.
Jen Marino, one of the owners of Nick’s says that the relationship with CoWorkers has grown over the years, benefiting both organizations.
“CoWorkers are great about encouraging their members to support Nick’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, and we in turn have offered CoWorkers’ members lunch specials and happy hour events,” Marino said. “It’s a win-win when local businesses proactively work together to help one another.”
Julie Yusim, executive director of The Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, agrees that business relationships such as these add to the economic and social vitality of Wilmette.
“In this day and age more and more people are working from home, but sometimes, you just need to get out of the house,” Yusim said. “CoWorkers provides an affordable option to the home office and brings more people to the Village restaurants and shops which benefits all of Wilmette.”
Rafeedie says they are just getting started and have plans to grow CoWorkers to other suburban locations in the not so far off future.
For more information, visit www.coworkersllc.com or pop in at 1167 Wilmette Ave.