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Updated: November 13, 2023 Shop Talk

Q&A: Coworking franchise flourishes in Marlborough

A photo of Ryan Gagne Photo | Courtesy of Venture X Marlborough Ryan Gagne, owner and operator of Venture X Marlborough

Less than a year before COVID made working from home the norm, Venture X Marlborough opened to provide an office space alternative for tenants seeking a tailored experience. The coworking space franchise uses a tiered membership model that allows members to select their services, whether they’re looking for a place to collect the mail, need meeting and training spaces for employee events, or require a fully-furnished office.

A bio box about Ryan Gagne. His hometown in North Attleborough and he holds a degree from Bridgewater State University.
A bio box about Ryan Gagne

Already growing in popularity, COVID-19 drove up demand for coworking options for those seeking a break from the home office, says Venture X Owner Ryan Gagne. With 16,600 square feet of, modern office and lounge space on the third floor of the popular Apex Center on Route 20 in Marlborough, just off I-495, Venture X is now home to a cross-section of professionals who benefit from mingling with like-minded professionals, surrounded by a host of amenities from gyms to shopping to dining.

A separately-owned Venture X franchise is slated to open in the Mercantile Center in Worcester in the coming months. Gagne talked about why coworking is gaining momentum in Central Massachusetts and beyond in an interview in October.

Is there a type of user that your coworking space, Venture X, primarily serves?

There are a lot of different industries here: Financial services; an exotic car dealer, and human capital management. Right now, our largest is a Fortune 1000 company with a sales office here. We have some marketing companies. It makes for a nice neighborhood and community here. We can all play along in the sandbox nicely.

Is this a new model?

Your traditional small-office lease companies have been around as far back as the 1980s. Design trends have changed and we need to accommodate the need for 24/7 access, newer, fresher builds, ergonomic chairs and seating areas – enhancements you wouldn’t necessarily see in a traditional office. I have 40-plus companies that have an office here. There aren’t too many multiple-person teams – but they’re all friends, everybody knows each other.

Was opening Venture X Marlborough shortly before the pandemic great timing?

No one saw a global pandemic looming, but a year later it had proven to be a good time. A competitor was experiencing a lot of growth and that shed a lot of light on the business model itself. And then came a global pandemic. People needed a safe place to work. They saw this as an alternative and it flourished.

How did the pandemic change the trajectory of your business?

In March 2020, we were at 76% occupancy. We had gone from zero to 76% in less than a year. I knew the business was right before COVID, and I just hoped that we could survive.

We never closed except that first week of the shutdown, because we were considered essential. On the Saturday after everyone was sent home, I had an attorney here. After six to eight months, people really started to get out of their homes. We did see a downstroke of business for about 2 quarters, but we rebounded in early 2021 and we haven’t gone below 90% occupancy since. Last year, we averaged 95% occupancy, and this year we expect to do that, or better.

Why did you choose this franchise?

I was looking for a business to buy and I was looking at a traditional building with smaller sublet offices but it was an hour and a half from my home. That’s when the broker said, there’s this company called Venture X, and you pick the place where you want to put your business.

And why Marlborough?

Originally, I looked elsewhere in Massachusetts and that fell through. I should send that landlord a thank-you card. I came here to Marlborough, knowing the city is very business-friendly. I found the space in the Apex Center to my liking. It was on the third floor, with a gorgeous view of Northborough and Tower Hill.

Will we see more coworking spaces like this one in Central Massachusetts?

You’ll see more like this. I would like to open more but I need to find the right place. Our members are paying to go to work. In normal circumstances, they get paid to go to work, so we have to deliver a superior experience and workspace for them. I can't just slap one of these anywhere.

Will coworking spaces replace many traditional large office buildings in the future?

There are some very large-scale companies looking at these buildings instead of getting a big office. They have teams that come into work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and others Tuesday and Thursday. It gives companies a lot more flexibility and it’s better for their budget.

There will be more companies choosing this to some extent. What we’ve seen is some larger industries have gone and fractured their hiring geography. People can work remotely, but once you’re too remote, you have no opportunity to get together. We provide a great opportunity for remote teams to get together.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Emily Micucci.

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