In Borderstan’s northeast corner, a collection of people pay for the privilege of sharing chairs and desks. This concept is known as a co-working space; and this particular space is called Affinity Lab. Housed in a small building near 9th and U Streets NW, Affinity Lab is the office for people working for themselves.
Originally located in Adams Morgan, Affinity Lab has been around for 11 years. However, since the business relocated to its current U Street NW location in 2010, it’s grown significantly. Affinity Lab’s success can be attributed to a number of things, including its interest in building a social and professional community.
Another reason for its growth: the Lab’s new location. “Some of the success of this location is the fact that it’s so close to the metro,” said Lauren Hodge of Affinity Lab. “It’s kind of at a really good spot on U Street to be a part of things that are changing and growing and evolving rapidly.”
How Affinity Lab works for its customers
People pay to join Affinity Lab because it offers a community for what often can be a lonely road, that of the entrepreneur. Along with a spot to work, wireless Internet, a printer and shared conference rooms, Affinity also offers its members a connection with others running their own businesses.
A listserv of about 200 people routinely circulates a range of opportunities for both current and past Affinity members. “The listserv is a kind of trusted YellowPages if you will,” said Hodge. “People use it to get or to give value.”
Affinity has three membership levels, ranging from those for entrepreneurs who need a set working space to what’s called virtual memberships. The latter is what a majority of members pay for at Affinity. “They’re (virtual members) people who may keep a home office or who may work out of Starbucks,” said Hodge. “For them this is basically an opportunity for them to get plugged in, but they don’t need a physical desk.”
Members of the Lab range from designers to nonprofits. The only restriction Affinity places on who can be a member is how well someone’s mentality fits with being in a co-working space. “You know if you fit here,” said Hodge.
Judging by the buzz of activity on a weekday afternoon, a lot of Borderstan’s entrepreneurs seem to fit just fine at Affinity.
President Barack Obama recently announced Startup America, the White House initiative that encourages entrepreneurship throughout the nation. Here in the neighborhood, Affinity Lab on U Street NW also inspires local entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. The entrepreneurial launch platform not only provides a shared office space, but more importantly a collaborative community of business owners and resources.
Affinity Lab has not always been part of the U Street corridor. Before opening up a space just east of the U Street Metro in January 2010, Affinity Lab had been part of the Adams Morgan neighborhood for nearly a decade. The organization maintained two separate spaces in Adams Morgan and U Street for most of 2010 and consolidated the two spaces into the U Street office at the end of last year.
“First and foremost, this place is a community. The added value is the office space,” said Affinity Lab’s CEO and President Philippe Chetrit. The real power of the organization is having great access to other members, and working out of two separate spaces took away from that accessibility, he said.