Beauty Shoppe raises the co-working bar in Pittsburgh
Bring your whole self to work.
That’s all Beauty Shoppe asks of its members. In return, the burgeoning co-working space has facilitated a collaborative, wholly welcoming atmosphere for the (otherwise office-less) people of Pittsburgh to create, grow, and work — in many instances, together.
When co-founders Matthew Ciccone and Rabih Helou launched the company in 2011, they headquartered in the remains of an aptly named beauty shop on East Liberty’s Penn Avenue. Today, aside from a few faded, black-and-gold-embellished windows bearing its logo, there’s nothing left of the place. But just across the street, occupying three floors and 10,000 square feet in the neighborhood’s Liberty Bank Building, Beauty Shoppe’s namesake has evolved into a beautiful spot all its own.
Backed by a modest team of six, the cooperative office provides its membership base with the framework to successfully launch and maintain a business. In contrast to similar platforms — like incubators, seed accelerators, and makerspaces, all of which have seen surges in popularity in recent years — Beauty Shoppe has honed its identity as a professional, relevant, community-focused co-working space, first and foremost.
“We really aim to cater to a wide variety of industries and provide a certain level of facility or office-level support in terms of what kind of amenities you would see in a normal office,” says general manager Marissa Fogel.
Among those amenities are four reservable spaces (two conference rooms and two work-study rooms, equipped with whiteboards and video-conferencing capabilities), an open lounge, complimentary coffee, and an online portal that allows members to post to community boards and manage their accounts. The office is accessible 24/7 through a remote app called KISI, which syncs to members’ email addresses.
Memberships are renewable on a monthly basis and are largely dependent on industry type and individual workflow. Need a private office for your team of six? A dedicated workspace just for you? Beauty Shoppe will hook you up without locking you into a pesky annual contract. Come as you are; get shit done — no strings attached. It’s a model we can really get behind. Clearly, a hearty chunk of Pittsburgh’s working citizens are behind it, too.
Resume brimming with management roles in the service and nonprofit industries, Fogel seems almost tailor-made for her current gig. Since arriving at Beauty Shoppe in 2015, she’s gracefully upheld the company’s “sales and day-to-day member management, but also facilities management,” in addition to programming and community outreach.
“[Co-working] is such a young industry in so many ways that it’s impossible to find people who are already proficient or well-versed or experts in this,” she tells us. But considering this particular co-working space’s monumental growth, both locally and nationally, we tend to disagree.
In December 2016, Beauty Shoppe joined forces with the former Thrill Mill — a local business incubator headed by Bobby Zappala — to create a part-co-working, part-incubator space at 6401 Penn Avenue, just outside Bakery Square. Ascender, described by Beauty Shoppe marketing director Aadam Soorma as “the love child of our partnership with Thrill Mill,” has full-time desks and private offices available for rent, in addition to providing exclusive programming for budding entrepreneurs. Beauty Shoppe will remain branded as such, and its Liberty Bank Building operations in East Liberty will continue as usual.
In tandem with this local expansion, the shared-office collective is also on track to open a new co-working space in Cleveland — “on the West Side of town, in Ohio City,” says Soorma — by mid-2017. Carrying on the Beauty Shoppe trademark, the completed project will unite Cleveland’s self-starters across industries and professions, the same way it’s been happening here in Pittsburgh.
Each space will “have its own unique needs and feel,” according to Fogel. But Beauty Shoppe’s underlying objective won’t change.
“Providing an empathetic relationship has been pretty much the key crux of our business,” Soorma notes. “[We want] to say that if you are a mom, a yoga enthusiast, a practicing lawyer, or whatever it is that you do — your life’s work — bring it to Beauty Shoppe. You shouldn’t have to change who you are based on being here in the Shoppe. And that’s, I think, what we’re trying to move toward in our own photography and our design and our aesthetic and our business.”
Truly, every piece of Beauty Shoppe’s product radiates precisely what its adopted name implies. All three floors of common, shared, and private offices boast clean, contemporary design elements; bold colors; natural sunlight in spades. The business’ Instagram feed is a professionally curated (and increasingly popular) collection of Pittsburgh’s most captivating spots. These days, even the Shoppe’s revitalized home base of East Liberty sparkles a bit brighter than its surrounding neighborhoods. But the most beautiful thing about this co-working space is not, in fact, a tangible thing.
Beauty Shoppe not only values camaraderie within the community, but fosters it. With equal parts razor-sharp creativity and meticulous space planning, this team has built a world that encourages engineers, real estate agents, journalists, photographers, app developers, and even morticians to collaborate — let alone coexist in a workplace.
“For us, what’s so important is that we really value our network here,” says Fogel. “And it’s clear, just based on the way that people interact with each other, that they value that as well.
“I think something that is really exciting for us — kind of more of a drive — is the social engagement that we see happening here. I’ve watched members form genuine bonds, and people who’d otherwise be completely isolated at home working for a company remotely now have the opportunity to do lunch and go for a walk.”
Of course, in cooperative offices and the like, community engagement kind of comes with the territory. But we get the feeling that Beauty Shoppe’s push for transparency has everything to do with its passionate tenants.
“We’re really interested in being ourselves in the workplace,” Fogel adds. “We don’t want to impose our culture on our members. We want our members to bring who they are and make the space what it needs to be.”
Beauty is only skin deep, you know.
Beauty Shoppe / 6101 Penn Avenue, East Liberty / 412.345.1030
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