102 comments

What Really Goes on at MMM Headquarters

I’d love to retire early, but then what? 

Although I retired about thirteen years ago, and continue to be retired, about one year ago I opened up a little business on Main Street here in Longmont, Colorado. It is a multi-purpose gathering space, under the guise of a coworking space, with the typical-for-me grandiose name of “Mr. Money Mustache Headquarters”. Or, MMM-HQ for short.

At the time, I wrote a blog post about it, and promised to keep you updated on how it was going. Since then, many people have been asking for updates. Approximately one group of random roadtripping Mustachian tourists has stopped by each day to peer in the windows*. And several people are considering opening their own coworking spaces in other cities, if the case for it looks good.

Although this HQ is a small scale thing (we are hovering at about 50 members and I’d love to get to 80), it has provided me with some great lessons in both life and business, which are long overdue for sharing.

Plus, I can now fully vouch for the idea as a good one for other people to pursue, given the right situation. Owning a coworking or other community-oriented space can be both a good business and a great life choice, for people before or after the early retirement stage.

So, here’s what I’ve learned after launching into the most unexpected business of my life so far:

1: Owning a business can be like a having mental health therapist that pays YOU:

As I always say, early retirement is great, but it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to stop working. You need to accomplish something meaningful with almost every one of your days, whatever “accomplish” and “meaningful” mean to you. You also need to get out of your house, strain your muscles, have positive interactions with other humans, and experience at least a bit of hardship. These are simply parts of the recipe for Human happiness, like a series of buttons you can press to get more of it.

A therapeutic January morning in the Prisonyard Gym with special guest Jesse Mecham

So in my case, adding HQ to my life has been a very nice way to press more of those buttons. Almost every morning, I walk or bike or jog the 1.2 miles down to the building bright and early, open up all the doors for some fresh air, put on some music, and sweep the floors or make coffee or set things straight in preparation for the day. Then I head out to the patio and the “Prisonyard” outdoor gym beyond to do some basic weight training before I get sucked too deeply into computer work or any to-do lists.

As the day goes on, there will be a random stream of members and conversations and tasks and meetings and errands around town, which is just unpredictable enough to keep each day fun.

And the best part of it all is that it’s completely optional work. I can choose not to visit, and the members take up the slack and care for the place themselves. I can go on vacation and nothing blows up while I’m gone.

Owning a coworking space has all the benefits of having a really good office job where you like all of your coworkers, except without the accompanying obligations or politics. I refer to it as my therapist because a visit never fails to put me in a good mood, no matter how I felt before deciding to head down there. And a healthy and reliable way to make yourself feel great is an important part of any life.

2: It’s easy to arrange big events, but slower to create a consistently buzzing daily scene.

The year started big, with about 90 people crammed in for the first pop-up business school. Then, the vibe flipped around completely as we moved on to just a few people hanging around during normal days, working on laptops or perhaps the squat rack. But there have also been a pretty good series of after-hours events including barbecues, potlucks, regular meetups of the Northern Colorado Mustachians Group, a visit and Q/A session with YNAB founder Jesse Mecham, a Virtual Reality demo night, a music jam or two, and various charity and learning events and markets.

The annual Beer Club charitable meeting, comprised mostly of my neighborhood Dad friends.

On the down side, it takes more work to meet and sign up each new member than I expected, and we tend to lose more than expected, as people who signed up early but realized they don’t really need a coworking space have dropped out. And in the classic Blogger’s Dilemma where the demographic of the audience often reflects that of the writer, we end up with quite a high percentage of well-to-do white males in our 30s and 40s, which could lead to the term “Broworking Space”. But I’m trying to break this trend!

On the upside, the community side has been just as good as I had hoped. Thanks to the magic of our private Slack group, Members of HQ have been helping each other with both business and leisure pursuits on a daily basis and the connection has helped all of us including me. I often joke that my primary purpose for this coworking space is as a “Friend Harvesting Machine”, and it is living up to that promise.

3: The Money Side of Things

In principle, coworking is a good business model because it works a bit like a gym: you can have a large number of members sharing a common space because not everyone is there every day. This is why there are so many companies expanding into the business like WeWork, Regus, Proximity, Galvanize, and a zillion more.

But like any business, your income and spending need to be balanced.  I’ve deliberately gone low on both sides, by starting with an affordable building and subsidizing it with my own mostly-unpaid labor. Because of this, the $2500 per month income (50 members at $50 each) is enough to sustain the place including property taxes, utilities, maintenance, beer (and artisinal coffee from one of our own members!) The downside of this approach is that our space is smaller and less fancy than other coworking spots. It was really just one big room until I opened the Tinyhouse conference room in June.  Since the space is still way underused on any given workday, we could easily double this to 100 members, which would bring the business up to $60,000 of gross annual income – more than enough to sustain any reasonable lifestyle with very part-time hours.

Normal coworking spaces will tend to have a much larger building, with hundreds of members paying between $150 and $300+ per month for semi-private working spaces, or more for fully dedicated offices. This leads to higher rent and utility costs, plus the need for at least one full-time administrator and even a receptionist (although both can be the same person, which could be you if you are motivated.) The end result is a good income stream, at the expense of a business that requires real work on a fixed schedule.

So you can see why MMM-HQ is taking the slower paced road, for now.

4: So, should I start my own? (or join one?)

If you’ve got the time and energy, hell yes!

If you are thinking of opening a space in roughly the MMM-HQ model (or already have one), feel free to give me the details by dropping me an email via my about->contact form. Before doing so, I’d suggest you

  • start by putting up a good website with your proposed building/location, amenities, monthly cost and your contact info.
  • Then share it around with anyone you know who may be interested and get feedback.
  • Then email me with that you have so far.

At this point, I will link to it from my own HQ page, which will then become a directory for a network of community-oriented Mustachian coworking spaces. You can gather interested parties first before taking the plunge, although I would suggest that you only do this if you are financially well established and not overly dependent on the whims of bank financing.

Although I would (of course) charge no franchise fees, we could still set up an informal sharing arrangement where members of any Mustachian Headquarters affiliate location would be free to visit any other one.

And if you are wondering if joining a club like this is a worthwhile use of your own fifty bucks a month, I have to say it’s hard to see the downside as long as you use the amenities and like socializing with other people. If free coffee, beer, work space, an outdoor gym, tool library/workshop and access to fifty local entrepreneurs is not worth it to you, then I’m not sure what is!

In The Comments: Do you have any questions or comments about this or any other lifestyle or post-retirement business ideas? I’d be happy to answer them, and hopefully many other entrepreneur-readers will be willing to share their own knowledge and experience as well. 

*Out of respect to the members who are in there trying to get real work done, please don’t show up unannounced – instead, join one of our public meetups if you happen to be in the area, which I always announce on Twitter and usually Facebook too.

Previous Post:
  • Phil September 5, 2018, 9:44 am

    Collection of “high percentage of well-to-do white males” = private country club, except equity goes to you and not the members…lol!!!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 2:01 pm

      I do see this group offering some of the benefits of a country club, except in an almost opposite way: we help each other with car repairs and DIY plumbing projects or technical/business advice, rather than big-dollar backroom deals and showing off wealth through high consumption.

      Reply
  • freddy smidlap September 5, 2018, 10:00 am

    i’ve always been interested in a space like this. we live in buffalo, ny where large properties used to be dirt cheap but that is changing. my only membership question is how you would handle any bad actors or ne’er do well’s? i’m glad it’s working out for y’all.

    Reply
    • Chris September 6, 2018, 6:17 am

      Buffalo represent! I know of at least one shared workspace in town already, but it’s on the larger side. My wife freelances and looked into it briefly. Real estate prices have been insane lately, but there might be some diamonds in the rough out there.

      If you open one up, keep the local FI groups posted!

      Reply
      • freddy smidlap September 12, 2018, 9:23 am

        i don’t know the local FI groups. are they on facebook or something? are you in any?

        Reply
  • Michael Bacarella September 5, 2018, 10:01 am

    My town of Eugene, Orefon has something very similar to this. A community operated, non-profit Maker Space. Instead of dropping by to work on a laptop, you can drop by to use a metal chop saw, or the welder, and sometimes even the 3d printer (if it’s working). Although we have WiFi if you actually want to work on a laptop. It’s in an office that has small electronics tools.

    It only costs $25/month and has about 40ish members. Members do everything, including taking home trash and recyclables. Nobody makes coffee though (yet?!)

    As a recent young retiree this space is a good outlet for me to feel connected and like I’ve got stuff to do.

    It’s a different vibe than an office co-working style space, but otherwise hits similar buttons as the MMM-HQ. Just throwing it out there as food for thought.

    Reply
    • Jessica September 13, 2018, 10:35 am

      We have a “Fab Lab” in our city that has all kinds of maker machinery. It’s $25/month for occasional use, or $100 use for all hours access.
      Nice, because who has a CNC mill at home?

      They are also getting more sewing stuff too- not just metalworking and woodworking things.

      Reply
  • jmart21 September 5, 2018, 10:04 am

    Prison yard gyms have never looked so good!

    The idea of renting a spot at a coworking space pops up in my mind every few months. Working strictly from home doesn’t have that mix of human interaction, fresh air, and positive vibes. However, I’m almost certain my employer wouldn’t spring the X-hundred dollars per month to rent a spot; and paying for it myself isn’t the Mustashian way!

    MMM, what are your thoughts on the topic? Do you see any creative mustashian-esqe solutions to this problem amongst your community members?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 1:58 pm

      Well, you could start your own $50 per month MMM HQ in your own city and grant yourself a free membership, or support the creation of one by someone else who lives in your town!

      Also, there may be existing spaces, like an Elks Club, library, rec center, or something else as mentioned in other comments that offers the same benefits at lower costs.

      Reply
  • Andy September 5, 2018, 10:45 am

    Awesome to see a little bit of a peak behind the curtain on how it’s been going. I suspect you’re going to get lots of interest in people replicating this idea in other cities. Looking forward to seeing how it all develops!

    Reply
  • Daniel Davis September 5, 2018, 10:47 am

    MMM, as you mentioned, meaningful work is very fulfilling! I love the concept of financial independence and it’s a concrete goal that can be worked toward. It’s more difficult to find work that contributes to your community or world and adds joy and pride to your life. And few things are more depressing that doing work that feels meaningless! While the ideal would be financial independence and meaningful work, if I had to pick one or the other, I think I’d choose meaningful work. I see many people talking about how much they are looking forward to achieving financial independence, in part so that they can stop working. Should we also be putting more energy into finding work now that is meaningful, or doing our work in a way that we feel proud of it?

    Reply
    • Mixed Money Arts September 5, 2018, 10:03 pm

      This comment hits home. Recently I realized that as I save more toward financial independence, I feel less inclined to quit my current job if I don’t find other meaningful work. But I also think that being financially independent could make my current job more meaningful, because I’d no longer be doing it for the money.

      In any case, I agree; finding meaningful work and/or taking pride in our current work could make life more fulfilling, regardless of our financial situation.

      Reply
      • Rum Tum Tugger September 6, 2018, 8:38 pm

        I’m struggling with this too. I want FI but I also don’t love my job. But a career change into something more interesting to me will entail significantly lower pay. It is a dilemma!

        Reply
        • Chris September 12, 2018, 3:39 pm

          I am currently trying to quit my job and find more meaningful work, but I’m just 2 years away from achieving a significant financial milestone that would bring me much closer to financial independence (golden handcuffs!). I know if I stick with my job, which I don’t find inspiring, I will reach these financial goals.

          However, since I know within the next 5-8 (depending on if I get a new job with lower compensation) years I will reach FI regardless, I am also really concerned with my exit plan into work that is meaningful to me. Like all Mustachians, I am not the kind of person that wants to just sit around in retirement, but I feel like I’m so busy with my current job that I don’t really feel like I can take a breath to figure it out. I am trying not to be a complainy-pants, but I’m really struggling with this balance!

          It sucks to spend my time at a job that I don’t find meaningful – I can’t wait to escape the cycle of trading life for money. I just also believe that if I was just a little more creative I could have both – a meaningful job that could transition to part time after I reach FI and that pays enough to get me to FI! Who out there has found this magical formula?

          Reply
          • Patrick McNamara September 18, 2018, 7:18 am

            This is a great thread.

            Chris, I have been in your shoes for a long time. I started a 45k job in Boston in 2012 after deciding against a return to get my MBA and pile on 6 figures in debt. Earlier this year, I was promoted to VP but the work has become incredibly unfulfilling. I used to really enjoy the work, but the company has become too “corporate.” I am about 3-4 years from FI depending on the market, so I decided to put a lot of work in to find a new job that has a high upside of work satisfaction (which, as an aside, includes learning as my number one priority) but without sacrificing the financial benefits of my current job.

            I am happy to report I was somewhat surprised at the opportunities I had and accepted a position that pays me more than current. Look, the grass may or may not be greener, but I’d encourage anyone with “golden handcuffs” to seek new work. The job market and wages are much higher than what I was facing back in 2011-2012. Good luck to all!

            Reply
  • Seth September 5, 2018, 10:47 am

    Sometimes I wish I lived in Longmont just so I could join stuff like this!

    Perhaps when I am closer to FI I can be the catalyst for the Houston Outpost.

    Reply
  • Angie September 5, 2018, 10:58 am

    I’m 2-3 years away from FIRE and could definitely see myself setting up a co-working space at that time. I definitely feel like it’d be worth it for the social interaction alone! I also feel like it’s fun to be able to bounce ideas off of other people and just in general keeps things fresh and exciting. Glad it’s been working out over in CO; perhaps in a few years I’ll open a franchise in the midwest.

    Reply
    • Morjax September 5, 2018, 1:01 pm

      Whereabouts in the Midwest, if it’s not too impertinent of me to ask. I am dreaming of a space like this in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area…

      Reply
      • Angie September 5, 2018, 1:57 pm

        I’m currently in the Lansing area over in Michigan but I have a sister in Minneapolis so for FIRE, who knows ;)

        Reply
        • Matthew In Michigan September 5, 2018, 3:04 pm

          Start one up, I’ll join! I’m just south of you in Jackson. I don’t see myself riding my bike there but I’d drive…I know, not mustachian but not as bad as driving to Longmont ;-)

          Reply
          • Ace September 5, 2018, 8:10 pm

            Two hours away, so too far to join, but I’d FOR SURE head out for any meetups/special events that you host!

            Reply
          • Angie September 6, 2018, 6:19 am

            Oh man my first coworker! I actually just got my real estate licence too so it doesn’t hurt to “just look” right? At the rate I end up buying real estate once I start looking Lansing MMM HQ might be up and running before we know it =D Are you over on the forums? I’m YoungGranny if you are we can keep in touch in case this idea ever comes to fruition.

            Reply
      • Joseph September 17, 2018, 7:19 am

        Morjax, I have a double decker garage, that will be a co office space in the future (I live in Minneapolis) but moving to Switzerland for 9 months) , h-mmm

        Reply
  • Accidental FIRE September 5, 2018, 11:04 am

    I haven’t visited but your HQ kind of reminds me of the big house that 5 of your college friends rented out off-campus. We all had those, right? It was the place to be, to hang out. To see what’s going down. Sure, there was less work being done back in those days, and more inverted keg stands. But the overall “chill” vibe of like minded people seems the same.

    And in both scenarios apparently a random band might show up and play some songs :)

    Reply
  • Tvot84 September 5, 2018, 11:26 am

    My city of Topeka, Ks is currently trying to overhaul downtown and make it a place to be. I think something like this would be perfect for the local community down there! Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to find the time to investigate this idea further.

    Reply
  • Olivia September 5, 2018, 11:34 am

    Oh wow, a network of MMM coworkjng spaces! That’s pretty awesome! Hope one comes to NYC!

    One of these days I hope to come join pop up school (it’s free?!). See you soon MMM!

    Reply
  • Gwen September 5, 2018, 11:46 am

    One of these days I’ll make it to Longmont and see MMM HQ for myself! It would be epic to create something like that in Minneapolis. Lots of FI people around here!

    Reply
    • Cubert September 7, 2018, 4:53 am

      It’s really neat, Gwen. For me, it was like walking into the Museum of MMM — “Hey look, there’s the tiny house he did on YouTube!” and “Whoah, is that Carl from 1500 Days to Freedom??”

      Maybe we should knock heads on a Minneapolis FIRE station, or, agree to hang out in a wing of an impending WeWork branch downtown… (Not sure if they allow flowing taps and kettlebell swings tho…?)

      Reply
  • Matt1867 September 5, 2018, 11:55 am

    Hey MMM, I was wondering if you could possibly write a post about your son…. Maybe his views on finance, how he has done with homeschooling, his net worth from savings etc…. you don’t seem to mention him much anymore and I think a lot of people would be interested in hearing about his progression as mustache JR.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 1:55 pm

      That’s a cool idea Matt.. but in this case I think it would be treading upon his privacy somewhat. He’s old enough now that anything personal that gets written about him, should probably come from his own keyboard.

      However, did you see this earlier post about parenting/money philosophy?
      https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/05/20/what-im-teaching-my-son-about-money/

      Reply
      • Tvot84 September 5, 2018, 3:57 pm

        A guest post from Junior MM???!!! That would be so unbelievably awesome!!

        Reply
        • EJ September 6, 2018, 12:58 pm

          Just adding a second or third vote for a guest post from little MM. If MMM is interested in taking a month off from typing shit into a computer, it would be amazing to see some outsourcing to the mini MM. Even better would be a guest post from little and a response post from MMM.

          It would probably be way too much to pay him for the ad revenue generated by his posts, but maybe some percentage would be appropriate?

          I am sure anything he wants to write about would be interesting and a topic he is passionate about would be the best. But I would love to hear about:
          1) His views on saving and investing (is there a big near term goal–a trip, a car, a cool toy), does he just like to save and see that interest pile up, or is he already working on early retirement?
          2) What it is like to have two full-time parents. Since you both do a ton, the experience may not be very different from having working parents (in terms of outside perception), but how does it compare from his perspective to friends with two working professional parents.
          3) What he wants to do when he grows up. Is the plan to skip straight to being an entrepreneur, does he have interest in a professional job or a trade, or does he think adults are just supposed to do whatever they like all day and things will work out.
          4) His views on Charity. 3.5 years ago he was always interested in helping a friend in need. How has that instinct evolved.

          Reply
      • Matt1867 September 5, 2018, 5:09 pm

        Yes, I’ve read all of your articles…. I just find your parenting style very interesting and am curious how all of the ideals you’ve taught your son have paid off “no pun intended”. He seems like a very bright kid, maybe he would like to do a guest feature on what it’s like to have MMM as a Dad, what it is you have taught him, and what his future plans are in terms of schooling, careers, and his own outlook on finances. Just an idea, I think we all love when new articles come out, so thank you for that!

        Reply
  • Joao September 5, 2018, 11:56 am

    I’m a FIREe from Brazil. I’ll be on vacation in Denver-Yellowstone area next month.
    I’d loke to stop by in Longmont, CO and visit MMM’s headquarters and meet you in person. It would be an honor. Any possibility of this to happen?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 1:52 pm

      Thanks Joao! But we’re looking for Longmont residents here – the whole point of MMM HQ is to build real-life friendships and a network of friends within biking distance of each other.

      Reply
  • Nick September 5, 2018, 11:58 am

    Is Mrs MM planning on getting involved? Maybe she could help diversify your demographic…I know my wife would love to learn some of her crafting skills as well as her Etsy/online business skills.

    Reply
  • Merula September 5, 2018, 12:11 pm

    One idea from a recovering marketing major: if you wanted to increase the utilization of the space without putting in a lot of effort, you could have your current membership do that work for you in one of two ways:

    (1) Offer a “membership plus guest” pass of some sort where, instead of $50/month, you pay $60 or $70 and get to bring a guest, either on a blanket basis or a certain number of times per month

    (2) Offer a referral bonus where, if you refer a new member, you get something off of your next X months of membership. 50% off for 3 months, one free month, whatever

    Either of these options would increase the utilization of the space without significantly increasing variable costs and also would be more likely to get “stickier” memberships, as the new members would have an existing connection to a current member.

    However, this would likely not help your demographic issue. One idea for that would be to offer local entrepreneurial groups (Longmont’s Women’s Business Development Center? Colorado Black Chamber Of Commerce?) promotional memberships for raffles or giveaways. Bonus: the value of the gift is tax-deductible for the organization.

    Reply
  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 5, 2018, 12:18 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that the MMM-HQ is doing well both professionally and financially. It sounds so much fun and profitable. No wonder other people are considering opening their own.

    I remember you mentioned in a post or on a podcast that you and a partner got in when the building was undervalued. Now the price must have gone up. I saw the PopUp business ad a while back and wish I could join. Our LO was born a couple of days ago, so now I’m staying at home taking care of her. I will sign up for the live version though!

    Thank you for the great update!

    Reply
  • Juan September 5, 2018, 12:23 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun. Having a network of these spaces around the country (and why not world) would be awesome!
    Anyone in the Raleigh, NC area interested in starting one? Probably too much for me to start on my own at this point in my life, but could make it work as a partner, or at the very least by being a paying customer.

    Reply
    • Andrew September 5, 2018, 7:12 pm

      I’d love to start one after FIREing! I’m in Fuquay-Varina. I think we had a couple of mustachian meetups, but then it petered out…

      Reply
      • Juan September 8, 2018, 1:01 pm

        We still have meetups occasionally. Last one was about 3 weeks ago with about 30 people come to the Cameron Village Public Library. I think the MMM forums are not very active for Raleigh, but we coordinate meet ups through local Facebook groups.

        Search for “NC Triangle on FIRE” or “ChooseFI – Raleigh” on Facebook. Those are the most active groups that still have meet ups about once per month.

        Reply
  • Joe D September 5, 2018, 12:31 pm

    The whole thing sounds kind of like a lodge (Elks club, Free Mason, etc).

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 1:49 pm

      Yes, it does! I only learned about the existence of Elks Club from some neighbors two weeks ago, but it sounds like a venerable and potentially fun establishment. This is just a more modern take on the same thing.

      Reply
  • Simple Money Man September 5, 2018, 12:57 pm

    I think it would be especially useful if you find people within the same industry/career/life interests. The social aspect would be the biggest benefit and one should take total advantage of that. It would have been nice when I was studying for my CPA. Towards the end, I found a study buddy method to be extremely helpful!

    Reply
  • In The Pursuit Of Progress September 5, 2018, 1:10 pm

    You had me at beer and gym, but I think the great thing about this is the sense of community. I’m many years away from FIRE, but I would love to be able to join a cohort like this to keep my mind in tip-top shape and to be able to flex my mental and social muscles. The vibe seems just right, too. There just seems to be an air of camaraderie. Awesome stuff!

    Reply
  • Freedom 40 Plan September 5, 2018, 1:18 pm

    I really like the idea of a co-working space where I would have some influence into how things are run. I recently hit FIRE, and I’ve been throwing this idea around my head. I just can’t decide if I really want to jump in and put in the requisite effort / what if nobody shows up!

    Reply
  • The Bordeaux Kitchen September 5, 2018, 1:31 pm

    Great concept to bring people together around common interests and create value for all. As a DIY foodie, I could envision adding a co-cooking space, with a common kitchen where Mustachians could learn to prepare healthy, delicious meals for pennies a serving (as MMM has demonstrated in previous posts) — a key part of the skillset for the FIRE community. I’m talking home cooking, from scratch, and learning some of the simple, but nearly lost, culinary arts like fileting a fish or deboning a chicken that will save you money over processed alternatives.

    Reply
    • Jennifer September 6, 2018, 5:21 am

      I had also had a thought for such a place here in Washington, DC. Problem is that Real Estate is VERY expensive here. There are a lot of foodies here and a common kitchen would be a great idea, subject to the local food and safety laws. I will investigate.

      Reply
      • Tori September 11, 2018, 8:32 pm

        Check out fire stations and churches as a starting point. Maryland’s “cottage industry” laws are different from VA, not sure how they compare to DC, but in Maryland if you want to produce food to sell you can’t get your own kitchen certified, you have to use a certified kitchen. There are a few around you can rent space from, but several folks recommended to me to check out “renting” from a church or firestation. So that could be a thought for some “skills” classes without having to get your own kitchen set up!

        Reply
  • Dr Bill September 5, 2018, 1:31 pm

    It’s been a while since I’ve had reason to comment, with a still-low number of respondents to one of your blogs. How much licenses did Longmont require of you, and about how much time did it take you to clear those hurdles? This is a multi-factor wonderful idea. I may just move forward on deciding if it’s doable here.

    Reply
  • Jim S September 5, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Love your posts and co-working space ideas. Just curious on the insurance requirements since you provide beer and power tools. How does one insure against that? I am not asking to try to poke holes. I too have thought of doing something similar upon retirement. Although I wouldn’t plan on providing beer, still concerned about how the insurance works when you’re letting others use you (or their own) power tools on your site.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2018, 1:48 pm

      That’s a good question! We just got general purpose insurance for running a retail store. If I got into the details of what we do there, they might try to raise our rates. But in reality, nobody is going to sue anyone else for anything, ever (part of my official membership contract for joining MMM HQ :-))

      Reply
      • Eric September 9, 2018, 10:49 am

        I used to be a member of a co-working space in Wisconsin. For insurance, they required that each individual or business got their own insurance with min $1M liability coverage. It wasn’t expensive, I want to say $20/mo. But that would be one way to shift the cost over to the tenants. Interesting that you have a no-sue clause in the membership contract.

        Reply
      • Mario September 12, 2018, 4:25 am

        ‘nobody is going to sue anyone else for anything’. Did you write that exact thing in the official contract everyone sign? It looks way too straightforward and easy to understand to be in a legally binding document!

        Reply
  • Suchot September 5, 2018, 1:58 pm

    That is so inexpensive to be a member! I did notice it looked a bit like a “broffice” or a “broworking space” as you put it ;-). I’m curious what types of jobs the members (who aren’t retired yet) have that they work on at the HQ.

    Reply
  • Zack September 5, 2018, 2:44 pm

    Thank you. I have had a desire to create that sense of local community. I have lived most of my life with many roommates but we all have moved our separate ways as we got in serious relationships. I think this workspace you have created is the solution I have been looking for! Have you thought about doing meals where people take turns preparing food for everyone?

    Reply
  • SavingNinja September 5, 2018, 2:44 pm

    I’d love to set up or have access to one of these in the UK. The problem is property is so damn expensive, it would have a much higher investment cost and fee. Currently I’m just relying on friends for the borrowing of power tools and such!

    Hopefully one day I’ll RE in the USA :)

    Reply
  • Kevin Bridges September 5, 2018, 3:06 pm

    Hey MMM, this is fantastic! I attended (virtually) the pop-up school event last year, and it was a lot of fun. I only wish I could have been there in person, (the networking between sessions looked lively) . I live in the Kansas City metro area, and I definitely think we could use a MMM themed co-working space. In regards to diversifying the membership, it might make sense to expand a few of the perks/services. Have you thought of adding other library concepts (cooking/baking tools, beer brewing equipment, maker tools, expensive software/devices, books/movies/etc.)? Giving folks access to shared “stuff” that would be cost prohibitive otherwise might be a good draw. Our office has a very nice drone, and I get to play with it whenever I want, but I could never justify owning it. It also might be cool to see if MMM HQ could become the Longmont location for 1 Million Cups. This is a shark-tank style forum for helping entrepreneurs with their concept and pitch. The organization started in KC, and has expanded to over 175 cities (including Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, and Gunnison Valley). I’ve attended many of these sessions, and they are always interesting). https://www.1millioncups.com/

    Reply
  • Lynne September 5, 2018, 5:26 pm

    Have you heard of Hera Hub? Their mission is to support female entrepreneurs. They have several locations in the US and one in Sweden, but none listed in Colorado. In search of gender diversity, you might consider if there’s a possibility of a mutually-beneficial relationship with them.
    https://herahub.com/

    (I have no association with Hera Hub, but my sister-in-law is an enthusiastic booster.)

    Reply
  • Nicola September 5, 2018, 5:39 pm

    Great article, thanks. Where I live, there was a maker space, before I moved here. It apparently failed because people didn’t pay their subs and weren’t respecting the space. I was wondering if this had been an issue for you and how you had overcome it. It’s the sort of project I would really enjoy, but if I have to spend a lot of time on collections, I think that would take the shine off! I am all signed up for pop up live stream. I have started businesses before, but I think you always learn something from this type of event, and it gets me all fired up to do more :-).

    Reply
    • Matt September 5, 2018, 6:08 pm

      I’m sure there are services to set up automatic payments so you don’t have to worry about that. I’m not sure what disrespecting the space entails, but a conspicuous security camera might do the trick.

      Reply
    • Mario September 12, 2018, 4:44 am

      I agree with Matt, you need to stipulate that members set up automatic payments. And you need to set up an easy way of keeping track of everything so you don’t waste time and energy on it. If the membership is small and steady then checking bank statements and manually entering everything into a spreadsheet would be ok I guess, I’m sure other readers have better ideas.

      Not sure about how to tackle people leaving a mess behind in a shared space. How about all users write their name down on a notice board hanging in the space when they start work so everyone knows who was the last person to use it.

      Reply
  • Tyler September 5, 2018, 5:47 pm

    Great idea. Any like minded people in the Toronto area?

    Reply
    • Vince Lizotte September 21, 2018, 9:14 pm

      Have you looked at Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto? I’m in London, Ontario and we have a sister organization called Innovation Works (membership carries across both – including New York site as well.)

      Reply
  • Jonathan Booth September 5, 2018, 6:02 pm

    The moose lodge folks are actually moving into this space. First one is opening in Champaign IL shortly. https://www.lodgic.org/ As a parent I think its super interesting to have the bundled childcare, especially as a drop-in open-til-9/10 pm thing.

    Reply
  • Steve September 5, 2018, 6:54 pm

    I love the prison yard… reminds me of Lock Up with Sylvester Stallone. Just needs a few more bench presses and an evil Prison Warden! Haha

    Reply
  • Chuck Albacore September 5, 2018, 6:59 pm

    For those worried about membership: If you build it, they will come.
    For those worried about insurance: stop worrying and just do it.
    For those of you thinking I’m talking out of my ass: you’re right (& yes that’s my ass talking to you)

    Reply
  • James Luntz September 5, 2018, 7:30 pm

    Put this off today (saw it at the office, but didn’t stop from whatever I was doing like normal as the intro didn’t quite hook me…

    1; holy shit. This is it. This is what I need. I’m still hanging on to my daily grind at lean FI working on what I want to be when I grow up.

    “As the day goes on, there will be a random stream of members and conversations and tasks and meetings and errands around town, which is just unpredictable enough to keep each day fun.
    And the best part of it all is that it’s completely optional work. I can choose not to visit, and the members take up the slack and care for the place themselves.
    ” this is it. This is my calling. This is what I want. In so few words. This is what I love about my job and why I have a hard time leaving it. But this incorporates even more of the “fun” parts without all the bullshit.

    Internal thought before moving on to “2”… I have to do this. This is what I need.

    3. breaking even is good enough for me! I am infatuated with the idea of a “free” counselor, challenger, cohort, comradery, more c-words, etc.

    4. I have to do this *. The franchise idea is brilliant. Obviously, any other MMM-site would have less draw. The franchise thing is brilliant.

    • Just got back from happy hour.

    Reply
  • Johan September 5, 2018, 8:43 pm

    I’ve been learning about the Library of Things and the MMMHQ reminds me alot of it! Opening a LoT/Makerspace is a goal of mine to serve the community. Have you thought about having local bands play concerts to help promote their music? That’d be a fun event.

    https://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-start-a-library-of-things

    Reply
  • Married to a Swabian September 5, 2018, 8:56 pm

    MMM, sounds like a great business. As a woodworker who presently no longer has the space for a full woodshop, I found and joined a Maker Works space nearby. It is a pretty cool way to 1. Get to know others who make stuff 2. Save thousands of $$ by not having to buy all the tools 3. Learn new skills and have fun. It does cost $110 / month, but with 14,000 SF of space with wood and metal shops, CAD stations, laser cutting, CNC router, etc., you can make a lot of cool shit. Plus, they let you pay for only the months you have projects going on, so membership doesn’t have to be continuous. Great idea.

    Reply
    • Cathleen Hutchins September 6, 2018, 5:52 pm

      I actually just posted something about a maker space type thing my dad’s involved with before i read your post! See if there’s a man’s shed (or however they spell it) around put on by the local Rotary clubs- they have tools and volunteers around, and you can even pass on your own skill and knowledge. Maybe they will have CAD stations and CNC equipment, maybe not. Those can be pretty expensive and finicky.

      Reply
  • April Atwood September 6, 2018, 8:55 am

    Opening a co-working space has long been a dream of mine, both rooted in mustaschianism and a desire to create a workplace infused with dignity. At the moment I’m an early-stage mustachian – paying down credit card and school debt but on a strict regimen with a goal in mind. I’ve already broken all of my spending habits, converted to stoicism, and have my sights on freedom within 10 years. However I would love to not have to wait to begin something like this! It seems like there’s both the community and the financial aspects, which work together to create the special alchemy.

    MMM – is there a dollar amount I should shoot for to get this project off the ground, both for purchase of a space and startup funds? I’m hoping to add this to my 5-year goals if possible and do this while I’m still working part or full time.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • FireGirl September 6, 2018, 12:58 pm

    I love coworking for the social aspect of it. I can focus very well at home, but I’m the persona of the typical freelancer meme where the person is wearing sweatpants and not leaving the house for 3 days. So, I joined a coworking space!

    However, since I learned about FIRE and have looked very critical at my expenses, cutting the €250 per month would contribute very nicely towards my FIRE goal. Even if I would go out for drinks with friends more often to compensate for the social aspect… I’m still doubting what to do!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 6, 2018, 7:58 pm

      If only there were a MMM HQ in your town, which would cut that bill by 80% and still let you hang out and drink free beer with great people!

      Reply
  • Lucero Fan September 6, 2018, 1:33 pm

    What price for the real estate would you estimate you need for a similar space for this to make sense? I live in Durango and not going to find anything for less than double what you paid.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 6, 2018, 7:57 pm

      Good question Lucero, and I should add this to the article.

      So, for my side of the building I spent about $115,000, plus $35k in materials/labor to resurrect it, meaning $150k has gone into the space. And for me, this investment feels good with 50 members.

      Thus, you could think of requiring about 100 members (at $50/month each) for each $300k spent on your space. It depends on many other things including property taxes, staffing overhead, and how much return you want on your capital. And of course if you borrow the money via a mortgage, there’s yet another equation in there.

      Thus, the bottom line is really the usual answer for anything financial: make a spreadsheet to help you with the decision :-)

      Reply
      • Cathleen Hutchins September 13, 2018, 12:32 am

        With this math, it looks like you would be looking at a 20% return on investment (not accounting for expenses). I’m assuming you bought the place fee simple, there’s no management charge or maintenance fee. Math comes out to: $50/mo per member x 50 members= $2500 in “rental income”. Without accounting for expenses (taxes, power, sewer, cap ex, repair, vacancy), you’re at 20% for the year ($2500×12/$150k). The numbers are a bit different if you assume some expenses- like cap ex, repair, vacancy, and the utility bills. So say you have a vacancy of 10% per year (thats losing on average 5 people the entire year), and combined capitol expenditures (for your beer keg and free coffee dispenser, AC, whatever) and repairs (you fixed it up so it should be good for a while) at 10%, and 5% for utilities (electricity, which we all know you probably have optimized the shit out of already, internet, water)– we are looking at a projected monthly income of $1875 (ignoring taxes and administrative overhead) since I don’t know how much those are in Colorado) . Taking those estimated things into account, you are looking at a ROI of 15% per year- which is really really excellent for real estate investment. Not to mention you have your own space for hosting events like the Pop up business school, and somewhere for yourself to hang out and do things. I’m not sure I actually meant to ask a question here. But, yeah, I’m assuming that you are considering this experiment a success- which you should.

        Reply
  • Jeff September 6, 2018, 3:02 pm

    Concerning the work role of MMM-HQ, you say that people just come in occasionally. What tends to drive people to come in the days that they are there? Meetings with external customers? Their home is too noisy that day? A place to bounce ideas off of other people? If you could share a rough idea of how people tend to allocate their time, that would help to understand the benefit of joining or starting such a space. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  • Steve September 6, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Love the idea of setting up a beer club to get to know some of the local dads better. I might well do that.

    Reply
  • Cathleen Hutchins September 6, 2018, 5:50 pm

    Mr. MM, the tool library idea is close to what the Men’s Shed is about- of course it’s not limited to the dudes, but open to all. Its sponsored by the local Rotary clubs- my dad is a founding member for the one in Hawaii. He ends up going alot, since he’s an experienced woodworker (hobbyist, but really really good). They have a bunch of donated larger tools, like band saws, lathes (my husband is fixing one up for my dad), belt sanders. All the fun stuff that might take up too much room in a garage or workshop. Or you can’t really have if you live in an apartment. The goal here is also to have peer-provided teaching- how to use the tools, or how to work on various projects. The idea is similar, with a yearly membership fee helping keep the lights on- the space was donated by the State government, on yearly leases. They have had to move 3 times in the last 4 years, but have paid NO rent. Not a single dime. In Honolulu. Imagine that! Of course, in comparison, your coworking space is absolute luxury. You have windows, parking, floors. And a yard in the back for working out.
    The focus for coworking space and things like the mens shed should be on social interaction, team work, and sharing. If not, you could always just do everything you needed at home, and book a room at the library if you needed meeting space. And this is from someone that works from home, at a job that even if I was at the office, I’d be able to spend the whole day (or week, or month, even) working without talking to a single soul.
    So what a great experiment you are running, but I don’t think your coworking space is at all a little shindig, nor is it “not fancy”. It is very fancy. Trust me. This is from someone who’s office mate farts in his sleep so badly that it wakes him up, and he walks out disgruntled (he’s a Basett hound). I have no AC, and am sitting on a old, bought used Herman Miller chair, typing on an also used “executive” desk.

    Reply
  • GU September 6, 2018, 5:58 pm

    Do you keep the front door locked and give members a key? How do you keep the general public out?

    Reply
  • Blergitty September 6, 2018, 7:10 pm

    Have you considered on-site child care in some capacity? That might help with diversifying membership. I know I would be interested in a co-working space like this in my city if child care was an option (and I’d pay more for it, of course). There’s a new cafe/co-working space in my city that offers drop-in childcare for 10 bucks an hour. I haven’t tried it yet, but I like the idea, although for my hourly rate (I’m a freelancer), that price is a bit steep.

    Reply
    • Aaron September 7, 2018, 9:18 am

      As a working dad, I love this idea! I wonder what the right price point would be though? Would depend on geography, I suppose, as I live in Southern CA and I can’t imagine seeing anything like that for lower than $10/hour.

      Reply
    • WantNotToWantNot September 8, 2018, 7:11 am

      Child care facilities? Think about the insurance required, based on what can happen even with the best of intentions. Think about what kind of parents can bring their kids (not everyone is laid back). Think of what kind of kids (not all are raised to be respectful) can attend. The necessary insurance is expensive. Trained child care help is essential. $10 an hour—is a bargain!

      Reply
  • Aaron September 7, 2018, 7:22 am

    I’m curious to know about how many square feet you’ve got. I’ve been exploring real estate, meeting with other coworking space owners, etc. Have been wanting to scratch my own itch being a software “solopreneur,” and open a space like this. In my conversations, I have been hearing it really isn’t practical to have a coworking space < ~3-4k sqft. I live in Raleigh, NC a mile from downtown where an 1100 sqft house in a higher-crime area is listed at $160k (needs ~40k of work) and I think that might be too small.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 7, 2018, 2:05 pm

      Another good question. This HQ room is only about 700 square feet, with a 100 SF kitchenette/bathroom and then the 120SF tiny house out back. There is also a garage workshop good for 400 square feet (although not finished to an office level of course).

      However, the patio and courtyard (which includes the gym) is a few thousand additional SF, and it is under pretty regular use year-round so it’s better than the indoor stuff would suggest.

      Reply
  • dharma bum September 7, 2018, 8:49 am

    The conceptualization of and actual execution of creating and physically constructing your own co-working space and gathering place is a tremendously ambitious and admirable achievement. I, for one, could not have undertaken such an enormous task, but it’s great to participate in your success and accomplishment, if only vicariously.
    I am one of those random road trippers that has taken a detour to Longmont specifically to see your adopted town and the MMMHQ.
    Being recently FI and retired, I have so far been extremely busy. A two month long ski trip from Ontario, Canada to the western provinces and states certainly accounted for a good chunk of that time (that was when I dropped by Longmont). Returning home to help wind up my daughter’s business, move out of the retail space, sell the equipment, and assist with the reestablishment of a new business model took up another several weeks of time.
    More travel (to Florida, Oregon, and California), my son’s wedding, my father’s passing, my mother’s placement into an old age home (and all of the related work that goes with the liquidation of a 60 year old family home and its lifelong hoarded contents), another of my children’s weddings (ugghhh….back to back weddings within 4 months!), helping my son in Ottawa move, helping my other son in Alberta move, helping my daughter in Toronto move, has all kept me really really busy since last January.
    I have a month long trip to Arizona planned for November. That will eat up about 5 weeks, since we’re driving out there.
    Beyond that, I have a few fairly major household renovation projects planned (nothing too serious, but for me, a technically unskilled hack, they will take 5 times what similar projects would take as I have to You Tube every task 20 times over to figure out how to do things like removing bathtubs, adding shut-off valves to the water supply, etc., etc.), another Colorado ski trip, and an Alberta ski trip.
    So, with all of that stuff, and the day-to-day errands, tasks, and unexpected little hassles that arise, I feel engaged, busy, fulfilled, and yes, happy!
    Yet…yet…I can’t help wondering what lies ahead, once I’m kind of “all caught up” with the projects, and trips, and so on.
    As an avid reader of the blog, I’m sure I can search through years of posts to remind me of all the myriad things that I can do to productively fill my days.
    Is it possible that one of these days, MMM, you could post a “summary” article with a comprehensive list of the “1001 things ‘to do’ ” during one’s 25 to 30 years of retirement? There could be a number of links and references associated with the items on the list, providing a rabbit hole of endless resources and information.
    I’d really love to see something like that, so I can stick it on my fridge door!
    Thanks again for all you do.

    Kindest regards,
    Dharma Bum

    Reply
  • Florida Mike September 7, 2018, 12:53 pm

    Very cool! I’ve always wanted to open a space like this for folks to work on their own vehicles or repair their own “stuff”. Could have office space as well. Local costs (property and insurance in Florida is incredibly high) have just prevented it though.

    But glad to see its working there!

    Reply
  • Florida Mike September 7, 2018, 12:56 pm

    Another good model of this is a few of the hair salons in my area (probably everywhere). One person owns the building but each stylist pays to use some of the shared space. The woman who cuts my hair says its a great business plan for her!

    Reply

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