Something most people wouldn’t consider New York City to be: Spacious. However, a company of the same name has changed that for working professionals. Spacious makes use of high-end restaurants during their off-hours and vacant retail spaces to provide a peaceful work environment for those looking to be productive outside their usual office. It also offers locations in San Francisco. Read our interview with the CEO of Spacious, Preston Pesek.
Can you tell me a bit about Spacious and what inspired the start of this company?
I mean I have an extended career in the commercial real estate, exploring different ways to make better use of commercial assets. So just looking at the world from the real estate angle and making use of space in a restaurant that’s really really beautiful and well-built but unused before 5 p.m. and so that’s really where the primary insight came from me personally. It started by proposing the ideas to restaurants in the early days and we got some positive responses so we started with a baited test in one location then we raised the venture capital and started growing the business. So that’s the short version of our origin story.
Just out of curiosity, has your English degree helped you with your business at all?
That’s a great question. I would say to the extent that it helps me articulate the vision certainly has helped, but I think it’s hard to parse up where the benefit of an English degree begins and ends. It’s one of those things where if you master communication through either written language or spoken language, it’s a platform to basically communicate and achieve any vision you might have. It’s an extraordinary powerful face, but for me personally, I went on to get a degree in real estate and finance, built the first half of my career that way with not necessarily English directly, but English is one of those things it gives you a perspective on the world that’s universally applicable but not exactly obvious how it helps you on a resume.
How does being at a Spacious area compare to sitting in Starbucks or a library?
Starbucks is not really optimized for even, their whole business design isn’t designed to just allow people to come and hang out for hours at a time. They really want you to come in, buy some coffee and move on. And so, the entire environment is there to move people through the space without really wanting them to linger, even though they’ve got tables and chairs. They’ve done a few things with the loudness of the music and the actual selection of the playlist. The environment can be very chaotic and that can be unprofessional when you’re trying to host a real business meeting at a Starbucks. So from that perspective, we’re way different and a big upgrade from Starbucks. We’ve taken careful steps to make sure that there’s plenty of places to plug in devices and charge your batteries throughout the day without someone hunting for the nearest outlet in the room.
We basically anticipated the little points that really do matter if you’re trying to get some work done. When you make an effort to optimize a space for work, the little details that make it hospitable for what we think our users really want, which is a place to sit down and be productive, they make all the difference.
In terms of a library, it’s interesting. You can certainly get work done in the library. There’s a question of whether or not the wifi in the library is super great and it certainly would be hard to have a true business meeting in a library because there’s sort of a “don’t talk” policy in a library. So totally different vibe and I think the things that are subtle, but really, really important make the difference between the Spacious environment and the other options.
What would you say has been the hardest part about getting this company off the ground or running it in general?
The challenges of scale are very real for any company that has the potential to grow as much as we do. For example, when it was the early founding team and we were there prototyping ideas in the first handful of restaurants, that was a really hands-on product development phase. As we’ve grown, we now have two cities open and dozens of locations. At this point, my job in particular, just speaking for myself, has evolved from really prototyping a product to having to run an organization and take on the position of being a true CEO. Managing an org chart and making sure all the employees are recruited in the right way and are happy and being engaged makes it become a much more traditional CEO of an organization, which is a challenge for any new company when you make the transition from you achieved your goal of putting your product into the world and the next task is building a company and a culture, which is hard for anybody.
What has been your favorite part or the most rewarding part for you to see?
Honestly, it’s the customer satisfaction and the people that we serve. Anytime we see people who discover Spacious and they find that it’s this amazing solution that’s way better than everything they’ve been trying to hack together to try and solve this problem in their life and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, Spacious solves this problem in such a perfect way for the way that I prefer to work.’ That’s really, really satisfying for anybody who works on this.
You have an idea and you want to put it out into the world when it’s out “in the wild” and the marketplace responds with enthusiasm, it’s very, very rewarding and it’s a really, really fun thing when that happens.
What would you say was the key to success for having this company grow as much as it did?
Really focusing on the people, honestly. Our first customer was really the rest of our community, really convincing them that we were going to be a viable partner and that we were not going to screw up their primary business and we were actually going to enhance it. That made a huge difference, we earned trust of the people we made promises to in the beginning and we’ve continued to grow on that foundation of staying true to our word and being good to the people not only that we’ve partnered with but also that we’ve hired. To really be able to deliver the kind of company culture that really values hospitality, diversity and inclusion has been a critical key to success both historically and we’re making a bigger investment in those values going forward.
Have you heard that anyone has written a best-selling book at Spacious or another cool story yet?
There’s a few different writers and authors who are at Spacious. There’s one guy who wrote a book about social awkwardness which is kind of amazing. It’s a non-fiction book, but a really comedic approach to that subject matter which was really cool. I don’t know if it became a bestseller or not, but he authored at least two or three books while working at Spacious over the past couple of years. He’s one our earliest customers.
It’s actually a great environment for writers and journalists. When the New York Times article came out, the journalist who approached us also had a colleague who was a journalist who was just using the product themselves. We managed to attract people who are working on some interesting stuff. We’ve also had famous actors, I can’t reveal their identity but there are quite a few people that are reasonably famous. They like Spacious because it’s like this quiet and respectful environment where people aren’t going to come up and bother you either with table service or unnecessarily probing.
We found that people do find it to be kind of a refreshing change from the typical way to stay productive outside a home office or work environment. It’s been an interesting mixed bag of a few bright lights in the celebrity sphere and authorship and literary sphere. Because we selected such beautiful restaurants, it’s naturally attractive to people who like to stay inspired in a creative environment.