Back in the 1950s, office workers could expect to do their jobs from corner offices or large, no-frills spaces. Thirty years later, work was accomplished in cubicles. But today, people are all about open spaces.
Go into almost any coffee shop or public library and you are likely to see a majority of people peering into their laptops or squinting into their smart phones. Others, though, want openness and camaraderie, so one option is the open office workspace.
Josh Rencher opened the doors to Ironfire in 2017 in Long Beach because, he said, he wanted to help people work happier, healthier, and more productively.
On his LinkedIn page, Rencher says that Ironfire “was born of my desire to connect with like-minded innovators and founded on the belief that there are better ways to do the work we love.”
Even though Rencher has had a number of careers, including performing stand-up comedy for nine years, this notion was no laughing matter.
“Ironfire debuted as a coworking brand when I first started to share my flexible workspace concept with the Long Beach small business and startup community in early 2015,” Rencher wrote in an email. “It arose from the loneliness and cabin fever I was experiencing after years of being an introverted work-at-home dad and tech entrepreneur.”
Rencher spent 18 months studying the flexible workspace industry. He knew he wanted his office to be driven by hospitality principles, supported by technology, and focused on building community among its members.
He opened the doors at 4195 N. Viking Way in late 2017 and immediately sponsored local meet-up groups and introduced workshops for members and non-members.
One of the more popular events Rencher launched was Founders Live — a happy-hour pitch competition during which five handpicked startups have only 99 seconds to pitch their company and describe their value proposition to an audience. A brief question and answer session follows each pitch, and then the crowd votes for their favorites. The next Founders Live is 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18. at Ironfire. Details are at ironfire.co/founderslive.
“We're still finalizing the lineup,” Rencher said. “Typically, we choose applicants that are either based in or have meaningful ties to the greater Long Beach area. We also look for startups that are demonstrably innovative or disruptive in their industry, and we accept startups at any phase of development — from sketch on a napkin to seed stage to already-acquired. The big idea behind Founders Live is for local founders to share their stories and for the greater community to come together to support and be inspired by those stories. We believe that's a powerful way to build a stronger and more sustainable startup ecosystem here in Long Beach, and ultimately, that benefits all of us.”
Rencher said that social media and word-of-mouth have been most effective in getting the word out about Ironfire.
“Our unique approach to flexible workspace is resonating with people in a meaningful way,” he said. “ And I love our presence on social media too, because it helps us communicate our values and character visually. Local engagement — that's what counts the most to us.”
The Labor Department last year said that 10.1%, or 15.5 million people, are independent contractors — enough reason for Rencher to consider opening another Ironfire in the city.
“One will never be enough, and Ironfire is designed to scale well beyond its first location,” he said. “We are currently in talks with landlords about bringing Ironfire to their mixed-use developments through branded management agreements.
“As Long Beach continues to improve its infrastructure for entrepreneurship and innovation, I believe that it will become even more attractive to the kind of startups that are currently embracing Orange County and LA. Our approach, in particular, has proven most popular among individuals who previously worked from home or from their local coffee shop, and our day passes and trial memberships have made it a breeze to try us out.”