3 Things to Know When Searching for Startup Office Space

3 Things to Know When Searching for Startup Office Space

Let me start out by bragging a little: our standing desk/ e-commerce company is doing really well. We are growing; in fact, we are outgrowing our current office space. So a few weeks ago, I started hunting for office space in the hot market of Tysons Corner, Virginia. To be honest we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for until we found it; you have to read to the end to find out what that was. (That will take you only a few minutes, but it took us a few weeks.)

So our problems began with hiring more employees. And we realized that not too many people can simultaneously have different phone calls in one room.  And we needed space yesterday. So at first, our priority was timing. For that reason we visited several of the big executive suites, close to our current location: Uberoffices.com, Regus and Metroffice.com.  So this totally worked. All three of these executive suite spaces can move you in fast. They were ready for us with empty offices, internet connection and electricity. Uberoffices was soooooo cool. They have concrete floors and a very hip vibe. So Soho. Reproductions of Banksy on the walls, lots of gray, black and a splash of lime green. There’s a tiny room any tenant can use, if it’s free, where one can take calls in a red leather chair. We loved this space. The interior office, of about 200 square feet, was around $1500 a month. It reminded me of WeWork, except that WeWork has not graced Tysons with their presence yet, and we are not commuting to DC for that.

Regus, on the other hand, was a bit more dated décor, at the location we visited on Boone Ave. However, the customer service at Regus was outstanding. They shine at customer service. They were willing to work with our needs, and showed us many offices at several locations and gave us a tour of the gym and restaurant. They had a 140 square foot interior office for around $1080 per month. Eventually though, my team realized we had a higher priority. Price. These executive suites, although willing to do a month-to-month deal, or three-month lease, were extremely pricey for pretty small offices.

With this new problem, price, I went straight to Craigslist/Nova and looked for subleases. At this point, availability and ready-to-move-in spaces were still a close second priority, so that’s why subletting made sense. We met with one engineer who was subletting 300 square feet for $900 a month. We saw 3 industrial spaces near the red caboose in Historic downtown Vienna, in an old building housing a dentist and comic book store, which were running close to $1000 a month for about 400 square feet. We also visited a very nice building located centrally in downtown Vienna’s Church Street, subletting from a medical masseuse, but the 140 square feet was $750 and just way too small. As time wore on, we started wanting a bigger space.

So the last problem and the one that eventually became our first priority, was space or square footage. Of course we had to find it in a reasonable budget and in our short time frame still, but money and time were now lower on the list. We wanted a larger fish tank to allow our company to grow. This was a bit trickier. The thing about renting a real office, as opposed to an executive suite or sublet, is that the brokers are a bit hard to reach. We drove around Merrifield, next to Dunn Loring Metro and just started calling any building with a “For Lease” sign. And we also looked at the shopping center at Cedar and Park in Vienna, about 250 square feet for $1,000, but the offices were mostly only ones with a skylight and no window. Oh. We wanted a window.

Ultimately, in Merrifield, a central location near Dunn Loring Metro and the new Mosaic District in Fairfax, we were having lots of luck on Dorr Ave. We found one open concept space with an L-shape layout, which was 450 square feet for $750, but had problems getting in touch with the broker. In the meantime, we found an 816 square foot rental on the same street in a different building, for $990 a month. Of course this was too good to be true, because upon our second showing, the broker told us the building manager had him re-measure, and the space was really 816 feet plus the hallway and bathroom which were considered part of it. So the rent was actually $1130. Oh and they only do 3-5 year leases. Although we had changed our minds about a month-to-month, at this point we were nervous signing more than a year lease. So the downfall of getting your own office space vs. an executive suite, is that you have to sign for a longer term, and the brokers are harder to find. And now we are waiting. Here’s some "before" pictures of the larger Dorr Ave. space, and if we get it, in a few weeks, we will post "after" pictures with paint and carpet, but probably no Banksy’s.



- Ellen O'Hearn

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