Membership club

I work from home and when I’m not travelling I spend most of my days stuck in my home office.  I’ve been working like this for many years now and it’s hard to imagine changing.  But I do feel socially isolated.  Sometimes I go to my neighborhood coffee shop to work; I find that this works alright for a specific sort of task, but in general it’s not an effective work environment for me.  One thing I like about my coffee shop, though, is that I can expect to run into friends there; it’s like a club in that way.

That got me thinking; what if there was a modern version of the English gentleman’s club that was something closer to a coffee shop, except with a membership fee.  On the continuum of work – play, it would be less work-like than an office or a coworking space, but more work-like than a traditional membership club, which often have restrictions on doing business or even, at least in the case of the Yale Club in NYC, talking on cell phones.  (Or, at least they used to.)

That way, I could go down to the club for lunch, talk to some friends, do some work on my laptop, and then come home for afternoon conference calls.  How much would something like this cost, I wondered, if it was set up as a non-profit paid for by membership fees?  Being a consultant, I ginned up a little model.

For the first version I assumed that there are significant ($500,000) startup costs associated with setting up the space, on top of a $3,000 rent and an equivalent amount of other recurring expenses — insurance, maintainence, salaries, etc.  I also added in a first year operating loss to make it more realistic.  With 75 members, it would cost each member $125/mo. for the club to break even.

Then I tried doing it backwards, to get to a $50/month membership fee, which I think is much more palatable, I assumed a much lower startup cost of $100,000 for furnishing and remodeling the space and a smaller first year operating loss.  With a $1,500/month rent* and $2,000/mo. in recurring expenses, we would need 100 members to break even at $50/month.

*  I really don’t know how much commercial space costs these days; in the residential market, you could rent a big house for $3,000/mo. and an apartment for $1,500/month.