Amber Tollefson, former Miami Heat, ESPN and Fox Sports Florida producer has turned The Flamingo House into a “community connector.”
BOCA RATON — Everything about this boutique co-working space feels hip, minimalist and close-knit, from the kombucha on tap near the mini sink to the garage-style enclosure.
Remote workers and digital nomads from 30 businesses stream in and out of private and shared work spaces, “flocking” to this niche community that values idea sharing and a generational exodus from a corporate office environment.
Amber Tollefson, the 37-year-old The Flamingo House founder, believes the remedy to remote-work loneliness is group cohesion that increases work productivity.
“We called it The Flamingo House because flamingos do better together than alone, so that’s the nature of this space,” Tollefson told The Palm Beach Post during a visit to the creative space tucked in Boca’s warehouse district.
“We came up with the tagline ‘Flock then Fly’ because it really is about coming together to help your own business be resourceful,” she said, adding that her community ethos makes it almost impossible for members to feel isolated.
The Flamingo House, with its art studio, “brainstorm box” conference room, “Greater Flamingo” private rooms, and fully equipped production and photography studio, has a daily “community connector,” a person working Monday through Friday to connect people and skills. Their in-house artist, for example, was recently tapped to paint a 3-story mural for a neighboring client.
Their membership, which includes private and shared workspace, is flexible. Workers wingin’ it may grab a $25 day pass or take advantage of a monthly, dedicated private space for $650.
Tollefson seeks to scale The Flamingo House’s co-working footprint to “grow the flock” in the small business ecosystem. It takes a village.
“We do art walks, we do workshops, we do complementary events to just really activate our local community,” Tollefson said. “We just think that that’s where it starts.”
The former ESPN, Fox Sports Florida and Inside the HEAT producer, who was part of the Miami Heat championship teams, said millennials and Gen Z in co-working spaces “have a more philanthropic approach to their business and as well as a collaborative approach.” She took note of why young entrepreneurs salivated over autonomy and sought to avoid the “cut-throat corporate feel” of traditional office spaces.
Storytelling and a sense of belonging, the creative czar says, seems to be an integral part of new business models. Young professionals thrive in an environment that fosters a mixture of individual freedom and sense of belonging.
“We tend to attract more of the creative types like the graphic designer, photographer, interior designer, event planner, marketing, tech type,” Tollefson said. “But we do have others as well, as everyone is welcomed.”
Tollefson, a Boca native and Florida State University graduate, says this generation of workers seems to have an “entrepreneurial spirit.” She said the co-working space concept felt over-saturated in big cities so she studied business trends at home and concentrated on Boca’s submarket.
After resigning from corporate media to launch her own video and branding company, docu+brand C R E A T I V E, Tollefson took a leap of faith. It’s the leap more workers seem to be taking.
If projections persist, by 2020 just over 50 percent of the workforce in the gig economy will be freelancing in some capacity, according to a study by Freelancers Union and Upwork, a freelance platform for independent workers.
And a Harvard Business Review study found that members in a co-working space thrive better than traditional corporate offices. Meaningful work, job control, lack of political infighting, autonomy, a strong community ethos, and a “well-curated work experience” seem to be the driving forces behind productivity and happiness in co-working memberships.
“I didn’t know what, but I had this idea of doing video and branding on my own, but also having more of a collaborative culture,” Tollefson said. “So designing my daily to have creative, collaborative people around me and making your own hours, in a sense — really works because you don’t have a ceiling. Everything is a purposeful project.”