The secret behind DC’s most unique co-working space you’ve never heard of
This week I visited a truly unique co-working space. So unique that it doesn’t even have a name, but those who work there endearingly refer to it as their 1327 Family. So how is 1327 Family different, and what impact does it’s character have for it’s members?
It all started when Amy Hartzler of Do Good Better got news that her previous company was moving out of it’s office space and abandoning the lease. Amy had formed a deep connection with the small 3rd story office space located just north of Thomas Circle on 14th Street NW. There was an energy and spirit about the place that she couldn’t let fall into the wrong hands, so she and Raj Aggarwal, founder of Provoc, decided to take over the lease.
As Raj shared with me during my visit, there was never any doubt of what the space would become. In addition to being the home for their companies, they wanted to invite a select group of others who shared the same values, mindset, and passion to form a co-working space that would embody every sense of the idea of community. Like me, Raj had also been a member of the Affinity Lab, and remembers fondly the impact that community had on his own career. And although Affinity Lab carved the way for the co-working spaces that came behind it, few have replicated the sense of community that the Affinity Lab had developed. I can confidently say, 1327 Family is one of the few who have.
I first arrived at the space on a Wednesday afternoon. I was buzzed in and walked up a stairwell to the 3rd floor where a placard next to the door proudly displayed the names of their member businesses. I didn’t see one display of the name of the co-working space throughout my time there, reinforcing the fact that this really was a member-centered community. Walking in, the space had a certain energy about it. To me that energy was calm, inviting, and intentional. The perimeter walls are stripped back to the original concrete construction; cracks and holes in the walls almost intentionally giving a sense of “realness” to the space rather than the facade of modern design that has come to characterize most new co-working spaces in the city.
The middle walls are painted bright teal and divide the main open work space, which has about a dozen desks, from a red conference room, and one private office available for use by anyone who reserves it. A counter flanking the dividing wall sports a rainbow selection of masking tapes as well as hanging bundles of sage used to clear the energy of the space from time to time. The space is uniquely intentional.
The amenities are no more than necessary. A small galley kitchen offers a french press with coffee and an electric kettle filled with hot water ready for the seemingly infinite supply of 100% organic oolong tea in the cabinets. The bathroom has a shower perfect for cyclists. And members get to share in Raj’s love for heat and warmth, as open windows substituted for air conditioning even on the 95 degree afternoon I visited. I appreciated sharing Raj’s love for the heat, but appreciated his random offers of chocolate even more.
Often times, particularly in large co-working spaces, I find there are still many walls despite the open concept. These figurative walls are put up by each person who tacitly acknowledges that everyone is welcome to be present, yet doesn’t welcome those around them into their personal world. In my last post, I recognized how I could be one of these people. The opposite was the case here. I was personally welcomed and introduced to each and every person there.
By the end of my week at 1327, I found myself with more clarity, focus, and joy. Tasks that I had been prodding at for weeks got completed. Projects that were lacking vision had new direction. I left pondering what exactly it was that contributed to this experience. What secrets could be applied elsewhere to replicate the magic?
It really came down to intention. Each and every aspect of the space was designed with a purpose. But more importantly, each and every member was there for a reason. The invite-only nature of the community’s membership is not to be overlooked. And unlike other exclusive communities and incubators that vet members based on the merits of their business, 1327 Family selects their members based on the merits of their emotional intelligence and humanity.
I’m thankful to have gained new insights and new friends while discovering this delightfully unique stitch in the fabric of the DC entrepreneurship community. And while 1327’s spirit may only be available to those fortunate enough to be part of the family, their energy and impact spread beyond their walls.