Interview With Derek Robinson, Founder At AVL Coworking

Derek was born to be an entrepreneur and has a diverse background. He went to college for turf grass management, worked on golf courses and landscaping, and began several types of careers before founding AVL Coworking.

AVL Coworking is a small community of remote workers sharing space and resources to help make everyone more productive. 

The coworking space is attractive to those in West Asheville with easy access to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, etc.

You can also find plenty of parking and you don't have to fight traffic which is a consistent problem with coworking spaces in downtown Asheville.

What are the best things about coworking compared to a traditional office space? : The cost is substantially lower when compared to renting a private office, paying deposits, and utilities. Staying motivated with others working around you as well.

Do you host events for your community?: We organize social events outside of our facility and after normal business hours.

What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?: Many people moving to our area have remote jobs and need a place to work.

We are in a walkable community and see a lot of people able to walk here or drive just a few miles.

See the top coworking spaces in the Carolinas

What is working best for your marketing right now?: Branding and Google.

What is your biggest differentiation compared to other coworking spaces?: We tailor more to the true remote coworker. We do not offer private office space or host events during the middle of the work day. Our offerings are simple: communal tables, independent desks, copy/print/fax, coffee, great internet.

What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?: We just opened about 5 months ago. Our building is 3000 sq ft. While coworking is a need in our area, I found it's not a 3000 sq ft. need. We recently had to split our space down to about 900 sq ft. and sublease the rest of the building.

If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?: Think outside the box and be creative. I grew up with a simple formula (do well in school, go to college, get a degree, get a job in that field, do that until you retire). While that works well for most people, I'm finding that it doesn't work well for me.

It's only been in the last 5 years or so that I'm learning to think for myself, which is leading to opportunities to be creative and grow beyond the 'normal'.

This is extra exciting now that I have a 2-year-old. I can foster a sense of creativity in her and let her make her own decisions.

Favorite place to travel to?: It may sound lame and unimaginative, but I love a good cruise. I don't care where it travels to.

There is something peaceful about turning off the phone for a week and not worrying about where you are going to eat, where to go for entertainment, where to park, etc.

What are some of the best things about your coworking community?: We are still a young community gaining members.

I look forward to getting to know people better and building community outside of work hours, especially now that we've reduced our size.

What book are you most likely to give as a gift?: Peter Block wrote a book called “Community, the Structure of Belonging”.

It's a pretty good read, comparing the power of a healthy community to address issues in society, rather than trusting in systems or governments to fix our problems.

What is your favorite small business in your neighborhood?: Sunny Point Cafe. It's within walking distance, they have great food and the servers are awesome. They source a lot of food locally and grow some of their own food as well. It's a tourist spot, so you have to know when to go to avoid waiting.

What is your favorite app or online tool?: This is probably a lame answer, but I use Google for a lot of things. 

I've done away with Microsoft office and use the tools in Drive, as well as Google voice, Gmail, and Google Calendar.

What was the best event that you recently attended?: I went to an investor meet-up a few months ago. I was the only one that showed up, so I got a lot of one on one time with the guy leading it, which was awesome! Being an introvert, events are stressful for me and I prefer smaller interactions.

What business would you love for someone else to start?: I think salvage grocery stores are a good business to get into. 

It meets a real need for those with tight budgets and it's a fairly easy business to get into with little skill. I don't want to be the guy to start it because retail is scary to me. 

AVL Coworking

You can do all the advertising and marketing you want, but you still have to just wait for people to come through the door. Sitting and waiting irritates me.

What advice do you have for new business owners?: Don't go into retail :-) Obviously, tons of people do well with retail, it's just not for me. From time to time people will come to me with a retail idea.

I try to be as encouraging as possible, but share the real possibility that no matter how good of an idea they think it is, it's hard to judge the market it until you open your doors.

If there is no market or very little of a market, then you are just sitting around and waiting. 

How much money are you willing to lose each month waiting for it to take off, or are you willing to make the hard decision of admitting failure and moving on.


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