Perhaps you could call Meghan and Josh Boone’s social enterprise startup a co-labor of love. The couple opened Cova Cowork at Gravity in Franklinton in late 2019, fueled by their experiences visiting and working in shared spaces, and finding a need for that same kind of environment to foster remote work-life balance in Central Ohio.
The Boones, who are married and co-own the 7,100-square-foot coworking space at 470 W. Broad St., spent years traveling the world and toiling in coworking spaces, where they discovered their love for the community and atmosphere that the spaces provided.
“I was connecting with others and starting an entrepreneur mastermind. I liked that collaboration,” Meghan says. “Together, we enjoyed coworking for various reasons, but we wanted to say, ‘How can we make your work and your life integrate better?’ We wanted to create a community and foster an environment that we grew to love while traveling.”
Beyond the couple’s goal of providing top-of-the-line coworking space, the Boones also aspire to serve other social-impact businesses like theirs. This includes supporting young social entrepreneurs by providing connections and professional development opportunities with other Cova members, as well as leveraging resources and partners for funding to provide a variety of support for current members.
“I’m building something I want to build. I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m also doing something that’s benefitting others,” Meghan says. “Let’s also help small businesses who are trying to help their communities.”
The couple has also owned Bottoms Up Coffee, a “full on community coffee-shop space” located just a mile east on Broad Street from Cova’s Gravity location, since the summer of 2018. Aside from being a coffee shop and alternative coworking location that members can utilize, Bottoms Up also partners with the Columbus Diaper Bank to provide diapers and supplies for Cova members and community residents.
Like nearly every Central Ohio social enterprise and business, the arrival of COVID-19 in mid-March was an unwelcome surprise that forced Cova—and other coworking spaces around Central Ohio and the country—to shut down. That reality, and the uncertainty that remains, has forced the Boones to adapt and adjust quickly to a new normal in the coworking arena.
After initially attempting to keep the space open at the advent of COVID-19 in Ohio, the Boones realized closing was the best, and safest, option and only recently re-opened.
Since reopening, Cova has implemented new safety procedures, as well as a host of initiatives for the summer to help employees who are working from home and unable to find childcare. Safety protocols, which include sanitization at every work area, mandatory mask wearing, and modified social distancing stations, are now in use at the coworking space to ensure that those who are tired of their everyday work-from-home situation can flourish in a new clean and safe environment.
Despite implementing virtual activities for their members during the start of the pandemic, the couple is now figuring out new ways to provide value for their members as doors open at their location. One of the biggest values that the couple offers at their coworking space is a childcare facility that Cova members can utilize while they worked during the day.
This aspect of Cova was essential for the Boones, who understood the difficulty of finding reliable and affordable care for those working remotely or from home. After talking with friends who had kids and hearing their challenges of being working parents, they knew that a childcare center in their coworking space would help their members maintain a work-life balance while working remotely.
“If you’re a parent, we want you to balance the work-life concept,” Meghan says. “We want to have an impact here and the way to do that is to support social impact being made. The space allowed for the children of Cova members to be monitored and still have fun while their parents worked in the coworking space.”
Now, the Boones plan to reintegrate the childcare aspect, as social distancing guidelines make it harder for kids to interact and parents to maintain a work-life balance.
The solution? A summer camp for kids, with safety measures and protocols.
CovaCamp will host nine children between the ages of 5-11, facilitated by a camp director for either half or full days, while their parents work at Cova. For older children of Cova members, Meghan and Josh plan to roll out Cova Youth, a homeschooling space for up to eight children ages 12 and older, facilitated by a teacher who can help them through their virtual schooling if COVID-19 modifies their school year in the fall. Both programs will have mobile, individualized spaces and implemented safety protocols for the children.
The coworking space is also finding other ways to adjust to the changing times. While some companies are allowing their employees to return to the office, uncertainty surrounds many large corporations that are considering keeping their employees home indefinitely. For coworking spaces like Cova, however, there lies opportunity in providing a flexible, professional environment for employees who may not be returning to the office any time soon. Work Flex, a new multilevel program launched by Cova, partners with corporate businesses to offer discounted rate memberships and childcare for their employees in order to support their transition to working remotely.
Aside from coffee, coworking, and childcare, the Boones prioritize community as much as possible, seeking to make a lasting impact on those in Columbus and beyond. Meghan explained their desire to integrate themselves into the community as much as possible, and to make Bottoms Up and Cova accessible to everyone.
The Boones also hope to give back to social entrepreneurs like themselves, launching Cova Changemakers back in January. A scholarship program for young professionals building social social enterprises, Cova Changemakers provides a membership and access to a professional toolbox for young social entrepreneurs.
“Cova Changemakers provides them with subsidized price points, and not only access to space, but facilitates business resources, and access to help them connect the dots,” says Meghan.
These resources range from legal consult, to KPI measuring tools to help social entrepreneurs flourish in the professional world.
For more information, visit covacowork.com.
Founded in 2014, SocialVentures is a non-profit organization that advances remarkably good businesses—businesses that intentionally integrate social impact as a non-negotiable component of their business model. To contact SocialVentures, send an email to email@example.com or visit socialventurescbus.com.
Editor’s Note: All photos taken before the pandemic and therefore may not represent social distancing guidelines.