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Startup Failure: WorkBase

Around this time last year, I had a novel idea!  After several people asked me about office space and after I showed the empty space where I rented to several people, I decided to open a coworking space.

I called up the property manager of the building where I rented and told her that I wanted to lease the remaining empty space for sub-rentals.  The space sat empty for many years and she was delighted to give me a good price on the monthly rate, and so was I.  I was so excited about providing a space where entrepreneurs could go to congregate and build their businesses, just like I had seen online, on TV and in the movies.  I embarked on a quest to learn as much as I could about coworking spaces.  I knew I didn’t have access to much money to make it work, but the entrepreneur in me wouldn’t let the idea go and the entrepreneur in me knew that I would not let the executed idea fail.

However, the startup did fail, sort of.  The safety net that allowed it to survive was expertise and not my own.  See, I thought just because I researched, I could make this startup survive.  I though because I paid rent at a tech incubator where another coworking space was housed, the startup could survive.  Neither of those facts provides a basis for expertise in running a coworking space. I didn’t work as a property manager, I did not work as a building manager, I did not work as an events planner, I didn’t work as a realtor.  I had not done anything before starting Workbase that would give me an experience in running a coworking space. Yet I launched one anyway.

So $50,000 later and many hours of working hard to learn how to run a business while running a business, taught me that you need tangible experience in the business you’re attempting to launch, point blank.  If you don’t have that experience then don’t do it.  Or if you do, you should damn well make sure you have the money to pay someone with experience to run that startup for you. 

This is where my safety net/saving grace comes in.  A woman by the name of Nicole Dixon, who had a similar space, who had coordinated events in the past, who had experience in the things I did not; took over the startup.  Do I regret taking that leap? No I do not. Because without that leap I wouldn’t have the experience to tell you not to make the same mistake.  Work your business before you start your business.

Jibril Sulaiman is a former founder of a 2016 INC 500 company and business/startup consultant.  You can schedule time to talk with him at




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