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Meet Liane Jackson of Free Range Office in Wicker Park-Bucktown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Liane Jackson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Liane. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am an attorney, journalist and entrepreneur. I first conceived Free Range Office about five years ago, when I had an idea, a baby and a business plan. Because of my personal circumstances with two young children, my initial goal was to open a space that would offer coworking plus childcare to parents who were entrepreneurs, independents and remote workers. How great would that be! Unfortunately, as I researched and planned further, that concept proved challenging to implement for a variety of reasons – although it’s still a goal of mine. After my market analysis, I pivoted a bit, but still opened Free Range Office as a coworking, meeting, and event space in the winter of 2013, right when Chiberia hit the metro area. It wasn’t trial by fire, but trial by ice, as I worked to market the business and educate potential customers about the wonderful community and productivity that coworking offers, in the dead of winter. Three and a half years later, we have built a brand around the concept of neighborhood coworking, meeting space, and private parties and corporate events. Free Range has become a meeting hub for everything from small nonprofit groups to Fortune 500 companies. And we also do pop-up coworking plus childcare! It’s been so fun, such a learning experience, and we are poised to take the business to the next level.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Many people didn’t know what coworking was when I opened the doors in 2013. Many people still don’t. So my early struggles revolved around finding ways to educate the public and market a new concept. Also, I learned pretty quickly that running the sort of coworking space that we have is like running a hotel – there is a facility that needs upkeep and maintenance; we offer complimentary coffee and tea and often snacks; we are in the hospitality business – from assisting our members as well as full service offerings to event and meeting clients. Additionally, we have to maintain reliable contractors for events and space maintenance. These were not issues I thought about when I first opened our doors with the singular goal of working alongside like-minded entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers and independents. I quickly realized that starting a business is like diving in without being able to see the bottom, but it’s a short learning curve, as you have no choice but to make it work!

Please tell us about Free Range Office.
I’m proud that we are a women-owned and operated coworking space, and one of the first spaces to open in Chicago. Free Range offers community coworking with a laid-back vibe. Our space is where library meets living room, with a little coffee house mojo thrown in. We are known for the interior ambience and design, area amenities, and hospitality. Free Range is a beautiful loft space, which used to be the home to one of the heirs of the Drake Hotel. The unique architecture and Feng Shui design are relaxing and rejuvenating – the perfect balance to get productive. We have a diverse mix of coworking members ranging from tech startups to PR firms to remote workers and creatives. Many are neighborhood dwellers – others come from all over the city. We offer day passes and also membership packages that are all month-to-month.

Free Range is also known for our private events – we specialize in everything from baby showers to corporate receptions to networking events to weddings! Our meeting space can hold up to 60 people, and we’ve hosted workshops, seminars, hiring events, corporate retreats, and everything in between. Clients are local, national, and even international.

Our passion project is the women’s advocacy program that focuses on empowerment, education and entrepreneurship, with the goal to help elevate the status of women and girls. We also offer fellowships to nonprofits and underserved women as part of our commitment to social justice issues.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memories are working with my two brothers as mini-entrepreneurs: creating museums, rock concerts, lemonade stands, ‘wine’ from smashed grapes, anything to sell to people crazy enough to partake. My dad was an entrepreneur, so I guess it was in our genes. It’s clear now that all those zany ‘startups’ as a kid were training for my future.

Pricing:

  • Day Pass – $20
  • Part-Timer – $95
  • 10-Visit Pass – $180
  • Unlimited Membership – $285
  • Reserved Desk – $385 & up
  • Meeting Room – starting at $35/hr

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Free Range Office

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