You never really know where life is going to take you. We always seem to think we know exactly what we’ll be doing in 5 years, but really, very few of us ever do. Sometimes our dreams surprise us by being something perfectly opposite of what we ever thought they’d be, and when your dreams surface as a boat instead of an island, all you can do is climb in and start rowing.
This is exactly what happened to Nick Clark. Nick grew up in the Dallas area, graduated from SMU with a degree in real estate finance, and went on to pursue a career in Dallas real estate, becoming one of D Magazine’s “Top Dallas Brokers” by 2010. To everyone, including Nick himself, it seemed as though his professional path was paved and set. Little did he know, however, that a new dream was about to make its way into his life and completely change everything.
In 2011, Nick was put on an assignment to explore a new office concept in Downtown Dallas– nothing out of the ordinary from a typical real estate workday. This particular assignment ended up being the very assignment that introduced the concept of shared office spaces, (aka “coworking”) to Nick. He walked away from the assignment that day unable to shake the dream that was beginning to cultivate in his mind, and in just a matter of weeks, he had said goodbye to everything he had built for himself in the real estate world up to that point and put all of his eggs in the basket we now call Common Desk.
After saying goodbye to his role in real estate, Nick wasted no time getting his dream off the ground. What started as an idea for a great coworking concept gradually evolved into coffee shop meetups, name games, brand development, and space plans– and before the world knew it, a coworking space called Common Desk was gearing up to open in the heart of Deep Ellum, Dallas (the last place anyone ever expected at that point in time).
Pursuing a dream is no easy feat, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Nick experienced this difficulty first-hand through countless sleepless nights, second guesses, road bumps, and temporary standstills during the process of making his new dream of owning and operating Dallas’ first full-time, all-inclusive coworking space a reality. But these difficulties are what make the stories bolder and keep the drive alive.
Everything about Common Desk was and still is bootstrapped– Nick never sought help from equity investors, just help from the people who latched onto his vision for Common Desk from the beginning. During the final days of construction, Nick was over budget and had missed the initial deadline for an opening date. Due to this, funds had dwindled down to less than $5,000 to complete the project that was Common Desk.
Fortunately, everything was paid for and in place except for office chairs. For some oblivious reason, Nick didn’t think about how expensive 100 office chairs would be. At $100 per chair, that’s another $10,000 needed to make sure all seats were in place on opening day. To put it nicely, he was freaking out. Nick said, “I perfectly remember my mom visiting the construction site that day and talking me off the cliff (again). Her response to the chair crisis was that she was heading home to pray about it. I remember thinking, are you crazy? I needed her to rent a U-Haul truck and drive around town picking up every $15 office chair at garage sales that she could find.”
Oddly enough, a real estate friend of Nick’s called an hour later out of the blue to inform him that he had 115 retro looking orange office chairs chilling in a vacancy at one of his buildings. He said that if Nick could come get them, the only thing he wanted in return was a margarita machine rented for a party he was throwing for his tenants. The orange chairs that everybody has now enjoyed in Common Desk - Deep Ellum ended up costing about $5 per chair (four years later, they’re still as sturdy as ever).
This is just one of the many little breakthroughs that happened to get Nick and Common Desk to where they are now. Through all of the struggles and miracles, Common Desk officially opened its doors in the Fall of 2012 as Dallas’ first formal coworking space with 20 passionate members in 4,000 square feet of space and enough excitement to fuel any dream. Though Nick had officially opened the doors to his dream, this was truly just the beginning of Nick’s new self-made job title.
Nick had to learn the ropes of being a business owner, and all of the responsibilities that come with running a startup for startups in an old warehouse building that’s constantly in need of some type of repair (with little funds). But when you’re doing what you love, not even the most daunting of situations can knock you off your horse, and even the hardest of days are still enjoyable.
Soon, Common Desk began to need staff members, more space, and more amenities. By the end of year one, Common Desk grew from a team of one to a team of two, expanded to increase from 3,500 square feet to 7,000 square feet, and have 100 members. By the end of year 2, Common Desk grew from a team of two to a team of four, and expanded once again to achieve its current square footage of 13,000 sf. By the end of year 3, Common Desk became known as Common Desk - Deep Ellum upon the arrival of its sibling coworking space, Common Desk - Oak Cliff, and the team had grown from a team of four to a team of seven.
All of this brings us to where we are now– Common Desk just closed out its fourth year of operation and entered into 2017 with 9 full time staff members and counting, an expansion of its original Deep Ellum space under way, a signed deal for its largest space to date to give Plano its first coworking space (finally), the announcement of a possible expansion to the Fort Worth coworking landscape, and a totally revived brand and website.
Nick accredits all of the success of Common Desk to the members who so faithfully make the Common Desk community a desirable place to be day in and day out. The brand’s success wasn’t built off of anything Nick did right or wrong, it was simply built off of community from day one, and (as cliche as it might sound), when community is at the core of what you do, the only place to go is up.
Now, Nick spends his days diligently pouring into the Common Desk staff and exploring new and innovative ways for Common Desk to keep meeting needs across the D-FW metroplex. Whatever it is you’re dreaming of doing, know that it’s possible– all you have to do is jump, take big risks, and be willing to work hard to make it all happen.