How a tiny competitor to WeWork and The Wing used a careful plan to keep full-time staff, launch virtual programming, and reopen safely during the worst economic calamity in modern history

Luminary NYC founder Cate Luzio

Co-working spaces have been hit especially hard during the pandemic’s period of social distancing.
But Luminary is not — nor has it ever been — just a co-working space, and the features that set it apart have helped it survive and grow during an extraordinarily challenging time.
“For me, it proves that our hypothesis of focusing on sustainability and profitability first, versus just growth and revenue is the right way to look at it,” she said.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has pummeled co-workspace providers especially hard, forcing many would-be WeWorks and Wings to close permanently after three months of social distancing measures.

But Luminary founder Cate Luzio will tell you — as she has since day 1 — that her midtown collaboration space is more than the exposed brick walls and sliding glass doors.

“90% of our members say the reason they come here is for community and connection,” Luzio told Business Insider in an interview where she discussed the recent re-opening of Luminary’s physical space and the steps she and her team took to get through the shutdown.

Luminary’s success during the worst economic calamity in modern history is a function of both how Luzio built the business in the first place, and the philosophy by which she guides it still.

It’s important to note that while Luminary not only has a more devoted membership than you might expect to find from its peers, it is also privately owned and financed by Luzio herself.

“We were self sustaining, I didn’t have debt, and I had this strong balance sheet,” she said. “We were growing sustainably, versus growing for the sake of growth.”

No investors meant that Luzio didn’t have to ask anyone else for permission to respond when the public health crisis began to unfold in March.

Make a plan before it’s too late

By the second week of March, Luzio understood the writing on the wall to mean that virtual collaboration was going to be an unavoidable feature of life going forward. In response — and as she does in all things — she made a plan.

Coordinating with one of her top staff, she set up a commercial Zoom account and launched original programming the next day with longstanding corporate partner UBS called “Don’t touch your face, don’t touch your 401(k)” that had over 200 registrations.

As that first virtual event was underway, Governor Andrew Cuomo was announcing his order that all non-essential businesses shut down to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Luminary has since convened more than 250 virtual events led by members and some of the company’s many corporate partners, including JP Morgan, MasterCard, Insperity, and WW. By contrast, Luminary held “only” 200 in-person events in all of 2019.

Make space for your team’s ideas

A week after Luminary closed its doors, Luzio herself came down with a COVID-19 infection, which she battled for five weeks.

“There was no real opportunity for me to just put everything on ice. I’m fortunate that I have an incredible team that really stepped up, and I think I …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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