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Meet Ari Smith of Union Cowork in Arts District, DTLA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ari Smith.

Ari, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey to today has definitely been a random one and if you told me ten years ago I would be running a coworking space in DTLA, I would have asked.. what does that even mean!? What is Coworking?

After living and working abroad for a while opening restauarants for a hospitality group, I came back to the US and really had no idea what direction I wanted to take my career, and what would truly be fulfilling at this time in my professional life. After spending a few months of soul searching and reacquainting myself with America, I sort of fell into the coworking industry by accident. It was a perfect mix of hospitality and customer service without the long hours and stress of running a restaurant. I’ve always loved the start-up life and being a part of building a community and space that people truly enjoy coming into and being a part of. I look at it like operating a boutique hotel with local and thoughtful amenities but instead of having rooms, we offer office space.

I moved to LA from one of our downtown San Diego properties, to run our 7th and newest location here in the Arts District. We opened about three weeks ago and already have a wonderful and colorful community of artists, designers, tech companies and more. Union Cowork will truly be a safe space for the local community to gather, work, dream, and be creative. I love what I do every day and am so thankful to be a part of such a great niche industry that is growing rapidly.

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?
Working for a small company has its fair share of struggles. Being a one man show at my space, I tend to wear a lot of hats which I sometimes have a love/hate relationship with. The struggles we have faced this year of 2020 have been rather unusual and most likely will be some of the weirdest and unchartered times we will ever face. But, so many wonderful things have come from the hardships we faced as a company which we would have never had the opportunity to work through. Office space in general has changed drastically in the past six months and being such a flexible office option to begin with, it’s been pretty easy adapting to the new ways of working.

Please tell us about Union Cowork.
Union Cowork is a flexible office space with different types of memberships such as coworking, dedicated desks, private offices, team suites, conference rooms and retail spaces. First and foremost, we are an office space, but we are also a very neighborhood-centric brand so depending on which location you are visiting or working from, the options differ drastically. For example, here in DTLA we have two huge, 4k square foot event spaces as well as several retail shops and a fully equipped podcast recording studio currently being built out by the best in the business. We are in the heart of the Arts District and on one of the most filmed and photographed streets. Then you take our Encinitas location for example, which is a short walk from the beautiful Moonlight beach. It has a lot of open airy spaces and surfboards to borrow for a quick lunch break of catching waves. Each Union Cowork location identifies itself based on the surrounding town/businesses and neighborhood culture and history. We really are the “walkable + bikeable” office space and community option that our founder dreamed of 7 years ago when it all first started.

I think our smaller boutique-style spaces really set us apart from the larger well-known spaces like WeWork and Spaces. Both very great brands and offices but very different from us. You will know every person that works in the space here at Union Cowork. Instead of 200 private offices, we have 20. The community becomes sort of a work family which is what a lot of our solo business owners entrepreneurs really enjoy.

One of the best things Union Cowork prides itself on and personally I think one of the make it or break it amenities of an office space is the COFFEE! As a company, we source very local roasters or coffee shops to provide or even set up shop in our space lobbies. So whenever you plan on visiting a Union Cowork location, you will be sure to find a great locally roasted cup of coffee.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I don’t think I can name just one favorite memory from childhood but I do know most of them were spent in the magical attic of our old ranch house. This upstairs loft was full of shelves lined with books and boxes of old dresses and clothes. My siblings, friends and I spent many hours up there playing and reading to our heart’s content. A lot of my creative passions I have today were nurtured there such a clothing fashion design.

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