How Hygge Coworking CEO expanded his business model in light of pandemic

By   –  Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal

Hygge CEO Garrett Tichy has a much different outlook than he did a year ago. His Charlotte coworking business is back on track. He is helping to grow two fresh brands. And, perhaps more importantly, he is learning to have better work-life balance.

Last year, the pandemic pummeled Tichy’s coworking business, as offices shut down and employees began remote work to avoid Covid-19 exposure. He was forced to reverse a 21,000-square-foot expansion project at the flagship West Hill Street location and also considered walking away from Hygge’s Camp North End space. At one point, the business was missing out on tens of thousands of dollars in revenue per month.

Tichy was ready to make changes, a feeling to which fellow longtime entrepreneurs can relate.

“There is more to building a business than building a business,” Tichy said. “I want the success back, but I’m trying to train myself and my team that we can relax. Tomorrow’s another day. Take the weekend.”

Hygge’s business outlook began to shift drastically in August. It has since added about 50 flex members, most of whom are new to coworking, Tichy said. Pre-pandemic members are also starting to return. Office space memberships, a key part of covering expenses, have jumped to near-full capacity across the four locations.

Tichy said Hygge has added more than $13,000 in monthly recurring revenue since September, although it is not back to pre-pandemic levels.

The goal now is to grow the flex membership base. There are also health and retail ventures to consider. This is where Hygge has an opportunity to make real gains.

“We need to be a six-figure company to thrive, … to get away from being a pure lifestyle business. If we froze in time right now, I’m running a damn good lifestyle business. If we never grew, we never added a member, nobody ever left, it’s fine. I’ll make OK money. My team will occasionally get raises and bonuses, but we need to grow,” Tichy said.

This month, Tichy is helping to launch a new retail concept called Lokal (pronounced loh-kay), a collective of small business vendors at Camp North End. The store, at 330 Camp Road, will have its grand opening on Nov. 27. The initial vendor list includes That’s Novel Books, Scarf & Blazer, Feminist Goods Co., Limoncito Goods, Mossick & Co. and Party Perfected, among others.

The Lokal space started as That’s Novel Books, which opened in early 2020. It was led by Alyssa Pressler, Hygge Coworking’s director of marketing. However, Covid-19 stalled the vision for a café-style book store with live poetry readings and music. Tichy and Pressler decided to look at other options.

Lokal came together quickly, Tichy said. Branding for the store wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. He and Pressler hope to have 20 to 30 vendors there by the grand opening. Customers can come shop now with the handful of existing vendors. Last weekend, the store made more money than it’s ever made, he said.

Tichy said he has been approached by small retailers in the past but had to turn them away. Quad Espresso Jewelry has a small space at Hygge’s Jay Street location. Lokal is looking for retailers that complement one another and don’t sell duplicate products. Those products may rotate.

“I only see good things. … I think we’re in a really cool period where we’re building, and building is the best part. I’m pumped about it,” Tichy said. “If the coworking business is thriving, we have the room to create other really cool products that don’t need to make $1 million.”

Tichy wants Lokal to be a starting point for local retail entrepreneurs.

Hygge’s gym concept on Remount Road, managed by Jamie Horn, recently rebranded from wellness to Hygge FIT. The service is independent of the coworking business, although those members get a discounted rate. Branding is also different from the coworking side. That gives it the option to stand alone in the future, Tichy said.

Hygge FIT’s gym was scheduled to open in April 2020. Due to Covid, it didn’t open until that August with outdoor-only classes. Tichy said he is feeling more confident about the fitness venture and offering a revamped, full pricing model starting at $135 per month. The gym has more than 100 members. He said there may be opportunities to grow next year.

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