From the April 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Starting your own business means finding a home for said business. And if you're looking for options with more versatility than your living room coffee table, you're in luck. That's because a few new developments in the executive suite market offer very attractive solutions for start-ups.

At ActivSpace in Seattle, founders Jude Siddall and Gary Romain have established a variety of lease units that growing businesses can use either as storage or as office space. The smaller-than-usual units, ranging in size from 100 to 400 square feet and between $100 and $700 per month in price, include heat, light, power, restrooms, water, Net access, windows and mailboxes.

With 10 locations in Washington, Oregon and California, ActivSpace (www.activspace.com) had a waiting list almost from the start. Even better, Siddall notes, is that some of her business tenants say their overall productivity has increased 40 percent since moving in: "They don't have to pack and unpack their work like when [they're working on] the kitchen table."

Businesses can also look into office space for sublease, says Barry Spizer, president of both CCIM Institute, a commercial real estate certification organization, and SRSA Commercial Real Estate Inc. in Metarie, Louisiana. "Right now in a lot of cities, there's a lot of sublease office space in the market," he says. "Sometimes, the discounts are as much as 50 percent off regular prices."


"Right now in a lot of cities, there's a lot of sublease office space in the market. Sometimes, the discounts are as much as 50 percent off regular prices."

Especially with the recent trend in company downsizing, there are quite a few tenants with years left on their lease agreements who are more than willing to sublet some of that space to cut their losses. And depend-ing on your relationship with the current tenant, you may even be able to share things such as secretarial services, fax machines, kitchen facilities and so on.

Even so, this kind of agreement still has some drawbacks. Because you aren't the primary tenant, you really don't have a relationship with the landlord if any problems should occur. In addition, if the tenant ever defaults on the original lease agreement, you are both out of there, no matter how prompt you were with your payments, cautions Spizer.

Jorg Pierach, 36, founder of Fast Horse Inc., a public relations firm in Minneapolis, chose one other option: sharing space with another company. Pierach wrote the agreement to be renewable in one-year increments for maximum flexibility, he notes.

After meeting through a mutual friend, the two companies now share a kitchen, a conference room and a fax machine. It's a delicate balance to maintain, says Pierach: "We make sure we don't step on toes and abuse these privileges."