SWAY started out two years ago as a West Berkeley coworking and meeting space, but since then it has… well, swayed to host conferences, yoga classes, birthday parties, and even speed dating events.
Baby showers, company off-sites, and weddings weren’t part of the original plan for the founder, Adam Goldstein.
In 2016, Goldstein was working in a cozy coffee shop in Bethlehem, PA, when his thoughts were interrupted by the whistling espresso machine. He had an idea — what if you could have a neighborhood workspace that was comfortable and familiar like a coffee shop, but had the focus of an office?
Goldstein followed this interest and, pretty soon, was employed at WeWork. But he was alarmed by how the company wasted resources, spent outlandishly on building out office space, and ultimately managed their community poorly. After WeWork, he moved onto Branch, an office furniture company focusing on outfitting offices in less than 10 days. His hunch was confirmed that space could be activated efficiently and sustainably. He returned to the coworking idea, convinced that he could do it better.
But then, of course, came the pandemic, with both challenges and opportunities for his plan. The SWAY team, then called WorkBistro, launched the first location in September 2021 in Berkeley’s Poet’s Corner neighborhood, at the intersection of University and San Pablo avenues. West Berkeley was far away from other coworking spaces in Berkeley and home to a growing population of young professionals who used to commute to San Francisco. More vacancies and lower rents on that side of town were pluses as well.
The last occupants of the space had left behind several beautiful wooden tables on wheels, so Goldstein just needed some chairs and monitors, and a few standing desks. But the first few months were tough. People were still apprehensive about being indoors, so most days there were fewer than two people in the space at any given time.
As the mask restrictions reduced, Goldstein’s rental listing on Peerspace started to get some hits. First, a daylong meeting for a team that hadn’t seen each other in two years. Then, a baby shower, a pop-up market, and a concert. Within three months, the space had hosted more than ten private rentals. Goldstein revisited the business plan.
The business started to see more and more interest from many different groups: companies that had given up their office space but still wanted a comfortable and familiar place to connect with their team, concert organizers, non-profits, and bar/bat mitzvahs to name a few. Goldstein could not only accommodate those groups, but provide them with a high quality, budget-friendly offering — and eventually the name SWAY made more sense for the business than WorkBistro.
SWAY prides itself on making hosting events easy and professional, and on their full-service event rentals, including planning support, catering coordination, and vendor management, most of which are Berkeley-based, small businesses.
Today, SWAY operates, first and foremost, as a community space, servicing a variety of clients: companies hosting off-sites and conferences, families hosting birthday parties, remote workers in need of daytime coworking, and individuals seeking community events like concerts.
SWAY’s coworking community includes a wide array of professionals like remote workers, entrepreneurs, artists, and consultants. During the day, they can sit, enjoy fantastic complimentary beverages from Souvenir and Boochman, and get some heads-down, focused work done, among some lovely plants from Hort Culture. And yes, they do have phone booths too for private calls. There are also private spaces with flexible rental plans for company meetings.
In addition to private rentals, SWAY hosts its own events open to the public, such as yoga on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and monthly networking events and poetry nights. To date, the space has brought in thousands from around the Bay Area in less than two years.
Goldstein’s goal is to repeat this success in other properties around the East Bay. Storefronts have emptied out alarmingly over the past three years, and Goldstein would like to work with landlords across the region to activate these spaces quickly and sustainably to create multi-purpose community spaces. Future locations could provide the same types of services that the Poets Corner base has offered — or yet something new. SWAY is the flexible community space.