The growing trend of young professionals seeking to work remotely has companies rethinking the way they structure their workforce. With the increase in the number of people working remotely, coworking spaces have thrived. A coworking space allows freelancers, remote workers and business professionals to rent space to work in a collaborative environment. These spaces provide an opportunity to get away from the everyday office — oftentimes a home office — to enhance work and perspective. There are many perks that come with coworking spaces, such as high-speed Internet, inviting meeting areas, private working spaces, and the opportunity to be inspired through the presence of others.
Making the Move to Rural Nebraska
Meet Tina Stokes—an opportunistic freelance writer who saw a need in her community and created a coworking space she calls PERCH. In her own words, she is “an example of someone who redefined her success without sacrificing her chosen field.”
Tina earned a bachelor of journalism degree in advertising at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2002. After graduation, she began her career at Swanson Russell, an advertising agency in Lincoln, working on the Gateway Computers account.
Having lived outside of Lincoln while working in the city for several years, Tina shared about the challenges she and her husband faced balancing work and family life, “Our children were usually the first to day care and the last picked up at night. Like many parents, we started really questioning if this was how we wanted to raise our children.”
Both being rural Nebraska natives, they decided to move back to rural Nebraska when her husband was offered a job in his hometown of Petersburg (population 325) in 2010.
“This community places a strong emphasis on family and really works at maintaining its reputation for being a safe, clean and friendly town,” she said. “Petersburg gave us an opportunity to slow down a little, spend more time as a family, and expose our children to the same environment we grew up in.”
Development of PERCH
To make the move, Tina made the difficult decision to leave the job she loved.
“I knew the move was the best option for my family; and technically, as long as I have Wi-Fi, I can work from anywhere, so it really came down to figuring out how to spend my time once we settled in,” she said.
Tina initially took a position as marketing director for a local senior housing campus but left after two years to pursue freelance opportunities. Her first three years as a freelance writer were spent in her home office. She quickly learned how isolating this environment could be and started studying a variety of coworking spaces in Lincoln and Omaha.
At the same time, it seemed there was a growing number of families relocating to rural areas, often with one person working from home. Tina saw an opportunity to bring the concept of coworking to a rural setting.
“What started as a conversation over the dinner table turned into reality quicker than I expected,” she said. “The opportunity to purchase the property next to my husband’s office came up soon after, and it was the green light I needed to move forward.”
PERCH is located in a former convenience store and gas station that had been vacated for a few years. Situated on the intersection of Main Street and a major highway, the building is very visible and easily accessible from multiple directions. While the structure of the building was solid, the interior needed a complete overhaul. Tina, her father, and her husband tackled demolition, including taking out paneling, layers of flooring, and the ceiling. However, construction was turned over to local contractors, with many of the materials being purchased from Petersburg businesses.
“Rural communities rely on neighbors helping neighbors, personally and professionally,” Tina said. “We made a conscious effort to make decisions that would benefit others where we live. And we’re not done yet. The exterior of the property is a work in progress as we take baby steps toward cleaning up the property, adding landscaping and whatever else we can do to enhance our community.”
The Perks of PERCH
PERCH has been open for roughly 14 months and has provided much-needed rental space to many organizations and businesses for meetings and presentations. A private office and smaller conference room are also available for individuals to rent. The space blends urban and rustic, featuring modern furniture and antique accents. It’s intended to be a relaxing, collaborative space.
“At the end of the day, I hope more people who would like to relocate to a rural community realize that it is possible to bring your career with you,” she said.
Come PERCH: A Place to Gather and Be Inspired
PERCH offers the local community and travelers an inviting environment to gather, work, host events and get creative. Stop by and find your inspiration in Petersburg at 212 West Main Street. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.–Noon and 1–5 p.m. Evening and weekend hours are available upon request.