I've always had a fascination with startup offices. Creating the right environment that props up your unique culture is vital to long-term success. Not only is it important for the creative process, but also for the competitive market of tech hiring.
Being a bootstrapped startup, our first two offices were pretty limited. We are still mostly bootstrapped today, but we've found success over the last year that has allowed us a little more freedom--yet still tightly within a startup budget of around $2,000. This is how we went about assembling a $12,000 office for under $2,000.
Finding the Right Space
The design costs for a new office may seem daunting, but they pale in comparison to the long-term cost of leasing a space. It is vital that you not only find a space to grow into, but also one that doesn't lock you in past your reasonably foreseeable runway.
View from the new GoldFire HQ over downtown OKC.
We knew we wanted to be in the downtown area where there's a palpable energy present. However, the market in downtown OKC has been on a rocket-ship of late. Luckily, with a little patience and 3 months searching, the perfect opportunity revealed itself.
We ended up with a beautiful space (or rather, a space that we believed could become beautiful) with an incredible view. We also managed to get favorable terms on a short-term lease, the negotiation of which is outside the scope of this post and will vary by market.
The office may not have looked like much when we landed it, but we negotiated all-new carpet and paint throughout. This is where we started our design process with Interior Design for iPad.
Basic design mockup for the new GoldFire offices.
There are areas of an office where you can get away with cheaper items, but desks and chairs (which have a direct impact on productivity) aren't those items. Good, sturdy desks with plenty of surface area are a must, as are comfortable chairs rated for long hours.
However, pre-built desks from quality sources can easily cost $1,000 or more. So, I put on my DIY-er hat and started looking through the IKEA catalog. Sure, they have relatively cheap desks available, but they are cheap for a reason.
The great thing about IKEA is that they also sell their furniture in pieces. You can get six-foot, solid wood butcher-blocks for around $90. Combine that with stainless steel hairpin legs from Etsy and you've got yourself some functional and beautiful desks for only $190/ea.
The end result of our IKEA/Etsy mix-and-match desks.
Unfortunately, there's not much mixing-and-matching to be done with desk chairs, so a good chunk of the budget will go into these. There's some great chairs available in the $100-range, and there are some immaculate chairs available in the $1,000-range.
Obviously, the high-end was out of the question, but we wanted to find that sweet spot in the middle. With a little patience (key word in this whole process), we found some generous coupons at Staples and picked up some $300 chairs for $200/ea (TempurPedic TP9000).
Before/after of donated filing cabinet now in GoldFire colors after a few coats of spray paint.
With our work area filled out and still $1,220 left in the budget, we turned to the more exciting areas. To fill out the break room, kitchen and conference area, we turned to Craigslist, friends and family.
We were able to score a Killer Instinct arcade cabinet ($1,000 value), modern TV stand ($1,500 value), 42" TV ($1,000 value), refrigerator ($300 value) and two sturdy tables ($1,000 value each) for just $300! We then filled in the gaps from sites like Overstock and Amazon for another $500 for 6 chairs and a side table.
Break room with comfy chairs, Xbox and N64.
Furniture is of course important, but a startup office is largely about the culture. This means the decorations are just as important and are also an area where you can really stretch the dollar.
We still had a budget of $420 left, so we got to work scouring Craigslist, eBay and local vintage video game stores. We were able to find 16 frames on eBay for around $150 and a pack of vintage posters for practically nothing. We also picked up 5 authentic arcade marquees for $50 to really set the kitchen apart.
The centerpiece is our logo on the front wall. Laser-cut acrylic or metal would have cost anywhere from $1,000-$3,000. Instead, we found an online wood-cutter that cut it from MDF-board for just $70. We then bought 2 cans of glossy white spray paint for another $6 and had 3D logo letters on our wall for a fraction of the cost.
3D logo letters for $76 instead of thousands.
Setting up a new office space that both feels at home and is a productive space to work can be a daunting task--especially if your budget is severely limited. However, with a little bit of creativity and even more patience, you can create a space to be inspired in, and one that can make all the difference as you progress through your startup journey.
If you noticed the big empty space in our work room and feel like you could be just the thing to fill that space, we are hiring! Check out our jobs page for details.