WeWork Dives Into Retail With WeMRKT

WeWork is expanding into selling Icelandic yogurt and chickpea snacks. The co-working space giant announced last Monday the launch of WeMRKT, a “modern retail space” that will be piloted at WeWork 205 Hudson in New York City. WeMRKT will sell products from 10 WeWork member companies, who secured their shelf spots in a pitch competition in April, as well as company-branded apparel, office supplies, and other snacks and drinks. Winning companies include WeWork member startups selling everything from soups to plantain chips, juice made from imperfect fruit to portable chargers. Many of them are direct-to-consumer online companies that will now have the opportunity to sell in a brick-and-mortar environment with little overhead cost. WeMRKT, which originally started as a concept called Honesty Market, is the brainchild of former SoulCycle cofounder and current chief brand officer of WeWork, Julie Rice. Rice, who joined the company last November, said in a statement that WeMRKT was “by our members for our members.” “As brick-and-mortar retail is disappearing, our WeMRKTs will offer our members an entirely unique channel of distribution,” she said. Though online retail is advancing on brick and mortar, co-working spaces like WeWork have gained popularity in recent years, perhaps paradoxically, through the insurgence of the freelance economy and the accessibility of digital entrepreneurship. An in-house pitstop for hardworking WeWork members to grab a snack and refuel, then, seems just like the kind of brand extension that could work. WeWork will be expanding more WeMRKTs across other locations in New York and nationally soon after, according to the press release. The winning companies will also have the chance to further sell their goods through WeWork’s partnership with snack delivery service company SnackNation. For John Sherwin, CEO of rehydration supplement company Hydrant, the opportunity to sell his products in WeMRKT has led to increased traffic to his company’s website, requests for product demos, and people stopping him in the elevator at work to ask about Hydrant. “By being put by WeWork into the marketplace, it really acknowledged that the office is a relevant place to use [our] product,” he said. ‘“My current [target] demographic is absolutely the same as the WeWork one.” Other companies expressed their business enthusiasm in getting their products in front of other WeWork members. Onur Oz, CEO of chickpea snack company Lebby Snacks, said that it would be “huge” for his company to be stocked at WeMRKT, where his products could be tested by his fellow coworkers. Sherwin said he had worked at other co-working spaces before, but liked WeWork because of its team members who went above and beyond to make his life not just easier but nicer. He brought Hydrant’s offices to WeWork through the WeWorks Lab program, where Hydrant was selected along with a specific cohort of companies to receive below-market rent prices in an incubator-like environment. “Some of my best friends in New York now are part of that same cohort, and it really was kind of a step change in the speed at which things started to happen for Hydrant,” Sherwin siad. Nicole Centeno, CEO of healthy meal and delivery service Splendid Spoon, went from working as a single employee out of a windowless break room with her soup kettle to an office with seven employees in WeWork South Williamsburg. For her, getting a desk at WeWork was a benchmark worth being proud of. “We’ve always thought of WeWork as a great goal, honestly, so that we could be among other entrepreneurs, and have AC and heat and maybe a window,” she said. For many of the startups, like Hydrant and Splendid Spoon, WeMRKT will be their first foray into the physical retail space. Sherwin said Hydrant’s long-term vision would be to sell in a pharmacy channel, while Centeno said she would definitely look to expansion in retail if the WeMRKT venture went well. Read more