How Two Women Entrepreneurs Raised $2.5 Million To Turn Hotels And Restaurants Into On-Demand Flexible Workspaces

WorkChew Co-Founders Maisha Burt (left) and Allyson McDougal (right)

Prior to the pandemic entrepreneur Maisha Burt found the scenery from her dining room table to wear on her and she desired a new work environment. After exploring her city to identify locations to work, she wondered if it were time to invest in a co-working space or traditional office.

After mulling over the question for some time she located a restaurant that provided a great environment to grab a bite and squeeze in some work. It was at that moment a lightbulb went off for her. She then founded the startup WorkChew, an organization that turns hotels and restaurants into on-demand flexible workspaces.

And on March 17, the startup announced that it had raised $2.5 million in a seed round that was oversubscribed. The deal was led by Harlem Capital including participation from Invictus Advisory Group, Wilshire Lane, Techstars Ventures, and RW Capital Investments. This also included solo investments from angel investors including Etsy cofounder Chris Maguire, Alex Chan, and Kyle Tibbits, and Kabbage cofounder Kathryn Petrali.

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Here’s more on how this successful startup has raised and is leveraging a seed round amid a time where many seek to consider new modes of work.

Launching and Building a Network of Support

In 2018, Burt founded WorkChew with the goal of allowing professionals who worked remotely to file and book workspaces across the U.S. To date the organization has launched in a few successful large markets including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago. And will soon open in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta.

Co-founder Allyson McDougal (left) and Maisha Burt (right)

WorkChew has been able to thrive and scale funding during this time due to its successful participation in accelerator programs like Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Through the program that ran for 13 weeks, Burt and her cofounder Allyson McDougal had the opportunity to leverage mentorship and insights from tech experts familiar with the field.

Subsequently, a collaboration with a venture capital firm like Harlem Capital whose leaders met Burt in January of 2021 sparked the continued growth of the startup. Jarrid Tingle, Managing Partner at Harlem Capital expressed instantly understanding the business need and Burt’s team’s ability to support filling that need.

In a media release Tingle shared, “the pandemic has significantly altered how we work. Harlem Capital believes it’s very unlikely that workers will go back to commuting and working in the office five days a week after seeing the benefits of remote work. However, we all still yearn for human connection. It is appealing to have a place to work individually or with colleagues in a flexible, comfortable setting outside of the home.”

WorkChew’s Unique Market Solution

Prior to the pandemic, co-working locations often only resided in urban corridors with open floor format workspaces where desk or office spaces were rentable. These spaces were sometimes inaccessible for those who lived and/or commuted from outside urban corridors.

However, high quality workspaces can often exist beyond these immediate urban areas and having the luxury of moving from space to space while in transition can as WorkChew notes: provide a “solution that means less miles traveled for the employee, fewer dollars spent by the company on more expensive co-working space, and incremental revenue for hospitality partners.”

WorkChew member check-in signage at restaurant bar.

In an environment where studies report that small and medium business owners, and large corporations are either ending their existing leases and laying to bed the corporate building work model, “All Access” memberships for employees paid for by corporations through a platform like WorkChew are changing the game. And also leading business owners and corporations to major cost savings in an ever changing work environment.

Burt expresses, “we are a game changer for flexible workspace because we meet employees where they are and provide them with a network of places to work away from the office and from home.”

Leveraging Seed Funding in an Evolving Work Environment

With the swiftly evolving adaptation of more hybrid modes of work in the workplace, Burt and cofounder McDougal are leveraging this funding round to grow their team, engage in product development, and market expansion. As the startup seeks to grow to additional cities, they realize a need to grow customer acquisition and supply.

The inspiration behind this pursuit has been the founders’ vision to lighten the burden on those in the workforce who seek to find the most optimal environment to productively achieve their goals. Cofounder McDougal shares: “we’re really excited about what the future holds.” With the world experiencing significant shifts in the way business is done, WorkChew is a part of many startups leading the change for how remote professionals and corporations do business in the future.

Not only is WorkChew leading the change in the way business is conducted, but it is also supporting restaurant and hotels operators to meet demand as capacity numbers increase by filling seating during slower hours. This coupled with marketing insights that valuably share customers’ ordering habits, the duration of their stay, and identifies their occupations, can enable restaurants and hotels to better market to their consumer bases. All a win-win as capacity evolves post-Covid. One successful test case for WorkChew has been the D.C. area where restaurants and hotels have expressed fruitful gains.

I am a researcher and education advocate, with a passion for sharing insights on the workplace, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Over the years I’ve witnessed the way

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