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Inspiring Conversations with Katherine Lake of My Office & More

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine Lake. 

Hi Katherine, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I’ve never been one to have a clear picture of my “next 10 years”. I’ve been around others who have known what they want to do or what they want to be 10 years from now and their focus has been inspiring. Instead, my focus has been more about enjoying the opportunities of the moment. 

In high school, I was fortunate to have counselors and teachers who steered me into secretarial administration classes. I enjoyed them – typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, etc. – and did okay in them. But it wasn’t until my senior year when my skills finally evolved and I started to excel in speed and accuracy. 

My teachers learned about a college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that would allow me to test out of secretarial classes. So, I went to Robert Morris College (now Robert Morris University) with the plan to get an Associate’s degree in 3 semesters. This plan changed in my third semester after taking a class with a teacher who believed strongly (understatement) that secretaries shouldn’t “think” – just do. I decided to broaden my options and stayed in school to get my Bachelor’s degree in a double major of Accounting and Business Information Systems (computers). 

The next surprise came when a large accounting firm decided against hiring me because “I knew too much about computers”! This was before everyone had a computer on their desk and they wanted to control the knowledge level of their employees. That twist made me go in a new direction and my first full-time position was with a computer consulting company who provided six weeks of intensive programming training before sending me out for contract programming jobs. 

My career path continued to take twists and turns as I shifted into a sales position after four-plus years of programming work. I was a successful salesperson, even when I changed companies and started selling computer software. But while I made lots of money, I was unhappy and didn’t have the joy I used to have in my work. 

So, my path twisted again as I decided to walk away from the high-end life I was building and start over. I wanted to work for a company I believed in so I used all my skills to get a job at Walt Disney World – my favorite place in the world to take a vacation! The only way I could get a job there was to apply for an entry-level secretarial position so I downsized my life so I could live on minimal income. 

Within a few years, I was able to get the position of a lifetime – the administrative assistant to the president of a brand-new business for Disney – Disney Cruise Line. It was a position that forced me to increase my administrative skills and taught me how to support senior executives so they could be more effective with their time. 

A relationship opportunity got me to move and I once again made a job change – this time working for a government entity doing contracts administration. An opportunity there brought me back to my college days as I switched into an accounting role! This change reminded me of why I studied accounting originally so I continued in accounting roles for the next dozen years. 

When a company I worked for was sold to a publicly-traded company, I faced a crossroad that gave me a new opportunity to reinvent myself again. I made the decision to start my own business and invest all my energies into my dream business. 

In 2015, I opened My Office & More in downtown Lakeland, Florida. While I did not envision myself to be an entrepreneur over 30 years earlier, looking back I can see how all of my business experiences have led to this exciting shift in my life. I am able to run a business today thanks to the many different business roles I have had over my career. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The first challenge when I became a business owner instead of an employee was deciding what problems my business would solve and how it would solve them. It took lots of research, conversation, and dreaming to figure out the business model and structure. The effort required to create the business idea was much greater than I had thought it would be. A part of me thought that coming up with a business idea would have been much easier – almost obvious – but that was one of many misconceptions I had to face head-on. 

The next challenge was to find a commercial property that would best meet the needs of my customers. My original thought was to reduce my risk by limiting the size of my investment and loan requirements. However, over an eight-month period, I was unable to find the right location within my budget. When my real estate agent showed me a property that required a much greater risk, I was torn. Finally, I had the right place, but would the business be profitable? With lots of coaching help and a local bank who valued the project along with the Small Business Administration (SBA), we were able to put together a financial package that was reasonable. I purchased the building and the renovations were completed in less than 75 days – a remarkable feat. On August 3, 2015, we opened the doors to our first customers. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Housed in a 105-year-old building, My Office & More combines historic charm with modern furniture, technology, and convenience. It is the ideal setting for individuals and businesses who need a place to work and meet. 

Private offices are arranged around the perimeter of the second floor with coworking desks situated in the middle of the floor. An atrium delivers natural lighting near the granite counter in the middle of a common area designed for eating and conversations. 

The working environment is flexible as desk and office space can be rented for a day, month, or year. And that’s just the beginning. There are three different conference spaces that accommodate meetings of various needs. The Media Room seats up to five people at a counter-high table for sitting and standing meetings. The spacious Park Room seats ten around a glasstop table and overlooks Munn Park. For larger gatherings, the first-floor event/training room provides flexible seating for up to 49 people with dual screens for presentations. 

Need documents copied or faxed? There’s equipment for that, too, along with confidential onsite shredding. Onsite staff provides secretarial support services upon request in 15-minute increments freeing up entrepreneurs from mundane tasks like stuffing envelopes and creating mailings. 

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Crises are a normal experience for every small business owner. Things just don’t always go to plan! So, learning how to manage the fear that comes with crisis is a critical tool. Crises that affect a population at the same time are less typical but not uncommon. 

The first thing we need to do is BREATHE! It is easy to get pulled into the panic of a crisis but we have to resist the temptation so we can step back and evaluate what is happening and how we want to respond. 

The most important thing to remember about crisis – it means there is opportunity! When things go upside down, look for what might work in your favor and build a plan to capitalize on it. 

Pricing:

  • Virtual Office Membership: $89 – $103/mo.
  • Coworking Desk Membership: $125 – $140/mo.
  • Reserved Desk Membership: $245 – $263/mo.
  • Reserved Office Membership: $545 – $650/mo.
  • Meeting Rooms: $25 – $50/hr.

Contact Info:

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