Work At The Speed Of Life

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VEL creates a utopian workcafé

Photography courtesy of VEL

IN 2021, RECORD numbers of people quit their jobs to strike out on their own, says Mo Hamzian, a London Business School Sloan Fellow. Quoting estimates that upwards of 36% of the U.S. workforce now freelances, Hamzian says 56 million people are all running businesses, creating media, making products, gaining mass followings — and doing it all from inefficient, outdated locations.

That number, he says, is expected to grow to 87 million by 2030.

Enter VEL, a utopian workspace/café engineered to give individuals and groups dynamic and adaptable ways to gather, work, meet and unwind.

The first VEL opened in August at 1508 Bull St., at the bottom of The Matadora, one of Savannah’s newest luxury apartment buildings.

Hamzian describes VEL as the love child between Starbucks and WeWork, the global provider of flexible workspaces founded in 2010. Individuals or teams can walk in, grab a high-tech ergonomical space, order a great cup of coffee from a robot, tap into fast WiFi and get right to work.

Hamzian cofounded VEL — short for “Velocity” — with Jack Gunn, a former partner with the independent investment firm Veritable LP. 

The reference to speed in the name is intentional, as their goal for the past two years has been to create frictionless, functional workspace environments where individuals can get work done as quickly as possible, so they can get on with living.

“I believe all human beings in the workplace are requiring a demanding forward momentum,” says CEO Hamzian. “Today’s work is about having a high degree of flexibility. VEL is a reimagination of how and where good work gets done.”

The flexibility at VEL starts with the meticulously engineered workstations.

For $2, $4, $10 or $20 an hour, an individual can grab the exact space they need — whether it’s a standing desk, a hydraulic chair (which, Hamzian says offers great comfort for the spine all the while making you feel like a 13-year-old), comfy nest seats with great acoustics, lighting and built-in privacy, or even more enclosed pods.

Hamzian suggests the mono and duo privacy pods for Zoom meetings, if you have to record a webinar or podcast or if you’re interviewing someone.

For an additional $10 monthly fee, you can access an app that offers enriched features, like advanced reservations and preferred pricing.

“Today’s work is about having a high degree of flexibility. VEL is a reimagination of how and where good work gets done.” – Mo Hamzian, CEO of VEL

One of VEL’s real perks, Hamzian highlights, is the café. Beyond the premium teas, coffees and espressos that you can order from Iris — a robot that comes right to you — is a selection of signature beverages like the Free Drive, with espresso, honey, lavender and performance mushroom blend, or the Fresh Focus, a concoction of crushed beet, strawberry, acai, apple cider and natural caffeine energy boost. 

Need a snack? Then have Iris fetch you a croissant, Danish or pastry with high-quality ingredients that rivals the offerings of Savannah’s other fine establishments like Perry Lane Hotel or The Thompson Savannah, Hamzian says.

Savannah’s VEL is the first of several locations that Hamzian and Gunn are slated to open. Soon to follow are other mid-sized markets like Charlotte, Nashville, Charleston and Boston. Although they are excited Savannah came first.

“We love everything that Savannah stands for,” Hamzian says. “It sits at this interesting intersection of classic arts and music; it’s forward-thinking with an air of grace and elegance. It has SCAD, which adds an interesting dimension. It has good tourist flow, and we wanted to be in a very strong, fast-growing secondary market.”

“I’ve worked out of coffee shops my whole life,” Hamzian admits. Therein lies his excitement in offering these “modcons” — or modern conveniences — to individuals and working groups who come to this high-tech space.

“Experience is everything,” he says. “We’ve considered every detail required to help our customer reach their flow state, work flexibly and get twice as much done in half the time, so that, hopefully, they can spend less time working — and make even more money.”