by Emily Olson
When COVID-19 was detected in the U.S., many industries were shaken, but remained able to conduct business remotely. The tradeshow and live events market, however, did not have that opportunity as everything was turned off up and down the events supply chain. This left Highmark TechSystems, a supplier of modular systems for indoor and outdoor structures and architecture used at events, without its primary customer base, which includes designers and producers of exhibits and events. If not for the quick thinking of YOURspace co-founders David Faust (pictured right) and Debbie Parrott, Highmark could have become a COVID casualty.
Two months after the pandemic hit, Faust approached Parrott, owner and CEO of Highmark, with an idea. He imagined parents and children working and learning from home—perhaps with a couple of pets and maybe a toddler underfoot—and desperate for some privacy and quiet so they could focus. What if they could create an aesthetically pleasing structure that allowed for privacy and productivity and could be quickly and easily set up in the home? Parrott was immediately intrigued by the idea, certain that these structures could be built using Highmark’s exhibit system components, and YOURspace was born as a pivot pursuit for Highmark.
With more than 20 years of creating structures that can be set up, reconfigured and dismantled quickly, and a vast inventory of its proprietary modular systems and components readily in stock, Highmark was the perfect partner to design and manufacture YOURspace office pods. “YOURspace modular office solutions are an ideal use of Highmark’s proven extrusion-based systems technology,” says Parrott (pictured left). Because a significant part of what Highmark offers the event marketplace is a rental option for their exhibit structure needs, the company went into the pandemic with extensive new and freshly refurbished rental components on the shelf. This made prototyping, finished product development and the market launch of YOURspace incredibly fast.
YOURspace pods look a lot like a standalone office break room. The company offers eight pre-designed options, but the pods are fully customizable. They offer significant design flexibility because of their modularity. They can be made in a variety of interior and exterior finishes intended to match an existing decor or brand. They can be designed with or without windows, depending on privacy needs, and are ADA compliant and lockable. They can be created to fit inside a crowded family home or a bustling office space. They can be made for one person or many and can be expanded or contracted depending on the user’s needs. And YOURspace even offers the options of interior white boards, additional sound dampening and wall mounted desks and shelves, as well as specialized kits for specific uses such as gaming or sensory space.
The office pods quickly gained popularity for home use, but as the pandemic lingered and families, companies, and schools began thinking of ways to embrace their new normal, YOURspace has proved itself useful outside of the home. For example, the open floor plan that was embraced by office designers for the last couple of decades had been losing popularity even before the pandemic’s health and safety demands made it obsolete. Rather than take on the burden of astronomical renovation costs—particularly when revenue streams were drying up—companies purchased or rented office pods to keep employees socially distant as they returned to work. “Organizations seek solutions that fall somewhere between architecture and furniture to achieve flexible, changeable workstations that allow for activity-based collaboration and independent work,” explains Parrott.
YOURspace has been in operation for more than a year and has found a variety of applications beyond office space in a variety of markets. YOURspace pods can serve as teaching space in schools and universities, gaming pods, sensory pods or even pop-up retail. They offer privacy and productivity not only in the corporate world and residential settings, but also in public settings, such as airports, libraries and event spaces.
Given YOURspace’s roots in Highmark technology, it’s not surprising that the tradeshow industry has become a natural home for the pods. Because they can hold more than one person, the pods provide an alternative to renting break-out rooms for meetings and private space for impromptu conversations. The pods also solve the traditional tradeshow problem that there’s nowhere to take a phone call or conduct a conference call amidst the hustle and bustle of a convention. “Instead of people lining up in the hallway, straining to hear the person on the other end of the line, the pods can act like an old school phone booth!” says Parrott. They also provide an obvious sponsorship opportunity—they can easily be branded inside and outside by companies or associations that want to rent a pod and provide a useful service for tradeshow attendees.
When the events industry shut down for a year and a half, companies like Highmark had to get creative and innovative in order to survive. “Thankfully for Highmark, innovation is in our DNA,” says Parrott.
“It really has been an impressive and fun challenge,” she continues. “While it has leveraged the many strengths of Highmark’s team, it has also stretched us in positive ways, making us realize that our products have legs beyond the events space.”
For more info, visit www.yourspaceinc.com
This story originally appeared in the Q1 2022 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 42. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_Q1_2022