In 2000, I was tasked with researching and developing a business plan for an executive office suite concept by the commercial developers at Two International Group in Portsmouth, NH. Fresh off of a three-year stint in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, where executive suites were a popular concept, I was drawn to the idea. I worked on the plan for almost a year, before the project was scrapped. However, I couldn’t let go that easily — the idea had merit, there was clearly a demand and the entrepreneur within me was hooked. So I did as any entrepreneur would, I grabbed the business plan off the cutting room floor, gathered some investors and made the vision a reality.
oHive’s First Name: International Office Suites
One of the first things I had to do from my office at Pease International Tradeport, a business community located in Portsmouth, NH, was to build consensus on a name for our executive office suite concept. My research had focused on office suites in South Asia, Western Europe and Silicon Valley, which commonly used terms like Executive Centers, Executive Suites, Office Business Centers and Office Suites as descriptors in their names. We went through name after name. The process seemed futile, until one day I stared out my office window at Two International Drive, looking at signs for Pease International Tradeport and International Avenue while holding a business plan titled “International Research for Office Suites” that had been commissioned by Two International Group. Clearly the universe was trying to tell me something involving the word “international,” so I presented the name International Office Suites to our team and it prevailed.
International Office Suites was wildly successful. We sold out of our initial 30 offices in three months and quickly built out another 30 offices. By year two, we were looking at office space in downtown Portsmouth. We were clearly satisfying a need in the office market. Shared amenities including administrative and reception support, fax machines, copy machines, internet and IT support, conference rooms and the real differentiator — flexible lease terms — made us an overnight success. International Office Suites was a novel concept in a traditionally inflexible commercial office world where 3,000-square-foot minimums and five-year leases were the norm.
Not being fans of complacency, our team kept busy — voraciously consuming industry news and attending industry conferences like those put on by Office Business Center Association International (OBCAI) and other organizations. Doing so helped International Office Suites successfully ride out the bursting of the tech bubble, while others, like the largest international player, HQ/Regus Office Suites, were hit hard, declaring bankruptcy.
oHive’s Second Name: IOS Business Centers
As awareness of the executive suite concept increased, OBCAI put out a report indicating that the most recognizable term in the United States for commercial office space that included flexible terms and amenities was the term “Business Center,” though internationally the best-known term was still “Office Suite.” Additionally, at the time, search engines were becoming more influential in finding products and services. Those of us using the term “office suite” as part of our name found competition outside, as well as inside, our industry. We simply couldn’t outrank search terms like the Microsoft Office Suite.
As our growing company looked ahead to a move from 2 International Avenue to 1 New Hampshire Avenue and the grand opening of a downtown Portsmouth location, the need for a name change was also driven by additional several factors:
- Evolving industry terminology (more searches for “business center” than “office suites”)
- Search engine technology replacing Yellow Pages/classifieds as our top source of leads
- Negative connotations surrounding the international collapse of HQ/Regus Office Suites.
We once again found ourselves hitting our heads against a wall trying to find that “creative and perfect” new name for International Office Suites, and decided that if we could not find something creative we would select a name that retained as much brand equity as possible. We settled on the acronym everyone had been calling International Office Suites for years, IOS, and simply added the new industry norm “Business Centers” to it. Since our signage already said IOS and very few people even knew what it stood for, the subtle name change we implemented in 2005 essentially went unnoticed.
How oHive Got Its Name
Over the next 13 years, IOS Business Centers grew from its original 8,000 square feet to over 50,000 square feet of office space within our two locations. The office suite industry also underwent changes. It was impacted by another bubble burst in 2009 and the advent of search engines usurping the Yellow Pages and classifieds as the way to list commercial office space. Even OBCAI, our industry association, changed its name to AllWork. The biggest change to the industry was the creation of co-working spaces. In 2010, IOS Business Centers opened the first co-working space in New Hampshire. After experimenting with our large open office spaces, allowing unconnected businesses to be “roommates” within them, we realized we had something. It was so well received, we built a dedicated co-working space. The space included hot desks (daily desk rentals) and permanent desks (monthly desk rentals). We called our co-working space the Zip Lounge and we have been evolving it ever since.
As the industry changed, IOS Business Centers and Zip Lounge thrived. We kept evolving and stayed on top of industry trends. However, with the innovation of collaborative workspaces came a new trend in naming. The innovators strayed away from industry naming norms, like we had with the name Zip Lounge, and names like Grind, WeWork and IdeaSpace were now permeating the market. Despite our success in evolving internally, we realized that the name itself held us back from being seen externally as a modern collaborative workspace. Zip Lounge, though on the right track, was still just a sub-brand of the now dated IOS Business Center. Not to mention the search competition brought on by Apple’s iOS operating system, which just so happens to power every iPhone and iPad in the world.
Knowing the daunting task ahead, realizing that naming was not a core competency and acknowledging that we had three strikes against us, we tapped out. We enlisted the help of the branding experts at Vital, a digital marketing agency we had grown in our space and I had invested in along the way. Vital took the IOS Business Centers’ team through a formal naming and branding process. We set a goal to find a name that reflected a place where collaboration, community and support would thrive. It also needed to be a name that could grow beyond the walls of Portsmouth and New Hampshire, should we decide to expand. The name we ultimately selected was oHive.
Why oHive? We felt oHive met our goal for the following reasons. The word “hive” represents a community of hardworking and industrious beings working together to create incredible things that are sweet (the honey), strong (the hive) and, most important, valuable. Combining the word hive with the prefix “o” like adding an “e” or an “i,” indicates a modern organization associated with the web and the trappings of a modern business. But specifically, in this case, the letter “o” alludes to the word “office” or “office environment,” which fit perfectly with our concept. The fact that we could own the five-letter .com URL, oHive.com, was icing on the cake.
There is no doubt that co-working spaces and office suites go together like coffee and bagels. Business centers that blend these offerings such as WeWork, GrindSpace, WorkBar, ThinkSpace and oHive are dominating the marketplace. Years from now, these spaces will be as familiar to us as office parks and strip malls.