One popular amenity at the Cooperative Venture Workspace is the adaptability of the four conference rooms, in particular the ability to create two of the conference rooms into what is know as “the boardroom.”

Ask Steve Oates how he likes using the boardroom, and he’ll tell you: “It’s great.”

Steve is an associate broker with the Bean Group of Portsmouth, and he is a co-founding member of the Coastal Business Alliance in Portsmouth. The group, which right now numbers 14, meets Wednesday mornings in the boardroom at the Workspace.

The Coastal Business Alliance describes itself as a “ non-fee, member based networking group … made up of select local business owners, top professionals and emerging entrepreneurs. One representative per profession is represented in the group.”

Its mission, according to Steve, is to collectively work as a group to help promote and support fellow CBA members. It is similar to a BNI organization – shorthand for Business Network International (BNI), which is an American franchised networking organization with around 200,000 members in 7,500 local chapters worldwide.

Oates and a friend had attended a couple of BNI meetings in the region, and wondered if they could create their own local referral organization but without the fees and some of the other rules that guide franchised BNIs.

Started about just over a year ago, they originally met in a coffeehouse, then Oates came to the Workshop for one of its events, saw and liked the space, and signed on to use the boardroom once a week.

“I wanted a more professional feeling. I really like the boardroom’s feel,” he said.

Each of the meetings — held between 7:30 and 9 a.m. — features a quick intro by each attending member. Then one of the members will talk in more detail about who they are and what they do. “And it’s a good chance for people to get feedback,” said Steve.

Often, common issues are discussed among the entire group or in one-on-one conversations in the Workspace’s cafe. “Sometimes it’s good to have an extra set of eyes on an issue,” said Steve.

He also appreciates the group’s ability to rely on each other’s referral’s. For example, as a real estate broker, he often needs people associated with homeowner’s insurance or a mortgage. “Really, it’s just great to have a team you trust,” he said.

The Workspace’s boardroom gives the alliance exposure to the thriving entrepreneurial energy of downtown Portsmouth. “It’s comfortable and it gives us some visibility,” he said.

Individuals interested in the alliance can contact Steve at