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…. and interview with Amber Holmes on Co-working Spaces

Bev Friend – President Melbourne Business Network & Director Friend

Corp People | Performance | Profits

Whether you’re a solopreneur, a homepreneur or mumpreneur….working on your own either creating a new business or growing your business into an empire, isolation can be crippling. When you work for a company, large or small, some of the things that drive you to ‘jump ship’ and ‘go it alone’, can end up being those things you miss the most. Chatting in the tearoom, sharing ideas, the commute to work to wind-up and wind-down, or just having a photocopier that works!

Trying to continue to be motivated each day and not submit yourself to the ever present distractions….I know this too well, my office overlooks the first fairway on the golf course. There seems to always be something to take your mind away from exactly what you should be doing…where has that power of focus gone? Where’s that drive and enthusiasm.

Many solo operators have combated this with co-working spaces. I asked Amber Holmes – General Manager at ‘The Cluster’ in Melbourne how these spaces can really impact on the outputs that can be achieved.

Q: How long has The Cluster been operating?

A: Melbourne’s best kept secret… almost 4 years.

It grew quite organically at the start and remained 100% full through word of mouth. Last September we opened our second office (our flagship space) that is 1000m2 and looking at our third!

Q: What are some of the other shared working spaces in the CBD?

A: The best thing about Co-working is there are multiple spaces that all differ slightly, so this allows us to work together in a true spirit of collaboration!

  • There are quite a few shared working spaces in Melbourne and offer different things for different needs and purposes, so often a member is better suited to another space so we will refer them across! Some of them are –
  • The Hub – Bourke St – Social Enterprise
  • Queens Collective – Tech start up and education
  • Inspire9 – For creative and events
  • Team Square (that started though the Cluster!)
  • Blue Chilli – a start-up accelerator that was with us for six months has just opened their own style of Co-working office to educate, assist and aid start up through their specific program!

Q. What do your co-workers say about working in this space?

A: Thank you…

Thank you for providing the technology, the IT assistance, the receptionists, the meeting rooms, the inspiring space, the coffee, the brilliant minds and the casual events to bring us together.

Thank you for listening to our feedback and adding the little things like phone booths, break out spaces, natural lighting, stand up desks etc.

Thank you because I get all of these benefits and don’t have to lift a finger – I can focus on making my business grow.

Q. What happens when their business grows?

A: That is the BEST thing about co-working! We cater for them! Here’s two great examples-

1 – Imagine a team has just had a big project dropped in their lap and they need to expand their team for six weeks or bring in some contractors.  No Problem! We have a flexi area that caters for that so they are only paying for the added office space for the short time they need it. So this remains incredibly cost effective for the business.

2- Matt from Mexia is a software integration platform and Matt is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met with a killer smile to match!  He joined in October 2011.

– Matt started with two people at our original office and grew into a private office of six.

When we opened our new office we purpose built one for him with nine desks.  Well, we have just knocked down a glass wall between this office and the one next to him so he can acquire another four desks.  He has 58 staff across BNE & Melbourne and is looking for about 20 desks in the open space on our next floor.

– Matt and his team stay because …

a) There is a ready-made culture for his team and they love being a part of that!
b) Location- being in the city makes it easy for his entire team and clients
c) They can consume the right amount of desk/office/meeting room space as they need, when they need it without having to over-invest in their own office space.

Q. Are there any major success stories that have come from The Cluster’s space?

A: Just this month KFIT – Online Fitness Pass with origins in Asia – just raised $3.25mil Started with one person at The Cluster and has just moved into a eight person office.

Trust Pilot – e-Commerce Review platform from Amsterdam – just raised $73.5 mil – also started with two people and are looking at a 30 person office on our next floor.

Palantir – software for government and Wall Street – have just raised $50mil and their new valuation is $20Billion – based out of Silicon Valley – who

knows what’s next! … and these are just the guys who have made it in the news.

Q. Have there been any studies that you know of that have shown real data on the impact benefits of working in a shared space, compared to that of

working in isolation?

A: There are two major studies out there – DeskMag and StartUp Muster, but more being done this year than ever as government and investors are seeing the value in co-working – both for the community and as a growth tool for small businesses. Some research shows –

64% of co-workers are better able to finish tasks on time
62% say their standard of work had improved in a co-working space (both of these are simply due to the people around you).
71% report a boost in creativity since joining a co-working space. This isn’t only due to the multiple backgrounds of people challenging the way you think but also the space where you can work from multiple locations, multiple views and in multiple situations like stand up desks and on cycle bikes!
75% Co-workers expect to see an increase in their earnings
66% Expect to see an increase in workload.

Q. Have you seen any collaborative businesses grow that may otherwise not have?

A: Absolutely – this, at the heart of it all, is the real reason everyone leaves the solitude of their home to join co-working. Walking into a co-working space

is like walking into a space with 70 mentors that can guide you through the bumps & challenges that every business has.

Co-working also has a natural ability to have ideas and people collide and this is apparent in the many successful side businesses that occur by chatting to others in the space. Nathan of Point Advisory (high quality renders for proposed development) was sitting next to Rupert of ‘One Fat Sheep’ – a digital agency.  A few months later they produced a Virtual reality/ Augmented reality app whereby you can enter these drawings via your phone and see them from the inside, the foundations, the electrics, the plumbing etc! Exciting and Amazing.