Procurement · 28 September 2018

Part of the Club: How Workspace is building a loyal community of entrepreneurs

Workspace’s Kennington Park site houses everyone from fashion brands and architects to tech startups

Business Advice visited Workspace’s network of co-working venues across London for a day to find out why working within a community of like-minded entrepreneurs beats the bedroom gig, and what sets Workspace apart in an increasingly competitive market.

In bedrooms and spare rooms across Britain, demand among micro enterprises for sociable and high-spec working spaces is increasing. Rapidly.

In London alone, 2.5m square feet was leased by flexible workspace providers in 2017 – a 190% increase in just one year. The rise and rise of co-working has seen London overtake the likes of New York City as the global capital of flexible office space. Other UK cities also increased their share of leases last year, as the business world adapts to new ways of working.

Why co-working?

So what brought about this working culture shift, and what are entrepreneurs looking for?

According to one study, networking opportunities are the driving factor for over a third of entrepreneurs looking for a co-working space, with separate research finding that almost two-thirds of already co-working business owners regularly socialise with other members. Although individuals are usually more productive working alone, some find it isolating and lacking in creative stimulation.

Club Workspace

• Network of 20 co-working sites
• Monthly membership
• Business-grade WiFi and high-spec meeting rooms
• 4 different cost packages

Business-grade facilities are another deal-breaker. “A lot of people are looking to get out of their home and work in a more professional environment,” Lisa Carroll, who heads up the Club co-working network at business space provider Workspace, told us.

Although demand is growing, so is the choice for entrepreneurs. Competing for a share of the co-working boom, Workspace is servicing around 4,000 of London’s micro enterprises with offices, meeting rooms and a chain of dedicated co-working environments.

“The reality is, co-working is a busy market now,” Carroll added, explaining that customers – whether it’s a startup team or a freelancer – are always raising their expectations of what their working environment can do for them.

Club Workspace, Quality Court, Chancery Lane

As the data suggests, networking is “high on the list” of new members’ demands, so Workspace aims to facilitate introductions with other members who could create additional business. For a new company finding its feet, a chance meeting with a future co-founder, or even a new supplier, can mark a significant turning point.

Staying in tune with the needs of a startup company is central to maintaining a loyalty community, and Workspace hosts regular events for its members, from bookkeeping basics to expansion advice. Carroll emphasised the importance of these “intangibles”.

“Have they met somebody, are they getting value out of our events?”

“You cannot just have a room with four walls anymore,” she added. “When people pay money every month they expect value in return. There is no value in a room with WiFi – everybody has that at home. Anybody can work at home, but what they get when they come into Club is the additional value proposition, whether it’s meeting other people who could support business growth or partnering with other businesses.”

Making the step into a co-working space is as important as knowing when it’s time to upscale, and the Workspace model is designed to create a pathway for members to grow their company.

The company expects the typical lifetime for a Club member to be around 12 to 18 months, but to demonstrate how Workspace supports the full business lifecycle, Carroll explained how one Club resident at Kennington Park came in alone, eventually met a business partner and now manages 17 employees in a larger office.

View from the entrepreneur

Ollie Forsyth, founder of The Budding Entrepreneur Club (TBE), a subscription network connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and investors, was on hand to discuss how Workspace matched up to the wider market.

When we sat down with Forsyth, he and his business partner had been at Club for just ten days, after spending two years in a bigger co-working space, but the founder had already identified some positive differences.

Club Workspace, Metal Box Factory

“There was no community there. That’s a really big thing. For us, it’s all about community,” he told us.

Having shopped around for a new space to run his business, which has over 20,000 members, Forsyth noticed that each of the “big players” were failing to offer the right fit. The founder wanted natural light, good facilities and strong evidence of a dynamic community.

Forsyth began selling online at the age of 13, and launched his first business, an online magazine for entrepreneurs, from his bedroom and grew the readership to 50,000 in its first year. His latest venture sits right at home in the community of a co-working space.

“All an entrepreneur really needs is somewhere to work. And cash.”

Forysth also understands the pain-points of a new business. “It’s really hard to start a business,” he noted. “If you come to co-working spaces like this, there are people who can help you. You’ve just got to find them.”

As a serial entrepreneur with big ambitions for his company, does Forsyth see Workspace as somewhere that his business can scale? To him, the key benefit of the Club is its simplicity. The pathway is also clear – arrive as a hot-desking newcomer, and progress to a team of ten renting a private room.

Workspace alumni

• Citymapper
• Paymentsense
• White Stuff
• Nutmeg
• Mozilla
• Joseph Joseph

Location

For London-based companies, Old Street’s “Silicon Roundabout” and Shoreditch High Street are the obvious startup hotspots, but high rents and demand are taking entrepreneurs to each corner of the city. By the time the “Elizabeth Line” opens in late-2019, the business compass could move even more.

Although it pays to look outside of the most popular areas, location is still important when seeking out a co-working space. Workspace’s universal club memberships allow entrepreneurs to work from Chiswick one day and Wood Green the next, each location with a unique character but retaining the same core values – a community-driven, high-spec business environment.

The future of working?

With one in five London offices now owned by a flexible workspace provider, and demand intensifying across the UK, co-working is leaving the traditional office set-up in its wake. A culture of innovation and community is something entrepreneurs aren’t willing to overlook.

Vauxhall’s China Works dates back to the 1800’s and was built as Royal Doulton’s principal office

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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