Co-working spaces aren’t just for tech start-ups in big cities. Shared working spaces are opening all over the country. From in-house support to networking opportunities, businesses across all industries are reaping the benefits.
Here’s how co-working unleashed one Westport sole trader’s potential for growth over six months — and how it might help you.
EPIC Westport opened its doors last May. Now, it’s home to more than 30 diverse tenants, from sole traders and start-ups to well-established companies across a range of industries.
The West Coast co-working space is a satellite of EPIC Christchurch, but it’s been set up and designed to meet local needs. For the population of 4,000, it’s become a hub for collaborations and knowledge sharing.
“You should have a desire to be a part of a community and to be around friendly, like-minded people,” says founder of EPIC Westport, Natasha Barnes Dellaca. She believes shared working spaces are for everyone.
Shared working spaces offer a wealth of benefits you or your business wouldn’t find working at home or by leasing a more traditional office space.
Many of the EPIC tenants are sole traders, freelancers or small companies who use the space to intermingle and learn from each other.
“We want to have a big mix of different kinds of businesses,” says Barnes Dellaca. “The older companies can impart wisdom and advice, and they can also feed off the energy of the younger start-ups.”
Co-working creates more opportunities by expanding your network and working with other businesses. “It’s about day-to-day collaborations,” Barnes Dellaca says. “A lot of problem solving happens together.”
Several EPIC tenants have also collaborated more formally, including three businesses that have teamed up to form one company.
Most co-working spaces also provide business coaching, mentoring and support.
EPIC runs Co.Starters, a programme Barnes Dellaca describes as a “lean start-up course with the jargon stripped out”.
So far, 26 businesses have been through the Westport programme. About half of the participants have been technology start-ups or online sales businesses, while the rest have come from a range of fields including an auto mechanic and a horticulturalist.
Most co-working spaces offer several membership options, including access to desks on demand and more permanent set-ups and enclosed offices.
EPIC Westport and many others are open around the clock for more permanent members who need to burn the midnight oil. Some also offer distribution spaces and support, or help with IT and admin tasks.
Co-working spaces aren’t always the cheapest option.
A space in EPIC is more expensive than a typical commercial lease in Westport. But fees cover high-speed internet and other operating costs. EPIC also doesn’t lock their tenants into any contracts.
“A business can come in, set up their laptop and start going. We have really streamlined processes so people can focus on their work,” Barnes-Dellaca says.
For 12 years, Emily Miazga managed to grow Em’s Power Cookies alone from her rural home outside Westport. After spending a year on a major rebrand, Miazga found herself at a turning point. The rebrand was necessary to push her business to the next level, but she was exhausted and didn’t know what to do next.
“I was disillusioned, in major debt and ready to walk away,” Miazga says. “I needed courage to jump in fully, but there wasn’t enough money in the business.”
When she was invited to speak at an event hosted at the EPIC Westport co-working space, she discovered a new way of working. “I walked in and immediately thought it was a really cool, comfortable and welcoming place.”
Miazga started hot-desking at EPIC, a term to describe renting out a desk on an as-needed basis. “It’s completely changed my business,” she says.
Miazga immediately became much more efficient than when she worked from home. The EPIC team and her new co-workers also introduced her to important connections and practices that took her business to new heights. In her first six months at EPIC, Miazga was invited to join the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Path to Market programme, ran a successful crowdfunding project and gained interest from investors.
Em’s Power Cookies has since grown to a team of three, including Miazga’s husband, who works as a full-time sales rep, and a part-time administrator, who also supports another business in EPIC.
Her team administers online and retailer orders from EPIC. Their distribution network supplies their product to supermarkets, petrol stations and sports retailers throughout New Zealand.
“To be honest, co-working helped save my business,” Miazga says. “I’ve had time and support to put systems and structures in place, and I’m poised to fulfill my mission to become a household name.”
How NZTE can help: Understanding your customers (external link) — New Zealand Trade and Enterprise