Innovation and enterprise blog

21 November 2016

Co-working spaces - the ideal place to do business

Co-working has grown as a flexible and collaborative working space and environment for start-ups, freelancers and even large businesses. And it is predicted that this will be the norm for the next generation of entrepreneurs, workers and the future of how we work and grow businesses.   

Example of the Modern Home office, with following items: Notebook, Laptop and phone, with a cup of coffee on the sideAs well as being good for  all types of growing and mature businesses co-working hubs are also a viable business model in itself for entrepreneurs and local councils. Revenue comes from memberships or pay-as-you-go fees. Membership terms and conditions can be flexible, such as the number of days or months you buy.

Hubs can host individual working spaces, hot-desking, meeting rooms, cafes, business incubators, informal libraries, and artist galleries. As well as leisure activities such as table football or table tennis spaces. There are often networking and training events too. This article in The Guardian newspaper covers some of the main players and some key financials showing the size of the industry, ‘Where start-up lead, corporates follow – why co-working is the future?’.

Some commentators have compared the growth in co-working spaces to the rise in coffee houses of the 17th and 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment. This also heralded a time where ideas became easier to exchange, travel and adopt. Being an entrepreneur is often a lonely experience, especially at the start. But in these new spaces, start-ups have an opportunity to meet, network, and collaborate with complimentary and like-minded businesses. It is easier for open innovation to happen in this ecosystem, and it is one of the reasons tech developers are so keen to set up in this environment.       

A paining in reference to the interior of a London Coffee house, 17th_century

Example of an early coffee house in London

Co-Work Hub is a flexible workspace company that is currently on our Innovating for Growth programme.  They offer hot-desking, quality offices or virtual office facilities, including a gym and breakout areas. Another example is The Workary, who has set up community working spaces in public libraries. We frequently get asked if the Business & IP Centre meeting rooms are for hire and our Orange Room is now available for hire for appropriate business meetings. Interestingly, Vrumi is an app where you can offer or look for homes for non-traditional spaces for flexible working.  It is well documented that the future of workspaces is changing and this is an example of the possibilities and opportunities.

 Co-Work Hub’s TEDx video

We do have a small area in our networking area in the Centre that can be used for informal working for small groups of people. Occasionally we use this space for our own events and therefore it is not available, so please check in advance. You can also use the public areas on the British Library for informal meetings with a difference.

Business & IP Centre attendees networking with other in the networking area

Business & IP Centre networking area

Some local councils have made a concerted effort to help co-working spaces develop.  Luckily, in my neighbourhood in London, there is a new business hub called Central Parade near a busy high street and market.  It is not only a place for flexible co-working, but businesses can also apply for a shop space on a six months basis to test opportunities in the local market.

I have been in touch with bridal wear business Pour L’Amour, who has said that there were several benefits for using the space. Business owner Paula explained the advantages to me; “short let subsidised shop to test the water going forwards; launching a business in this location I would have not been able to afforded a prime site like this otherwise; and great not to have to worry about the everyday running of the space such as utilities, as everything is managed”. There have also been direct results in gaining new customers with this exposure to a vibrant local community.

Paula Moore, Business owner of Pour L’Amour at Central Parade London

Paula Moore at Pour L’Amour at Central Parade London

Co-working is happening in quite a few countries across the globe too with definite increases in spaces in Western Countries as well as emerging markets such as India, Kenya, Panama, and Japan etc.  Not only is it changing where we work, it is changing how we work, who we work with and how our businesses develop. There are many reasons to give it a try!   

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre