Last week I gave a presentation on where the HUB is at and where we are going. We are doing a few of these to let people know what we’re up to. If you think you have a good venue for us to present, drop Tim a line at email@example.com . If you want to get caught up yourself, you can see a video of the presentation here:
There were about 10 people, half of whom worked for government agencies, one from a chamber of commerce, one from NSCC and a couple of community change leaders. This was not a pitch for funding (we just don’t seem to fit most of the boxes), it was an exploration of what partnership might look like. There was a lot of curiosity in the room as we went round the table to do introductions. The presentation was well received and people were excited about what we were up to. We are now exploring partnerships with Mash Up Lab and Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre around events and talking to Economic Rural Development and Tourism about some specific support for the expansion. We also got some really interesting feedback which I’ll share here:
There’s a tension between us being a for profit business and an entity that has positive social and economic impact. People want to partner and invest because of the social impact but feel weird about it because it goes towards building our profit based business. We don’t have an answer but it keeps coming up from lots of different angles. All the money made in the business so far has been re-invested but we do feel like we are moving towards a model that will make us a modest income in exchange for all the work we have put in. We have felt since the beginning that if we are to set up a space for entrepreneurs it has to be entrepreneurial in nature - therefore we ruled out a non-profit or charitable route.
As we expand onto main street we need to think about how we engage the main stream - town council, chamber of commerce, tourism, festivals etc There was big call for us to turn up in places of local decision making and influence to share what we are up to and be a voice for change. We talk about this a lot and the only way it does not feel like a burden is when it is serving our members and our businesses. We have to figure out a way in which our participation in some of these bodies would be a benefit to our businesses and our members' businesses. We are scheduled to speak to Mahone Bay Town Council to share our direction, we are hosting a focus group with our members for the local Economic Development Committee and plan to present to the Chamber of Commerce in the coming months. We know that if we remain a silo of activity and learning we are part of the problem - so we have to figure it out.
If we are modelling being progressive - how is that shown in our energy use and governing structure? Great feedback on how our energy sources could be more green, how we could shift our governance towards a more participatory or co-operative model. There is lots to explore here and we are excited to do it. The main thing we need is time and capacity to figure these things out. We do tend to follow the simplest route available because all three of us are so busy with families and our already existing businesses.
It felt like a great conversation and has spurred me on to want to do more. Check out the video if you want some more details on what we’re up to. We welcome your opinion on where we are going if you’re ready to act on it!
As we prepare to move into our awesome new space we are faced with several exciting financial challenges, and figuring it out is a lot of fun.
- How do we prioritise our budget?
- How do we increase our budget?
- Do we increase membership fees?
- Do we change the membership model?
- oh, and a hundred others…
Increasing the budget beyond that is not easy, yet again we seem to find ourselves out of reach for any government funding, and to be honest we are quite proud of the fact that we have built this business on our own steam and membership fees.
So the next option is to increase membership fees. Well that is not as easy as you might think. Firstly we always want to be value for money, not just in the sense that we offer cheaper space than other places, but we always want to make sure that members are getting awesome ‘other’ benefits from being a member, such as meeting space, events and programming. Are we suddenly the best co-working space in the world just because we move house? No we are not. We are definitely going to offer a better service, but price changes have to be aligned with not only our increase in rent but also our increase in awesomeness.
There is also a lot of strategy to price changes, it may look like we just like all of our prices having a 9 in them, but there is more to it that that. We realised that we never have drop ins for the day, so we are reverting to a new hourly rate. We feel that with our new social area and kitchen we can now attract people in for a quick hit of Hubness and a coffee. But, that price then affects the 1 day a week rate, we have to make sure that people are not cheaper just paying by the hour than taking out a membership. There is absolutely no denying this model works because of recurring memberships. There is no way we could do this without a clear idea of how much we are taking in each month.
Therefore the new hourly rate led us to remove the one day membership and revert to a part-time/full-time model. Going forward we will have a 2 day (part-time) membership and a 5 day (full-time) membership. Full-time will have the flexibility to choose if you have a permanent desk or a locker where you can put your stuff at night. We also decided to remove the clip card option mainly because it is problematic to manage, but also because again in impacts on our new hourly rate. So here are our new rates effective April 1st.
To anyone interested in opening a co-working space I would definitely say stay flexible. This will be our 3rd or 4th iteration and in 3 months we will probably change again. You have to listen to your members while having some imagination and courage to change something that already works. And it definitely helps having someone like Matt who keeps me grounded when I want to have 15 different memberships to suit everyone. Know who you are and know who your customers are!
So after all of that we still don’t know how we are going to afford new chairs, it seems a chair in Canada is more expensive than buying a new home. Hailey will figure it all out though and it definitely is a case of Sofa so good.
The pictures speak for themselves. The freshly sanded floors are looking awesome, and Hailey has found the perfect sofa for the best little coworking space on the South Shore. But we’re in that (fun) phase where, for every problem you solve, three more appear. Next we need to figure out desks, and ethernet switches, and power sockets, and phone lines, and drywall, and security alarms, and, and, and…
Seriously, it’s looking awesome. If you’re patroniszing the pub, go and press your nose up to the windows downstairs.
Now since you ask, there are a few things we’d love input on:
PS Sorry for the punny title, I hope it doesn’t sit badly with you.