A friend of mine was recently over in Nova Scotia to do some filming for a webinar series we are working on. While having lunch she commented that people around here say a lot of negative things about the place they live. The way they introduce the place to people is to point out everything that is wrong or not working.
It got me thinking ... firstly it validated one of the things that I think is a problem with the way things are around here which is our attitude ... oops, there we go again ...
Okay. About turn.
This turned into a HUB blog post because I think the HUB is truly one of the places I go to get my positivity re-charged. In an economy that is struggling and province that is transforming around us I think having places to go where the future looks bright is important. I walk in the HUB and see people making it happen, not in a big grandiose change the world kind of of a way - but in a simple I am making it work living in Nova Scotia kind of a way. I think the majority of people who come to the HUB could choose to live in a big urban centre and make a lot more money. These are smart business people choosing quality of life for themselves and their families.
It is not that every time I go into the HUB I have a transformative conversation or a brilliant business idea (that does happen though) but just by being in there and feeling part of an industrious group of people it lifts my spirits. Gives me the momentum to continue making it work, taking risks and enjoying this place I live.
It's the simplest thing. When times get hard people turn to each other. That's why humans are so successful. The more we can create pockets of positivity in this province the more we'll have a chance of building a future we're proud of and place our kids will want to stay.
Hello! It's great to welcome you to our new website and our new brand. We feel like it reflects the new space, the growing membership and changing culture of HUB South Shore. The consistency of the new branding also extends across all our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and on our Youtube channel .
The website and brand have been created in collaboration with Meg Craig-Wiens from Skysail Brand . Meg is a HUB member and total gift to the community. Her designers eye, commitment to quality and patience with all three of our often very different opinions has been incredible.
The concept of the logo is that it is a container you can fill with your own meaning and passion , which is exactly like the purpose of our business! The decals on the windows mean that you look through the logo into the room - quite literally what you see through the HUB, is the HUB. It sounds simple - but it took us a while to get there.
The tag line "where the new economy works" speaks to what we think is an essential and hitherto largely invisible part of the local economy. When we started the HUB South Shore we thought it would be just the three of us sharing an office space but more and more people have kept joining. To the point where we have had to move, and since the relocation have added eight new members with more waiting in the wings.
It is quite remarkable to discover this whole network of small, progressive and courageous entrepreneurs that contribute to the local economy but have never been integrated into any economic strategy. This emerging new economy is not the silver bullet for our communities but we do believe it is an essential piece of the picture for what is going to keep our rural lives and livelihoods viable.
I can't leave this blog with out out a huge shout out to Hailey Thomson. Her incredible vision on the interior design for the renovation and her unfailing hard work in the space to get it done have been nothing short of superhuman. Throw in Matt and Dave's mighty efforts, often into the small hours and a host of volunteers coming in whenever they could and you get the ingredients that have made the magic of the new HUB South Shore on Main Street.
We hope you will be hearing some more from Hailey on this blog about the reno and her inspiration for interior design. For now, you can follow her on her own blog at Here nor There.
Enjoy the new website. It is an invitation to come in and enjoy the new space.
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!
One of the main struggles we have at The HUB is explaining to people that the main value proposition is not just a place to work, it is the community of like-minded people and the removal of that feeling of isolation.
All too often I hear “but I already have an office in my house!” Well I do too. I actually spent $10k renovating an incredible space when I first decided to become self employed. However did the cool space alone complete me? No: I was still missing the human interaction, the buddy sitting next to me who listens to my latest business idea which may well come to nothing, but none the less it’s critical to have that human interaction.
One lady even asked me “so am I just paying to share the same oxygen?” This initially riled me a bit, however on reflection this is actually a very important question. It’s one that as founders we should be asking ourselves all the time. We need to ensure that we are actually providing a service, whether that is space, Wi-Fi, events, community… However, part of the question lies with the members; what do they want it to be? Our first members café later this month will hopefully help us get some of those answers. Further than that, what does the community want it to be? We have a huge following of supporters which has not always translated to membership, so what is it the community needs from The HUB?
I previously tried to explain the difference between Community and co-working and this still rings true. However 6 months on I can now say with complete confidence The HUB is now an integral part of my business, it helps me generate new leads and business, it provides a support network of people who have my back as I manoeuver my way through the challenges and stresses of being self employed. But ultimately it’s where I come just to feel part of something, this sanctuary where everyone around me are just incredible people doing incredible things, I can think of no greater inspiration and environment to develop my business.
The new global Impact Hub website describes it like this: “Impact Hubs make up a global network of people, places, and programs that inspire, connect and catalyze impact.”
On the flip side, we have to appreciate that some people are not looking for these things and perhaps have no idea what I am rambling on about. But hey, that is what makes The HUB different from other co-working spaces, and perhaps some people just don’t get it.
Listen again…A few months ago journalist Zak Markan came to Mahone Bay to meet me and Matt. I listened to the interview again recently and it was nice to remember why we got into this in the first place.
You can listen to it again on CBC’s website, or below if available on your device:
There is a very clear distinction between what being a member of The HUB can offer you in comparison to a traditional co-working space. It’s that part you can’t put a price on, the part where people on the outside perhaps don’t understand because they have never been on the inside, it’s the community…
In Lean Startup we try to establish the value proposition for our customers, why would someone pay to become a member of The HUB South Shore? Well it’s that word again, community, and I’m going to prove to you that it’s real.
I look back to early October when Tim, Matt and I did our first video, I was a nervous wreck sitting beside these 2 awesome confident guys and I really felt like I did not belong there. Fast forward 6 months and I’m doing a live interview on Global TV. Where did this new found confidence come from? Well it comes from spending time with amazing like-minded people—people who teach me, challenge me, and ultimately motivate and inspire me.
But it doesn’t end there. I am now connected to skills that enable me to move my business forward and do great work in situations which were previously unavailable to me working in isolation. I can use Stephen and Katy at The Picture House for video, Zsofi’s company Tangerine Sky for amazing graphic design, I can collaborate in development work with Chris at Media Farm. I can enter into the type of contracts which were previously inaccessible to me. And if I’m feeling tired from all of that I have Jason over at Peak Performance Therapy for some strength training.
The community also spreads organically into our lives outside of work. My wife has set up a playgroup in the Mahone Bay Centre which is filled with kids connected through their parents to The HUB. Many of the families are becoming great friends and get together often. We also have Sunday night soccer, started by Tim for parents at the Waldorf School, but now full of HUB followers.
So if you are thinking of joining The HUB South Shore don’t think of this as just co-working. You will of course have an awesome space to work, after all this is what we are here for. However, the real value proposition is the community of smart progressive business people who will inspire you and support you, and you may just make some new friends along the way.
A couple of weeks ago CBC radio journalist Zak Markan came to Mahone Bay to meet me and the family, then we headed over to The HUB to chat to Matt about moving to the area, and starting up this project.
His piece aired on Monday morning, you can listen to it on CBC’s website.
Working from home might not be a viable alternative to showing up at the office in Halifax, especially if you’re easily distracted by kids, dogs, or your domestic to-do list. And your boss might have visions of you sitting there in your jammies with your feet up and the TV on. But not when she finds out you’re working at The HUB.
What do you get out of coworking?Sometimes you have to go to Halifax… Sometimes, you don’t.
At its most basic level, The HUB is a clean, bright, professional work space, but there’s more to it than that. There’s 40 Mbps Wi-Fi. There’s free caffeine and awesome office equipment. There’s a quiet spot for phone calls. And then there’s the community of other professionals, freelancers and entrepreneurs that make up Nova Scotia’s hidden economy.
Those other people aren’t a distraction, because they’re hard at work, just like you. They are busy running their businesses, delighting their clients, and changing their industries. They’re people you want to meet, and who want to meet you.
What do you save when you don’t drive to Halifax?
Poll for members: How essential is a photocopier?
I started letting my vision expand. I imagined us renovating the kitchen next door. A small, funky cafe moving into the space. The small breakout rooms becoming podcasting and multi media centres. We expand the co-working space into the room opposite because members are pouring in. The conference room down the corridor becomes part of the HUB as a meeting space, creative lab and workshop venue. We open up the entrance with the big stairs for the HUB and suddenly we are occupying the whole first floor. It is thriving hub of entrepreneurial activity, full of people building a resilient economy, and supporting each other making a good living doing work they love.
Here in Nova Scotia, that tired phrase rural economy brings to mind agriculture, forestry, fishing boats, and tourism — that last one is especially ‘in your face’ here in Mahone Bay. These are necessary engines — they provide jobs, practical skills, and a stream of visitors and artisans that the region would struggle without. Necessary — but are they enough?
What is rural?
Rural just means ‘not urban’, and the South Shore is certainly not urban — that’s one of the reasons many of us live here. But ‘rural’ also has strong parochial connotations. You even hear people, visitors from big cities mostly, talk about ‘going back in time’, or how ‘time slows down’ out here. (If only that were true!)
But these stereotypes are out of date. We have to redefine what the rural economy is about in today’s Nova Scotia.
Not rural, but everywhere
The Internet has transformed the rural economy into the everywhere economy. Do you agree? Is this the future of Nova Scotia? Leave a comment!