Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Shared work space has its benefits

Co-working typifies trend to collaboration and community-building in business.

Josh Forde is a founder of Wellington-based technology company Rabid.
Josh Forde is a founder of Wellington-based technology company Rabid.

Collaboration is one of those buzzwords we seem to be hearing so much more of post-GFC. Community is another. Did tougher times make us more aware of a need to reach out to others for support, to trade wisdom and share resources?

Co-working spaces - where several different businesses operate from the same premises - seem to typify the trend towards more collaboration and community building in business.

Such spaces are popping up all over the show, offering everything from permanent premises for businesses, hot-desking opportunities and space for other businesses to hire for meetings or events.

Business owners I've spoken to who use these spaces talk about lapping up the free flow of ideas and collaboration they can help create.

Dave Lewis of Vantage Point, based at Auckland's Icehouse, says you might not always share your office mates' music tastes, but sharing space means his business is part of an ecosystem - one that's created more opportunities for the business than it would have had otherwise.

Josh Forde, of tech company Rabid, is based in Wellington's Enspiral co-working space. Businesses in the Enspiral network have a social good focus, and Forde says being able to contribute to others' projects is made much easier when operating from the shared space.

Of course, you don't have to put your sign up on the door of a co-working space to share with others.

Mt Maunganui-based shoe designer Rebecca Anderson says it was a natural step for her to team up with women's fashion designer Teresa Hodges to share space.

It allowed them both to move out of home-based studios into a shared workspace, with retail space where they could sell their brands together offering customers a complete look.

Essentially, says Anderson, it's like a couple "moving in together" so it's best to be clear about roles and responsibilities. But it seems it can be a beautiful thing.

Never a dull moment at hub in capital

Josh Forde is a founder of Wellington-based technology company Rabid, which designs, builds and maintains online services for businesses, government and community bodies. Rabid is also part of the ethically focused Enspiral network of firms and organisations, which has a co-working space in the city's CBD.

Q: Tell us about your business.

My business partner and I started working together at Enspiral, who run the co-working space. Two years ago, we set up Rabid. Today we have 10 staff. We stay involved with Enspiral, which has really enabled us to grow beyond the usual limits of a growing tech company. Our background with entrepreneurship and emphasis on social values flavours the work we do. We have stakes in ThunderMaps and Pledgeme - growing businesses in their own right - and we also help clients from new and established businesses grow their services online.

Q: Why did you decide to base your business in a co-working space?

In the early days, the office was just a large room with a ramshackle collection of desks and used office chairs. We shared the space with three other local companies and that eventually grew into the vision we had, of a hub that could encourage businesses with a social-good focus. There's a real energy to being alongside people doing ambitious projects. We've come to specialise in online services that do good, and being around social entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organisations helps us build networks and domain knowledge. The space also has many opportunities shuttling through.

Q: Can you describe your physical working environment?

The room is open plan with a high ceiling and exposed timber. Bookshelves keep the space from being overwhelming, but it is very open. Enspiral creates opportunities to link with the other people and firms and we converse using Loomio, an online decision-making tool founded within the network. A range of people from small firms are permanently here, with some freelancers or those who come in a day a week. Chalkle, another startup, runs community classes. Things are never dull.

Coming up in Small Business: Training staff is an ongoing issue for all small businesses with employees. If you've got a story to tell about what's worked well for your business when it comes to staff training.

- NZ Herald

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