Why did you set up the Bridge Street Collective?
I started my design company, Lucid Design, when I was 20. I worked on my own for a number of years and always felt like an only child without a family. I'd had this idea for years to get a larger space and share it with other similar individuals. I tried doing it in Takaka, where I used to be based, but there wasn't the critical mass to get it going. Then I moved to Nelson and at that point I had a team of my own, but we still wanted to have a bigger, more dynamic space, so I set up the Bridge Street Collective at the end of 2010.
When I started I didn't realise that coworking was a thing; I just did it because I saw it as a good fit for our business. I thought 'I'm reducing our costs and overheads and winning a greater sense of culture and community'. It seemed like a win-win situation.
How did you get the other tenants onboard?
That's probably one of the biggest challenges I've found running a coworking studio. You think you've got a big space and you can just fill it up really quickly with lots of people paying small amounts. It doesn't really work that way we've found, particularly in Nelson.
Instead it's been a journey of building the community and culture. We've worked really hard at that and are always striving to do better with the value we can offer to our members and friends of the collective. That involves a lot of connecting with people and getting people to tell each other about the space. We try to encourage people to hold their events here and each Wednesday we have a free morning tea that's open to the public. People are also starting to turn up who've heard about us on social media.
The cafe has helped hugely. It was a huge decision for me but it just felt that a critical part of a coworking space is having this public and social aspect. You walk through the cafe to the coworking space, so people come in and say 'what's that?'.
Who or what kinds of companies does coworking work best for?
We had this ideal in our heads to begin with that it would be designers, developers - those kinds of creatives. But as the years go by we've realised you can't be too selective, and we've also realised it's not about the business it's about the person. It's more important that the people are keen and excited about contributing back to the collective community. We ask people why they want to be here and we've got a really eclectic mix because of that.
What impact has coworking had on your design business?
There are other design companies and agencies that come here to the cafe every day for their morning tea and meetings and that was really important to us. I wanted to break the ice when I came to Nelson and get along with the other agencies and creatives and it feels like we're really getting there.
Also, I originally had my own self-contained office in the collective for a couple of years and about six months ago I moved into the shared, open plan space. That's one of the best things I've done. Sure there are more distractions, but there's also more community and teamwork.
What other developments would you like to see happening in coworking spaces?
I'd like to see more collaboration and cooperation between coworking studios in New Zealand and many of them are open to it. I put a message out on Twitter at the end of last year, saying if anyone's in Nelson they're welcome to hotdesk here as our guest if they're a member of another coworking space. I'd like to see that happening more, especially between the cities.
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, drop me a line.