Running a work centre, given the rapid growth in the industry, is a compelling business dream. But it’s not always without its struggles and setbacks.
CoLabSpace, founded by Mick Simpson in Melbourne, is one such example. Some time ago Mick started a lease to create a coworking space. One of his tenants, who had been interested in starting a space for some years, gave Mick and two others a proposal to turn a big open-plan space into ten small but lockable spaces.
Mick was keen to have other people involved, so was happy to proceed. The plan was was to create a prototype office in two weeks, then take another six weeks to complete the fit out.
Unfortunately the prototype took twice as long to create. The rest of the fit out then took five more months.
“Now, for me, my personal and business motto is ‘Getting Stuff Done’. So the time spent paying rent, and not being able to properly rent the space out due to it being under construction, was becoming an issue. My business partner seemed to be showing a lot of anxiety about his decisions, to the point where he was paralysed in actually making any decision at all. With money decisions he would change his mind regularly,” Mick explains.
Matters came to a head, and they ended the business relationship. But worse was to come. Mick’s former partner entered the premises late one Friday night and tore down all the partitions they had created together. The police were involved, but couldn’t help due to it being a “commercial matter”.
Tenants who were renting throughout the construction period turned up to work the next week to find all their partitions gone. Mick needed to get everything back up and running asap. This meant sinking a lot more cash in, but within a month he had managed to refit the space almost by himself.
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“For me deciding to drop the cash in to it was my incentive to kick the space into gear. Realising the dream of having an amazing coworking space got me going and made me work hard, to really make the space somewhere small business owners wanted to be in,” Mick says.
CoLabSpace is now a finished space, attracting a lot of interest with more space rented out. The future is looking bright, according to Mick, and he’s getting close to filling it.
His next step is to look at expanding into other outer suburban locations with similar surrounding facilities, as “a simple build and fill on repeat.”
“Ideally I’d like to have all the best locations throughout Australia’s capital cities, but then again the model may grow into a franchise and end up worldwide. It’s still in the prototype phase, but I see great potential,” Mick says.
Based on his difficult experience starting up the co-working space, Mike offers three points of advice:
- If you’re going to have partners, choose them with care
- “Just Do It” – don’t waste time, just get stuff done
- Keep a friendly atmosphere, be real and stay genuine