Founder of Sterling Serviced Offices, Giles Blanchard, felt “the time was right” to open a coworking space.
‘THIS WAY’ is located in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is designed to cater to the new ways people are working with a focus on sustainability and wellbeing.
In Sofia, the flexible shared office market currently accounts for around 2% of all office space.
When British-born Giles Blanchard founded the first serviced office in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2004, he was told in no uncertain terms that “it would fail”.
However, more than a decade and a half later, the flexible workspace model has proven highly successful and Blanchard’s Sterling group now operates three centres across Sofia, Bulgaria, and Istanbul, Turkey.
The next natural step might be to expand or open a new serviced office in a new location. But Blanchard has once again opted for a different approach.
This time, Blanchard and team are putting the flexible workspace model to the test in Sofia with a new hybrid coworking concept launched in November 2019, THIS WAY, a sister brand to Sterling.
So why coworking, and why now?
“With sixteen years of experience in the serviced and flexible office sector, we understand the changing trends and innovations in workplaces that are key to the success and wellbeing of our customers,” said Blanchard.
“We thought of starting a coworking concept a decade ago, however at the time we felt that our markets were not yet ready for coworking the way we wanted to do it.
“About 18 months ago we decided the time was right. Since then we have been developing our coworking brand, THIS WAY, to cater to the new ways people are working, the communities they are shaping and the work/life balance they are prioritizing.”
Sofia is already home to a number of coworking spaces. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s European Coworking Hotspot Index, Sofia is currently ranked 19th in Europe based on the volume of office stock leased by coworking operators.
The flexible shared office market accounts for around 2% of all office space in the city.
Even so, one of the biggest challenges faced by Blanchard and his team was finding the right space.
They eventually settled on a new office hub at Tsarigradsko Shosse and have taken 22,600 sq ft (2,100 sq m) on the fourth floor at Office A. Newly fitted out, THIS WAY provides a mix of open collaborative coworking space, lounges, event space and private offices with capacity up to 275 workstations.
The homely yet professional design of the space and vast shared areas incorporates art and nature, complete with a hand painted wall mural, books, a green wall, and design accessories inspired by Sofia’s local culture.
In fact, art is an important feature of the space. THIS WAY has begun hosting a pop-up art gallery, which recently exhibited work from a young locally-based artist.
Under its tagline, ‘Coworking. Seriously’, the brand is working to create an inspiring, creative and fun workspace, which is reflected in its design and fittings — such as superhero-themed meeting rooms, a library filling up with books brought by clients, and a focus on sustainability and work-life balance.
Just some of the wellbeing initiatives provided by THIS WAY include fruit days, soup days, sports card, and classes for mindfulness, physiognomy and yoga.
Over the last 16 years, Sterling has accommodated many of the largest multinational companies in various sectors.
Blanchard anticipates high demand for Sofia’s newest flexible workspace, and already has plans to “expand the THIS WAY brand internationally”.
Jo is Allwork.Space's Senior Editor for the UK and Europe. Jo has worked within business centre and coworking circles since 2009, researching and contributing written features for numerous industry publications. She reports on the latest market news and delves into local issues with one main objective: to champion the flexible workspace industry and its members.