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Spotlight on Work Here: Building a Community-Oriented Workspace

Lauren Marinigh | February 22, 2016

As Alex Wells and Arianne Pothecary jumped on the work-from-home bandwagon in 2012, it took a few years until it started getting old. Even though the pair worked from home together, they felt isolated—this was the birthing place for Work Here, a co-working space for suburban business professionals in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

After months of research and networking with the members of the Maple Ridge community, Work Here evolved into what it is today—a co-working space that helps professionals build successful businesses through social networking, collaboration, business tools and workspace freedom. Alex explained that as entrepreneurs, they believe in adjusting their business tactics by listening to consumer input and taking action, meaning that they aren’t going to settle for what works, but evolve to what best suit their consumers.

In the initial stages of their business, Alex and Arianne went strong on the social media front before opening their doors to help develop a following. “Having a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account with engaging content was a huge help with getting people’s attention,” Arianne explained. “I posted lots of images during the construction phase, giving followers a sense of involvement before even knowing us.” On top of social media, Alex played the role of networking guru and met lots of people within the city, including the mayor who has been one of Work Here’s biggest advocates. “We then hosted a big open house—we had a free raffle, tons of door prizes, and great local food,” Arianne explained. “The turnout was small but we had high enrolment, so quality over quantity was there.”

Learning what their real demographic was for Work Here was one of the hurdles they had to overcome. The pair explained that it’s easy to look at census and other data when starting your business proposal but in reality, you have to be willing to adjust your business model with the people in your community. “Listen to every customer, client, member and passerby to decipher where your focus must be,” Arianne advised. “Then adjust, and if your business gets stale again, repeat.”

Outside of finding members to join Work Here, bookkeeping and paperwork was a big challenge for Alex and Arianne. “For months we tried to save buck and do our own bookkeeping, but as creative types our numerical and organizational skills were lacking,” Arianne explained. “We strongly recommend getting a great bookkeeper that you can communicate with and trust.” Often time’s entrepreneurs have to realize that it’s impossible to be an expert in everything, and it’s okay to look for additional help and resources like Alex and Arianne did.

Alex and Arianne also had two pieces of advice for prospective or current entrepreneurs:

1) Be careful of “nice” people

“The type that say your place looks amazing and that they’ll sign up the next time they’re in and you never see them again. This created a sense of false security and inflated egos. Welcome, and actively seek out, constructive criticism from your peers. The best decision we made was to bring in a local business owner with great sales and business knowledge—with one look around, we had a laundry list of things to change, and since implementing those changes, we have seen memberships double and grown in professionalism and confidence.”

2) View your competition as a wealth of active field experience, not as competition

“Being in the co-working community, everyone is thrilled to share and collaborate, this has created great partnerships and trusts. This should be possible with other business models as well. Contact businesses outside of your immediate area and be honest about who you are and why you are contacting them. Ask them about their struggles and successes, tell them about your business and ask them for constructive input. Next time you’re out of town, drop into a similar business and introduce yourself. Build a community.”

Being passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience to help others and seeing people surrounding them succeed in making their goals and dreams a reality, are the most rewarding things for Arianne and Alex as business owners.

To learn more about Work Here, you can follow them on Twitter, and Facebook.

Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada