“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often might, by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare
Often I am asked why I started a business – especially a shared workspace business that is geared towards bringing people together and collaborating, given the COVID philosophy of social distancing and keeping people apart. I am also often asked why I would start a shared working space in a small town like Hermanus.
To start with, I was planning the business in January, before COVID. I made a commitment to the venture, and all the relevant planning and contracts were in full swing by the end of February. Basically, there was no turning back. We were working with designers, our landlords and all the relevant furniture deposits had been paid, with the full intention of going live (or opening) in May. Then everything came to a halt on the 27th of March when the pandemic began, and we were left wondering whether the venture would even be viable. Given that the general conversations were around people never returning to offices, the work from home movement was the only way forward. To be completely honest, I was pretty taken by the new concept – even though we had made some investments in offices. In my own mind, I handled the first 3 weeks of complete level 5 lockdown fairly well, however, when the second stage of level 5 lockdown was announced, I was starting to feel pretty isolated, and in need of connecting with friends and work colleagues, on a face to face level.
I think it was during the Level 4 lockdown that I really decided and started feeling positive about moving ahead with the shared workspace venture. I believed that Hermanus was absolutely the right place for this venture. Hermanus offers a lifestyle you simply don’t get in large metropolitan areas. We have the coast and the mountains and you can pretty much walk anywhere in town. There are great restaurants and coffee shops, so entertainment is not as limited as it is in smaller towns and villages. Another driving factor is that there are plenty of smaller solopreneurs and service businesses in Hermanus, and all these people were potentially not connecting or didn’t have a place to connect. A shared working space would be ideal.
I also believed that with the flexibility to be able to work from anywhere (A COVID trend) there would be an influx of corporate people coming to Hermanus, and these guys would need professional business services and facilities, so COVID could actually be a positive for the business. The more I had time to think about the upside and the positives, the more I knew I was doing the correct thing even though it was extremely daunting, especially when it came time to start investing to get the premises ready for trading. There were still naysayers, people saying the town wasn’t ready, the timing isn’t right, COVID will stop any form of office gatherings for extended time etc. I decided not to listen, and move ahead with my gut feeling.
The Highlights of Our Shared Workspace in Hermanus
Officially we opened our doors at the end of July, and it has been an awesome journey. We have learnt a lot along the way, but keeping in line with the context of this blog, I would like to point out just a few successes we have had along the way:
- There have been al least a dozen transactions that have taken place between customers that use the shared working spaces. These are transactions that may never have taken place, had these individuals not connected face to face, or had they been working from home or in a coffee shop. So, we are helping people grow their business network, by providing shared spaces for introductions and collaboration
- Our private offices have been leased with some permanent tenants, and for this, we are extremely grateful. A few of these businesses are start-ups and some more established, but either way, there are many years of knowledge and experience, mixed with the enthusiasm of youth. I am sure that good things will grow from these relationships.
- Our boardroom is being used by small businesses looking at promoting their products through webinars, as well as people looking to conduct interviews and appointments. It is a professional environment that can be leased by the hour, and this product has doubled in usage month on month
- Co.Unity provides employment for 4 people permanently. Whilst this may seem insignificant, it should be looked at in the context that most companies are reducing staff count, so our investment does have a direct effect on these peoples lives and their families.
- We held our first Saturday event, and by all accounts, it was a success. As we move forward, we hope that more people make use of our spaces for their events. We have made every effort to create a vibrant space, which we know will add inspiration to any event.
In closing, I am extremely positive about the future of Hermanus as a technology hub, and I do believe we offer one of the best places to live. I look forward to continuing adding to the prosperity and growth of our local economy through our shared workspaces.