Cape Town co-working community cowork coworking networking Shared Office SouthAfrica

    Beyond the square meter

    As the host, or operator of a coworking space, I field a lot of enquiries from people who have never worked in one before. The most commonly asked question? “Can you tell me what’s included” and “How many square meters does this buy me”. For those of you who are familiar with the concept of Share Economy, you’ll understand just how 1990’s those questions are.

    Coworking or Shared Offices spaces like Cape Town Office are as much a disrupter to the traditional office space business model as Air B&B is to holiday accommodation or Uber to taxi services. It challenges the belief that one must engage with these operators in the same manner as you would back in the 90’s when an office space meant square meters tied to a 3 year lease. Coworking is so much more than just an office space. For example, how do you quantify or place a monetary value on the networking potential a well run community provides? How do we as coworking space owners and operators even begin to advertise or sell the value of what it means to be part of such an interactive community means? The short answer for me, is you can’t. You can wax lyrical about how great it is, post photos of your social activities and use formats like a blog to write about the amazing projects your members are involved in, but until that person standing on the outside steps in, you’re wasting your time.

    There is of course the monetary value that you can highlight, such as Enterprise level internet or fully kitted kitchens they get to enjoy, included in the membership fee. Which in itself is something, especially if you consider the cost of proper uncontested, unshaped fibre internet in South Africa.

    But for me, 6 years in, it’s the deeper questions I most welcome. Questions like, how social the community is or asking what the best way is for me to engage my services with the community. The value each of my CTO Chief(ette)s bring to the greater community, is exactly what makes it the most valuable asset and also the most difficult to market. It’s what helped Cape Town Office achieve quite the accolade in 2016 by being ranked in the Top 10 “Best Coworking Spaces on Earth”. It had very little to do with how fancy our light fittings are, or how many arcade games we have (we have 2 by the way), but it had EVERYTHING to do with our community and their interaction with their space. You see its not owned by any one member, but instead it’s a Share Economy made possible for all. They all share in the spoils of amazingly fast internet and on Fridays when we have beers on the balcony, we share the work in carrying up sound system so we can have some tunes. It’s about signing for a delivery when a coworker just popped out and keeping it safe for them till they return. It’s about rallying around a member who falls ill and take hospital visits in turns, so everyone gets a break. It’s about community.

    And so yes, it’s far beyond the square meters you get when joining a coworking space like Cape Town Office and now that we’re expanding, yes we’re adding more of them squares to our space, you’re very welcome to join us!

    If you’d like more information on who the top 14 players are in Share Economy, check out this piece on Forbes.com

    May 22, 2017
    Business Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Design Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network Internet networking Shared Office Social media SouthAfrica

    I left the house, and I liked it.

    I left the house, and I liked it

    Reflections of a first time coworker…

    This month we asked CTO Chief, Sarah to reflect on her first month (ever) in a coworking space and here is what she had to say. 

    242h

    So, my thoughts on my first month of being in a coworking space: I can honestly say that now that I’m able to look back on my time working from home, I can only laugh at myself in semi-exhausted hysteria. We all hear the stories of entrepreneurs and how tough it is, the sleepless nights and needing to be a jack of all trades. Not to mention that creating a successful business becomes synonymous with how little sleep you are getting, instead of how efficient you are actually being. Now two thoughts come to mind: first, that the jack of all trades is the master of none, and second, a line I remember from Scrooge Mc’Duck: “work smarter not harder.” I am now acutely aware of both in hindsight. 

    So perhaps, before I go on, I should mention what it is that I do for a living (to put this all in perspective). I am an Airbnb host, as well as an interior designer for Airbnb spaces and vacation rental homes. The focus of my interior design company is offering e-design packages, and while I’m based in Cape Town most of my clients thus far have been based in America. Sounds ideal, right? Airbnb host and designer, working from the comfort of home with an incredible view of Table Mountain, earning in US dollars.

    No, No No. Let me elaborate. Airbnb guests, as incredible as they are, are more interested in discussing the tourist attractions the city has to offer than your design conundrums (or, more importantly, acknowledging your looming deadline). The two roles become very blurred, and it’s hard to distinguish which one is the most important to nurture in that moment, as both are in fact income-generating. The human desire to be “likable” wins, and you find yourself negotiating how many hour of sleep are necessary for human survival while answering trivial touristy questions.

    The fallacy that I am living the dream of living in Cape Town while working with American clients and earning US dollars needs to be right sized, and quickly. Why? Well, I have two reasons, but both come down to the same frustrating issue: the internet. Firstly, have you ever tried having Skype consultations while you are trying to troubleshoot your WiFi connection? Let me tell you, it is most unpleasant. Secondly, the Design software I use is available online, which has two benefits: I don’t have to pay for licencing software, and I don’t have to upgrade my laptop (which solves the start-up’s ongoing problem of managing expenses). Have you ever tried to explain to Americans, a nation renowned for suing the likes of Nike because their shoelace came undone, that you are unable to meet your deadline because the internet has stopped working? There is not enough Prozac in the world to prepare you for that WhatsApp conversation.

    So five consultants and a few twitter posts later I realise that I need to “cease fighting” and get on with the designs that are now very overdue, as Uncle Sam is a bit hot under the collar. The only problem is that the WiFi still isn’t working, and the technician is only due the following day. So the only solution is the WLAN cable (which is too short to reach the desk) and I end up setting up shop on the kitchen floor. My Airbnb guest is strongly advised that cooking dinner is a really bad option given the current state of affairs, and is thrust a takeout menu.

    The other conundrum one faces is the design of your interior space: Is it that your bed is too close to your desk, or your desk too close to your bed? Both are true. There are days when you just seem to be in the flow and the ideas feel endless and you really want ride the wave, so to speak. So as you climb into bed and the next idea hits you like a lightning bolt, the desk is just too close to resist jumping up and switching on the laptop to start beavering away again till the early hours. The following day is generally when your motivation and your concentration are at an all-time low. Then it the bed that is too close to your desk. It would be so easy to just jump in and have that refreshing nap, the only thing stopping you is guilt. If it weren’t for that feeling of guilt and the fear of missing that one email that is about to change your destiny forever, you would Nike it (or said another way, Just do it). 

    275hSo instead you convince yourself that to carry on working is the best option. You spend hours researching whether a WordPress or Wix website is the best option. So the journey into the internet begins, and suddenly I am wondering when it was that I started caring about Brad and Angelina’s divorce? And just as I am arriving at a point where I am about to make a decision as to whether I am team Brad or team Jolie, the internet bombs out on me, again. 

    So, given my flair for drama, I think I have painted a fairly accurate picture of some of the frustrations experienced while working from home. It still does not negate that starting a business is stressful, and there are serious and sometimes paralyzing fears regarding expenditure. So why did I opt to join a co–work space? Sanity is the most concise answer I can give you. I based my final decision on this simple formula: Number of chargeable hours lost due to internet issues multiplied by my hourly rate. Viola! It suddenly made sense. 

    In fact I could in all probability rent two desks a months based on my elementary calculation. Why would I even contemplate two desks? So that I had somewhere for my ego and a whole new set of fears to sit while I was trying to get work done. I could not believe that lunacy had returned on my first day at my new desk – it was like my first day at school all over again. What if nobody likes me? What if everyone thinks what I do for a job is stupid? What if they peer over my shoulder watching me as I surf the World Wide Web?

    Honestly, as if someone could even read the words on my screen when they are five desks away. The words are smaller than the last letter on those eye tests that optometrists make you take. The other truth that was hard for ego to digest is that people are not like cats: they don’t hover around my computer watching the mouse dart across the screen. They are genuinely interested in themselves and committed to their daily tasks.

    Having said all that, it does not mean that they don’t care about you – there are plenty of opportunities to engage over the coffee machine, while preparing lunch, or on the collaboration platform. And yes, they may know someone who knows someone who is interested in your services. With such a variety of companies that use the space, I have been fortunate enough to meet someone who has untangled the spider web of confusion I had spun around WordPress vs Wix. So, combined with the advice, step-by-step guidance, and fear of what people will think of me if they find out if I am team Brad or team Jolie, I have managed to focus my efforts and get on with tasks.

    What it really comes down to is – yup, you guessed it – connection, both internet and human.

    Sarah is the founder of Urban Savvy Design, a consultancy based in Cape Town that provides bespoke design services to Air B&B hosts and operators.

    Contact her:

    sarah@urbansavvydesign.com | https://www.facebook.com/UrbanSavvyDesigns/

     

    March 21, 2017
    Africa Business Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network hub networking Shared Office SouthAfrica Start-up

    Coworking; it’s more than just a desk.

    The journey of any coworker starts with a simple request; “I’d like to rent a desk” and usually followed by, “how does it work”.

    I get asked that question nearly 5 to 6 times a day, from people looking to get out of the house and home office environment and into a shared office, where they can come to and get some work done. Of course, I give them all the information such as cost, what’s included and how our membership is structured, but what I can’t tell them (yet), is just how much more there is to coworking than simply renting a desk in an office.

    I mean, how can you? For the most part,  it’s fair to say that my experience will differ from yours as yours will from mine, but in this world of coworking and indeed Cape Town Office, I can tell you this.  Every single coworker that’s come through the door has at one point or another said this to me…”it’s so much more than I could ever have imagined”. The reason for this in 99% (and I’ll tell you about the 1% is in a moment) of cases, is the people, their new coworkers.

    It’s not just someone that they’re sitting next to in an office, it’s someone they go hiking up Lions Head with before work. It’s someone they go surfing with, or surf school because they’ve always wanted to learn and now they have someone to do it with. It’s someone they go trail running with on a Saturday in Stellenbosch. It’s someone they meet up with on a Sunday morning to watch the cricket over breakfast in the Waterfront, because let’s face it, it’s not something my wife loves doing any day, but especially a Sunday.

    ctocrewlionshead

    The other 1%? Well, they claim it’s Pac-Man ….so who am I to argue with that.

    Coworking is a VERB,  the space we do it in is secondary to the people we do it with is how Adam Teterus of Indy Hall so beautifully explained it at CWA2015. And I for one, couldn’t agree more.

    Happy October kids x

    October 10, 2016
    Business Business Plan Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network networking Shared Office SME Uncategorized

    Being social is good for business.

    capetownoffice

    Is being social good for business?

    More and more companies are looking at coworking spaces as a fast and effective way of expanding their business operations. Instead of worrying about signing a lengthy lease, kitting it out with furniture and negotiating the best internet package, all you need to worry about is getting here. That’s the obvious bit, but there’s more to it than that.

    Tapping into the existing social network of a coworking space can play a big part in making sure that your new employees don’t feel isolated while you’re off building the base in the new city.

    Coworking is not just for start-ups

    A good recent example of this is a company from Gauteng that currently employ more than 250 people and looking to expand with an office in Cape Town. When I asked them why they’re looking at coworking the answer was simply, it’s a lot more social and in the short term will help the guys feel good about coming to work! So it got me thinking. Is it good to be social at work?

    For me, absobloodylutely YES. If I’m having a bad day, struggling with a tricky work related issue by simply stepping out of my work zone into the common area, I’m bound to bump into someone there and a quick chat immediately makes me feel better, especially when its random and off topic . Right now at CTO we have a great mix of cultures which also adds to the flavour. Just yesterday in fact a couple of American guys told me they were off to The Spur for the Monday night special and quite looking forward to trying the burgers to compare it to back home. Since I was practically raised in The Spur, like most kids in SA, I was delighted to hear that they had a great experience 😉

    Community

    Of course there are lots of other benefits to coworking, but I don’t think enough is said about the social benefits. A few months ago we had an expat return to South Africa join us after more than 10 years of living in Hong Kong! She’s not from Cape Town either, so you can imagine there was no social circle to jump into, she was starting from scratch. After just a few weeks here she joined up with a few CTO members to go for Sunday walks up the mountain, every Sunday. It’s definitely helped her settle back much faster than had she opted for the work-from-home option.

    We are after all social creatures who enjoy hearing one another’s stories and experiences. Very few of us are designed to sit in a room alone for up to 9 hours a day working, so why do it? I hear it quite a lot that the only reason people would choose to work from home is to save money, but how do you put a price on being happier? Maybe some clever person can design a happiness measuring tool so we can see the results. Wouldn’t that be cool!!!

    So, still unsure about sharing space with other people? All I’d say to you is that once you’ve tried it, you won’t look back. Five years and counting for me and I’ve loved every day of it. So, if your company is looking to set up an office in Cape Town, give us a shout, you won’t regret it.

    October 14, 2015
    Africa Cape Town co-working Collaborate community conference cowork coworking flexoffice Hot Desk hub incubators networking SouthAfrica techhubs unconference workcation

    Coworking Africa – Cape Town – 23 & 24 July 2015

    Announcing the 1st Coworking Africa conference!

    More than 5.500 coworking spaces operate worldwide. Now, the Coworking wave has hit Africa. For the first time, the African coworking community is invited to gather in Cape Town, on July 23th and 24th 2015.

    Day 01: Insightful keynotes and panel discussions on the latest trends and inspiring stories from the Coworking community from Africa and beyond.

    Networking cocktail at The Design Bank coworking space.

    Day 02: Unconference – A whole day of barcamp which attendees choose and facilitate participatory workshops to celebrate collaboration and to share best practices. We will make sure there will be even more collaboration, interactions and meaningful encounters this year.

    Cape Town Coworking Tour

    At the end of the Barcamp/Unconference, on the second day, groups will leave for a guided tour of the Cape Town Coworking scene, across the city. The tour will end at the cocktail/party venue.

    Closing party at Cape Town Garage coworking space.

    Get a discount on the regular price !

    Two days left for booking your Coworking Africa conference Early Bird ticket. It will be available only until April 15th. Register now ! (http://coworkingafrica.com/book-now/)

    Feel free to call me or mail me if you have any questions!

    Lizelle – lizelle@capetownoffice.com / +2771 7620960

     

    Not sure what to expect? Check out highlights of the 2014 Coworking Europe Conference.

    Banner Big CWA 2015

    April 13, 2015