Over the last 12 months, many coworking spaces have evolved and adapted in reaction to the global pandemic. Many have opted to open a virtual community space for their members to reconnect and stay motivated while working from home.
We caught up with Stacey, from The Tribe, after their successful launch of The Tribe Online.
Q. Hello, can you give us a little introduction to who you are and what you do at The Tribe?
Sure, I am Stacey Sheppard, and I am the founder and owner of The Tribe. Being such a small space, I basically do everything. I am the receptionist, community manager, accountant, PR manager, marketing manager, cleaner. Everything really.
Q. For anyone who hasn’t heard of The Tribe, can you provide an overview of the space? What makes it unique?
So we are a small community-led coworking space in Totnes, Devon. When I say small, I mean really small. We have a space of just 40m2 and just eight desks in total. The Tribe is a space for creative female entrepreneurs to come together, share knowledge and experience and help each other to grow and thrive.
This is what makes our space unique. The Tribe is a space where women can get the support, encouragement, skills and network that they need to take their business to the next level. Members understand that we are stronger together, and when we act as a collective, we can achieve more and reach those targets that perhaps weren’t quite so attainable when working alone.
What also makes us unique is how beautiful our space is and the fact that it doesn’t try to replicate a corporate office but rather a cosy home office. A lot of thought and planning went into the design of the space to ensure that it feels like somewhere people want to spend time. I wanted a space that felt homely but also somewhere where people could feel productive and motivated.
Q. Why did you decide to open up a The Tribe?
In my day job, I am a freelance writer and award-winning blogger. I specialise in writing about interior design. I went fully freelance in January 2019, and it had always been a dream of mine to work for myself from home. However, it quickly became apparent that working from home wasn’t the dream scenario I had hoped it would be. There were a lot of distractions at home, and I felt like I couldn’t really get into work mode until I had tackled the housework, and I just wasn’t particularly focused or productive.
I looked around the local area for coworking spaces, and I was just so disappointed by what was on offer. There were some nice spaces in Exeter, but that would be an hour commute for me, and once I factor in the school run, it didn’t make sense to even consider it.
I realised that there was a gap in the market for a coworking space that paid real attention to the interior design, and I knew that I could create something really wonderful if I put my mind to it. And that is how The Tribe was born.
Q. How have you found running a coworking space throughout the pandemic?
I had been thinking of opening a coworking space for many years before actually jumping in and doing it. I knew it would be tough, but I had no idea how challenging things would get.
We opened in January 2020, and the first two months showed real promise. I had a whole programme of scheduled events and workshops in the planning. I was confident that I would be able to use the skills I have acquired over a decade of running a successful online community around my blog to build a close-knit community for The Tribe.
When lockdown was enforced in March, and the reality of the situation hit me, it was tough. I had money set aside obviously to cover my expenses while I got everything off the ground and worked towards breaking even, but once the doors were shut and I had no income at all, this changed things. Luckily, I was able to access financial help from the government to keep us afloat until we reopened, but to say it has been stressful is a massive understatement.
Q. Congratulations on the launch of The Tribes Online! Can you tell us more about it?
An online membership had always been part of my plan, and I probably should have launched it during the first lockdown. However, the stress of trying to access government funding, combined with losing all my income from my writing work and trying to homeschool my children, meant that I just didn’t have the headspace to figure out how to physically build a platform for an online membership.
In a chance conversation with an amazing lady who was hotdesking in the space, I discovered that she is an EdTech specialist and a seasoned pro at building online courses and membership sites.
Claire Collis was already an established member of our community and really aligned with the vision I have for The Tribe. So, we decided to team up and pool my community building and networking skills with her technological know-how and launch an online version of our coworking space.
I would highly recommend Claire’s services if any other coworking spaces are considering an online membership or community for their members and need support and guidance to build it.
Q. Who is The Tribe Online looking to support?
The pre-pandemic idea for the online membership was to be able to reach all those women who didn’t necessarily need a physical desk or a location to work from. As our ideal clients are creative entrepreneurs, many of them work from a studio or out and about on photography shoots or from home, where they have all their tools and materials.
But these women still feel the isolation and loneliness that can come from working alone at home and want to feel part of a community and something bigger. They still want a support network and to be able to reach out to like-minded women who understand their situation.
Q. How have you found the first month with your online community?
It has been really remarkable. I am so proud of what we have achieved. We have a weekly zoom call where all our members can get together and chat through anything they are working on or may need help with or need accountability for. We have run some virtual coworking sessions. We have had guests in to inform us about services and resources that may help us as women in business.
Everyone has been so engaged and supportive, and willing to share their experience and skills with other members. It has been a wonderful experience to watch this grow over the past month.
Q. What has been your favourite moment with The Tribe Online so far?
I think it would have to be seeing women share their goals and dreams for their business and the obstacles they face in making that happen, and then seeing other members step up and offer their services to help overcome those challenges.
But I’d also have to mention seeing just how much confidence being part of the community has given people. I’m seeing women really push themselves outside their comfort zones and doing the things that scare them. Having the support of a group like Tribe Online has really helped these women to find the courage they needed to take their business to the next level.
Q. Where can people find out more information about The Tribe Online if they would like to join?
All the information is available on our website. The doors are currently closed, but they will be reopening for admissions in late April.
Q. What are you looking forward to the most in the future for The Tribe Coworking?
Right now, I just want to get the doors open again and get back in the office and continue building my community. Eventually, I would really like to do in-person workshops like I had originally planned. But for the moment, I am going to focus on getting a really great schedule of online events, guest speakers, and workshops sorted for our online membership. I’m going to send out a survey to find out how our existing members have found Tribe Online so far and how we can better serve them. I’m really excited about the future.
Q. How have you found using Coherent at The Tribe Coworking?
What initially attracted me to Coherent was that there isn’t a massive monthly fee to use it. Most software designed for coworking spaces has built-in functionality that would be way beyond my needs having such a small space, so I would be paying for stuff I would never use.
Coherent meets all my needs and isn’t at all overwhelming to use. I’m pretty sure I don’t make the most of it yet, but considering we’ve been closed more than we’ve been open, that’s not surprising.
Q. If you could share one piece of advice for other coworking spaces looking to support their members online, what would it be?
Definitely consider an online version of your coworking space. With so many people working from home now, these online spaces are really valuable. There will be lots of people who won’t want to return to communal spaces for a while yet and will want to stay at home. Bring them into your community now, so when they feel ready to venture out again, they will come to you.
If you have no idea how to do this or where to start, find an expert like Claire, who can make the whole process stress-free and super simple.
All images are credited to The Tribe and were taken pre-lockdown.