With a background in e-commerce, Rog and Cat How have been running Work Differently (formerly 11 Backfields Lane) for the past couple of years, providing flexible workspace and a fun community in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol
Tell us a bit about your background
Both my wife (and co-founder of Work Differently) Cat and I met at Bristol University many moons ago. I went on to work in radio production, and then marketing at the BBC; while Cat worked as a journalist, then graphic designer and creative director. We ran an e-commerce business for six years and started a smaller co-working studio a couple of years ago too. Earlier this year, we sold our e-commerce business to concentrate more fully on co-working and to expand our spaces.
What made you want to open a coworking space?
Our previous e-commerce business was an online design shop that promoted the work of new and independent designers and illustrators. While we loved the virtual community that sprung up around us; after six years we hankered after something that would take us offline. Our desire was still to offer business solutions to creatives – just this time it was to give people desk space, access to e-commerce and distribution facilities and possibly a friendly new face to chat to over a morning coffee that might just lead to a wonderful collaboration down the line…
What’s Bristol like as a city to run a coworking space in?
Ahhh, Bristol! What a beautiful place – we can’t get enough of it, and I think a lot of people feel the same… There are lots of folk moving here from London, as well as remote workers and freelancers so as a result there are quite a few places that offer co-working as there is quite a lot of demand. But in true Bristol spirit, there are different places which suit different sorts of people so it doesn’t feel competitive in any way. Bristol is a great place to run coworking in, because people get it and know what it’s all about already.
There’s a few coworking spaces in Stokes Croft – why do you think that is? And what are you doing to stand out?
Yes, there are a few co-working spaces in Stokes Croft, I think because of the general ‘ditch the office’ vibe of the area and the great location. There are some truly excellent cafes and restaurants around, but you can also nip into town or get to the station in a matter of minutes. There is a strong sense of community (mildly anarchic) spirit around too, which suits people who like to co-work who generally think a little differently too.
Work Differently is unique in that we are the only co-working space in the world that offers e-commerce and distribution facilities to our residents as well as storage for stock and a photography suite.
How did you get your first few members through the door after you launched?
We promoted it through the social media platforms of our previous e-commerce business which had a pretty significant following; and offered half price desks to get some bums on seats! It worked, but took about 4 months for everything to be ticking over to the level that we wanted it to…
Community is often considered the make or break element of coworking – what are you doing to support your community?
We offer regular meet-ups and socials – on a weekly or monthly basis. On the first Tuesday of every month, for example, we organise Eat & Meet – where we buy in platters of food from a local cafe or restaurant. We also have a £5 Friday Coworking deal every Friday (people can work all day for a fiver which includes free tea, coffee, fruit and a beer at 5pm!). We also have a monthly meet-up called Freelancer Friday we organise with local businesses in the area at The Canteen bar in Stokes Croft.
What kind of marketing channels do you use to promote your workspace, and why?
We love Twitter for little news updates, and Instagram is great for giving people a visual flavour of the space on a day-to-day level.
What have you got planned for the future?
We want to open more spaces and expand our e-commerce and distribution side of the co-working, which is what we love and a totally unique offering for our residents.
How is Coherent helping you to manage your workspace?
Coherent is amazing. It makes invoicing and booking so simple – in fact, we don’t have to do anything on that front anymore which has saved us so much time. Coherent makes our space feel more professional to our members, with people able to self-book their own desks and check availabilities.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about opening a coworking space?
Think about the big picture, but don’t forget the details! Good coffee is very important…