Today (August 9th) is International Coworking Day. To find out more about coworking we spoke to Catarina King from Society1 – a Preston-based coworking space that setup 18 months ago with support from Boost.
What’s your business and what do you do?
My name is Catarina and I am one of the co-founders of Society1. We are a coworking space in the heart of Preston. We have a beautiful office space over 3 floors designed to be an inspirational space where you can get work done and do business in a professional and modern environment. As an added bonus we have a large community of other successful entrepreneurs and small businesses working at Society1 who offer a great opportunity to work together, collaborate with and generally help each other out. We offer flexible packages ranging from pay as you use to fully loaded desk packages and everything in between. Your business your choice.
What’s your business story?
Society1 is run by myself, my husband Brendan King and my brother Chris Ruppert. We are very close and amazingly get on really well working together! We have all travelled to different places and have lived in the French Alps. Separately we all went for a ski season to Chamonix and didn’t leave. Brendan and I left after 4 years and Chris is still there 10 years on. Chris runs a coworking space in Chamonix called Ski Locker which is the epitome of the home of the digital nomad. We decided to bring this great working philosophy to the North West.
The Society1 building on Cross Street started life as an Austrian restaurant run by my parents. Named The Alpenhof and it had a great name for high quality food and the outfits of the waiting on staff were entertaining to say the least (think ……..lederhosen and dirndl). Many of the old restaurant features can still be seen in the space and it has a lot of meaning to us as a family as we all worked there until Mum and Dad retired. The building was then rented out to a couple of different restaurant owners over the last few years. When it became vacant 2 years ago, it was perfectly timed with our ideas to open a coworking space and I think you will agree that building is perfect for it. Originally it was an old union building so it really has gone full circle back to offices….they look a bit different now though!
So you have been open for 18 months – how’s it going?
Really well. We have a community of 80 members working and interacting with Society1. What I mean by that is that everyone uses Society1 in a different way. Some people are in working every day, some have home offices so come and work a day here and there for a change of scenery and meet some other members in the space. We also have meeting rooms and conference facilities so we have companies that book regular meeting room time and run workshops.
Our reception into Preston has been lovely. The support we have had has been amazing. We joined the Boost programme early on and we are so glad we did. The relationships we have built through the scheme has been fantastic. I have attended a few free courses over the last 18 months. They are always interesting and give you something to think about to apply to your business. I was also asked to take part in a panel discussion as part of the Lancashire Business Growth Summit. I was pretty nervous speaking in front of an audience of 100 people, but I am so glad I did it. It was such a great opportunity.
In short, what is coworking?
Coworking is a shared workspace essentially. People pay on a monthly basis to use the space in a way that suits them. Most coworking spaces offer a variety of use options from hot desking to full desk rentals, meeting rooms and event space.
Larger cities are well versed with coworking, Manchester has a large number of spaces to the point where some are extremely bespoke to one type of business. The trend for coworking comes off the back of people wanting more flexibility in there working week and the rise of freelancers and self employed. The idea of working at home is lovely for a while but the reality is that you need a place to do business and the coffee shop only cuts it for so long.
What type of people work at Society1?
I am often asked this question. All sorts of people work at Society1. There are people who work from home and need somewhere to meet clients and have meetings. We have a few people that have a home office but like to come a couple of times a month for a change of scenery, Small businesses who are expanding that need office space. We provide desk packages for individuals to have a dedicated desk or group discounts for small businesses with multiple employees. Freelancers, consultants and self employed people often use the office on flexible packages that allow them freedom to come in and out as they please, access to hot desk space and a place to meet clients. We also have larger businesses booking meeting room space, event space and training rooms.
So can anyone work there?
Absolutely! We have a huge range of people working at Society1. Solicitors, film makers, graphic designers, health and wellbeing companies, brand specialists, Marketers, SEO specialists and web designers to name a few. We love that we have a wide range of different businesses. It is great for the community, everyone has something different that they specialise in and can offer to others in the space. We have an internal group communications system where everyone can share info. So often there are requests for help or information which others in the community can help with.
So how does it work cost-wise, its seems quite different to renting office space?
It is different in the sense that you don’t have to sign up to long contracts and there are no extra bills like electric and rates to pay for. Essentially it works like a monthly rental package where you pay for the amount you want to use the space. We have a variety of packages ranging from £10 per month then pay as you use up to full desk packages where you get your own dedicated desk, with flexible options in between. The beauty of the system is that we only ask for 30 days commitment, so you can move up and down through the packages as you need. For example, if you know one month you are going to in most days you can take an inclusive package with unlimited use, say a flexi pass £150 for the month. Then the following month you are going to be away, you can simply switch down to the £10 community membership which keep you in the communications and gives you the option to buy discounted day passes when you need.
We often see events going on at Society1 – do you have to get involved if you work there?
No not at all. We do lots of events and host community focused activities, but no you don’t have to be involved. You can do as much or as little as you want. If you want to come in get your head down to work and go home, no problems.
We do have things going on for the community though so if you are interested in a Social or a drop in business clinic or a learning session it’s all available. We see those things as the added benefit to working at Society1 though. Number one we are high quality office space and all the other bits of support are the benefit to being there.
Our local partners such as Boost, Creative Lancashire and Digital Lancashire also have workshops and events running in the space which offers great opportunities for the members and non members to see what’s going on at Society1.
What about if there is more than one person, do you cater for teams?
Absolutely! We have multi-desk discounts for office groups. Some hot off the press news too – We are developing our top floor to create group work stations so if you want a dedicated section for your team we will be able to offer that too. Our first team area will be ready in September.
If you were to offer some advice to a new business in Preston what would it be?
I would say the biggest advice I would give is to get out there and meet people, talk and get involved in things going on in the area. Having an idea and hammering the keyboard from your kitchen table is just one part of getting started. Join the Boost programme, where you can go to valuable training courses, but also get the opportunity to meet lots of other businesses and support groups. Join your local coworking space (obviously!) and just take the lowest package to get started. From there you can get to know the community, attend some of the events and join in on the socials. It’s amazing what one conversation can bring!
If you want to try coworking for yourself or know someone who would, you can try out the facilities at Society1 for free. Register for your free day pass on their website.