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I used to hate doing group work back in school. Whether it was a presentation or project, my group would always get stuck with a slacker. You know the type, the person who contributes nothing to the project, but still skates by with a great mark. So when I decided to start my own business, it was no surprise that I approached most tasks independently, avoiding any opportunities for collaboration or outside help.
And then I read about the Treehaus. The Treehaus is a collaborative workspace located in Waterloo, Ontario. Co-founded by She Takes On The World’s own Natalie MacNeil, the Treehaus is a coworking space for entrepreneurs. The idea behind the space is simple: collaboration beats competition. An innovative concept, especially in Waterloo – a place where hundreds of tech start-ups are all competing for the same pot of gold. After talking to Natalie about her work on the Treehaus, I knew I wanted to bring a similar space to my community. I live in Chatham-Kent, an area that’s known mostly for it’s agricultural and automotive roots. And while things have been rough here lately, the area has a longstanding history of entrepreneurism. Chatham-Kent has given birth to RM Auto Restorations Ltd. (a favourite of Jay Leno’s), the innovative online editing company, Scribendi, and the founders of Point Streak, just to name a few. I think it’s safe to say that there are even more great ideas just waiting to take flight here… if only they had a place to take shape.
Creating a Collaborative Workspace…
…is not as easy as you’d think. In fact, if you want to create a true collaborative workspace, like the Treehaus, it can be quite difficult and expensive. Especially if you try and go it alone, like I did in the beginning (breaking ingrained habits are tough too!). After months of reviewing business plans and funding applications, I’d pretty much given up on my collaborative workspace dreams.
And then I met Christy.
Christy is a fellow local entrepreneur with a passion for coffee. Over the year’s she’d dreamt about opening an espresso bar in town, but like all entrepreneurs, was perched on the edge of committing 100 percent, for various reasons. Christy was actually the person who approached me about opening a collaborative workspace inside her espresso bar, as a way for us to both accomplish our dreams. She’d heard about what I was trying to do and, in true coworking style, knew that we’d both benefit if we worked together. Her idea was simple, but oh, so smart. I would sublease a portion of her cafe for my collaborative workspace idea, which would help her cover the costs of rent, and provide me with a great location. I wouldn’t be able to create a true collaborative workspace like that of the Treehaus, but that was ok – ideas are always going to run into obstacles, it’s how you overcome these roadblocks that decide whether or not your idea is a great one. Thanks to Christy, The Perch @ DeKoKo’s will provide entrepreneurs, students, professionals, realtors… anyone really, with a great space to work and network, a private meeting room, affordable advertising opportunities, printing capabilities, and of course, a ton of delicious coffee. We’re still working on putting the finishing touches on the space, and are planning a soft opening in May, but we already have two year long members signed up and ready to start collaborating.
Now, I’m not saying that every community needs a collaborative workspace – what I’m saying is every community needs collaboration. Whether it’s opening a coworking space in a coffee shop or launching an art gallery in a restaurant, collaborating could be just what your idea needs in order for it to take flight.
So don’t compete – collaborate. And if you’re ever in the Chatham-Kent area, drop by DeKoKo’s.
It’s where you’ll find me perched.
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