Image: Inside the Rabbit Hole shared office space. Credit: Katie Fedosenko.
Insight for Brisbane from Melbourne’s ‘The Coworking Conference’
Coworkers from across Australia gathered to discuss the workspace revolution on 1-2 March in Melbourne.
Dahlia Ishak, founder of The Rabbit Hole Ideation Cafe in Fortitude Valley, met with coworking veterans and novices at the Coworking Conference to bring back ideas for her space and for Brisbane’s coworking community.
The Brisbane coworking scene
In the last five years Brisbane joined the ranks of Australian cities with coworking spaces. Also known as shared offices, coworking spaces offer desks, wi-fi and a community for freelancers, start-ups and businesses.
Salt House was one of the first coworking spaces in Brisbane. Salt House was followed closely by Thought Fort, River City Labs, Silicon Lakes and Water Street Studio. Brisbane coworkers also meet in people’s homes through the Jelly initiative.
Ishak started The Rabbit Hole, a coworking coffee shop, or as she calls it, ‘coffice’, in West End and then moved to Fortitude Valley to open a bigger space and connect with local design students. Currently The Rabbit Hole consists of a cafe on Agnes Street and a house renovated into communal and studio office space directly across from the cafe.
Insights from the Coworking Conference
At the Coworking Conference Ishak learned that there are two kinds of coworking spaces: the investment-funded and the independent. Investment-funded coworking spaces are backed by companies that invest millions into start-up projects. Independent coworking spaces are funded through tenants’ rent. Ishak’s The Rabbit Hole is partially funded by revenue from the cafe.
She argues that creating a coworking space is more than seeking tenants – it’s about curating a group of professionals. “It’s like having a gallery of people,” said Ishak. “Finding the right people can make or break a space.”
Long-time American and European coworking space managers flew in to share their expertise at the conference. “Shared offices are super prevalent in Europe,” said Ishak. “It’s totally the norm, especially in places like Berlin. Sometimes they don’t even call it coworking. It’s just what everybody does.”
American presenter Tony Bacigalupo from New Work City inspired Ishak. “He was so genuine. You could tell he loved having people together in a productive environment more than anything,” she said. “To him, the most interesting thing is watching collaborations and connections happen organically. When he started six years ago at a Jelly meet-up, he didn’t realize it was possible to work outside of the 9-5 environment.”
One of most important take-aways from the conference for Ishak was a clearer understanding of the amount of work involved in running a coworking space. “As the go-to person, coworking space managers generally don’t have time to do their own work,” said Ishak, a graphic designer.
Despite the hardships, Ishak shares the passion of Bacigalupo for coworking. “It’s a community of people looking for inspiration, energy and connections,” she said.
Since returning from Melbourne, Ishak draws inspiration from Desk Mag, one of the conference partners. She said it’s a helpful publication for coworkers and coworking space managers alike.
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