Interview with Justin Smith of Ko-Work, North Lakes

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In this interview I chat with Justin Smith from Ko-work at North Lakes.

Ko-work is a new co-working space that has just opened and provides small businesses, home businesses, freelancers and tele-commuters an office style working arrangement with shared facilities.

The biggest advantage is that business owners and startups get to mix with other similarly minded folk and share ideas, collaborate with and support each other.

north lakes office space for shared rent

co-working north lakes queensland ko-work

Justin approached me and offered the Ko-work space as a venue for the Redcliffe Small Business Web Marketing Group. When I checked it out I was impressed enough to get him on the line to give people more info about.

The Skype line was getting dodgy in parts so my apologies that part of the audio is not fantastic.

Ko-work is on Facebook. Street address is 6 Endeavour Boulevard, North Lakes with a pretty good coffee shop next door. Tip: Head around the back for parking.

Interview Transcription

Mick: Okay, guys, it’s Mick from Redcliffe Marketing Labs and today I’m chatting with Justin Smith. Justin is working with a co-working venue that’s staying up at North Lakes. Justin will go ahead and tell us about that today. Justin, thanks again for chatting with us today.
Justin: Yeah, no worries. Thanks, Mick. Thanks for asking me along.
Mick: Cool. Well, I guess the first thing is what is “co-working?” What is this whole idea?
Justin: Well, I originally started over in the US. It’s gotten pretty big in Europe as well. The concept is a different way of working, so instead of the whole going into the office, and you work at a desk, and you do your thing at your desk, it’s kind of trying to open that up a bit.
Mick: All right, so basically, rather than going into a normal office where you would rent an office in a building and go in and work from there the idea here is you go into a shared space.
Justin: Yeah. Yeah, and instead of working at your job at your desk, you’re working in a community. You go to where the community is and you’re working with other people. The real core of the concept is less of where you are and more of the community. I’m trying to get it across well.
Mick: I know just from the reading I do in blogs I follow, especially in the Tech. space, this is big in New York and San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where a lot of people startup businesses and from what I read there, all these businesses are in the same phase of growth and building a presence online and things like that, everyone operating out of the same office so they’re all bouncing ideas off each other.
Justin: I think there’s a lot of value you can get there[working in a community]. I worked from home for a couple of years, just by myself.
Mick: Absolutely. Having other people around sometimes breaks up that sort of isolation you get at home, too. Justin, how did you get involved with the project and getting it up and going?
Justin: I got involved at the start of the year. It was actually a couple of different things coming together. Stockland who is building North Lakes, they were looking into the concept and they wanted to build a community and put in more facilities there. At the same time, Council has really hooked onto us. They are doing state-wide things to try and improve smart workspaces and all that kind of thing. I actually work for Hilton Misso, so they came to us and we were talking to them and we thought that this was a project that we would really like to see happen in North Lakes, so we started working on that. 
Mick: Okay, and in the space you’ve got set up there, it’s actually called Ko-work, spelled with a “K”, so “K” “O” dash “work.”
Justin: Yep.
Mick: Can you tell us a bit about the actual set up there? How long have the doors been open on that particular facility?
Justin: It only just opened, actually, this August. I guess about two weeks it’s been open, now. 
Mick: Yeah?
Justin: For ko-working, it is a reasonably small space. Over in America you get newer ones, they come a couple thousand square meters or maybe about a hundred square meters. The few basic areas–as you walk in the door, we’ve got the couch seating area with some pretty comfortable seats for clients to sit down and have a chat, maybe have a coffee and relax a bit. We’ve kind of got a semi-fashioned meeting room, so if you need to go off and privately sit around and go talk something out in the workroom and all that.
Mick: You have a meeting room?
Justin: Mostly it’s open-plan, so we have no walls. We just have a lot of desks so you can sit beside someone and across from someone, reasonably where they can work with you. I see this is something we could look at.
Mick: If you’re listening here and it’s getting a bit scratchy, we’re on Skype at the moment so we’ll just see how the call quality goes. We’ve basically got Ko-work there at North Lakes. Who is it for? What sort of people are you looking to see come along and check it out and who is going to get the most benefit from the space?
Justin: It’s really for anyone who wants to be part of that type innovative community. Who wants either input in their projects or would like to be around that intellectual space. There are a few groups that have become more common there. You’ve got your small and start-up businesses, anyone from one to five people businesses and start-ups, particularly tech start-ups that just opened the doors, like freelancers, anyone who is working for themselves as a web designer, creative designer, programmer, new media, that kind of thing.
We tend to get a few remote workers, so people working for a company in the city. Instead of driving in and out every day, they can kind of work from home, but work at Ko-work, so they’ll still get that office space camaraderie and all the innovation and extra ideas from working around other people, as well as decent office space.
Mick: And Justin, as far as facilities and if you turn up at Ko-work there, and turn up at the facility there and sit down and open your computer up, what have you got available to you?
Justin: The basic functionality is your desk, your chair, high-speed Wi-Fi. We try and keep that going pretty quick. We’ve got coffee and tea there. We’ve got a printer, fax, scanner, all that kind of thing. I think that’s about the basics.
Mick: I went and dropped in there today and Dave was there working and he pointed out the security cameras and the 24-hour access.
Justin: Yeah, it’s kind of soft security. No one can get in unless they are part of Ko-work, so in that respect if you leave things in there they should be safe. We don’t lock things down because it’s a trusting community. At the same time, in case something does go wrong, we do have those cameras there, just to kind of look at afterwards.
Mick: If we talk sort of the nitty-gritty then for people who are looking to come in and use the space, and also, we’re talking here in August 2013, so this could date, but how do the cost and contracts work? Are you locked in for a certain time? Can anyone use the space? Is it a flexi-arrangement? Are you supposed to be there full-time? Can you drop in and out?
Justin: We do try to keep it very flexible. To simplify things, we don’t really have part-days, so our smallest thing is if you want to come in for one day and that’s the smallest time. We don’t really have contracts. It’s just kind of what you pay for. You can pay for a day, a week. You can pay for part-time, so like one to four days per week per month and then you can go full-time for a month. At the moment, we don’t even have contracts for any longer than that. You would just renew your monthly membership.
Mick: What are the other questions that you normally field from people? What are people asking you when they come in and have a look around, or when you first talk about the concept with them? What are their–I don’t want to say objections–but what are the big concerns people have, or what are the questions they ask you?
Justin: I can give you an idea of prices. Do you want that? Other concerns, because it’s such a new concept, it generally takes up a lot of time explaining exactly what it is. Other’s main ones are access and privacy, talking to some lawyers and mortgage brokers and those kind of things, dealing with a lot of papers with numbers on them that you can’t really have other people looking at. That’s a little bit of a concern. Just the whole bit, they would normally like private rooms where people could use part-time or just a sort of meeting room visibility, but because we’re a quite a small space we don’t really have that at the moment. Noise is another issue.
Mick: Sorry, I missed that one. What was that?
Justin: Noise.
Mick: Okay, yep.
Justin: We haven’t had it too bad so far. We just have ambient music in the background that way it kind of cuts out…if you’ve got no noise in there at all you can kind of hear someone talking on the opposite side of the room. That should improve that quite a bit.
Mick: Yeah, there are some pretty cool audio tracks you can get actually, a coffee shop or white noise background. I’m not a fan of them, but I know people who will sit there at home with their laptop or iPhone  making coffee shop background noises and that’s how they work. For exactly that reason–just so they’re not sitting there in perfect silence.
Justin: Yeah.
Mick: How do you work the parking, Justin? Because I know North Lakes gets pretty busy there. Is there dedicated parking or is it street parking?
Justin: It is dedicated parking. We do have our own parking lot which is out of the building. We have seen that North Lakes is extremely low on parking, but we’re working to make sure there will always be parking. Because we have a coffee shop next door, it’s great because they have really high-quality coffee at a really good price and there’s a lot of traffic that comes through for that. There’s always a car park if you go in the back of the park.
Mick: I’ve obviously looked at your flyer and the website and things like that so we’ll give Angie Hammond and Garnish Marketing a bit of a shout-out there. She’s done a good job. She’s using the wrong web company, but that’s okay. If you find this interesting and listeners want to find out more, our meetup group will be coming out and having a meetup there in October. I thank you for that kind offer. It’s a perfect space for our group. If anyone is interested in that group they should go check out Redcliffesocialmedia.com. Justin, if people want to find out more about Ko-work, where is the best place to go?
Justin: Our website, which is Ko-work.com.au, so ko-work. You can also look on Facebook. That’s facebook.com/koworking. I believe that’s with a “K,” yes.
Mick: All right and you guys have an email list as well, so if you go to the website people can sign up to get the latest news that’s happening, right?
Justin: Yeah. So we can keep them up to date.
Mick: Brilliant. So I guess in summary, Ko-work is a co-working space at North Lakes. It’s a drop-in, drop-out type centre where you can turn up rather than working from home by yourself. It’s an open space with business facilities where you can meet clients or just work in a place where there are other people working. It’s good for small businesses, for freelancers where you can kind of share ideas. Is that kind of how you’d summarise it? 
Justin: That’s the basics, yeah. I don’t know if I’ve gotten across to you the real core and heart of co-working is that once you get all the functionality working, you can go in there and you’ve got everything you need and then you start to build the connections with the other people there and that’s where the real value comes in for me.
You can do most things you do at Ko-work at home. You know you’ve got a computer. You’ve got Wi-Fi and you’ve got coffee and all that. Usually there’s a hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom you’ve got all your functionality. Then at the next level, you’ve got your showcase, whereas, if you’re an online business, you’d probably be okay actually at home because you don’t need to come to your house.
A lot of businesses need space to be and a location in the community. We provide that, as well. Then on top of that you get the community. You get the fun and social contact every day, but also the networking and when you meet someone once you might think something might be there. When you work with them regularly or see them around quite a bit, you can start to create really solid connections where it becomes quite easy to work with other businesses and help each other out.
On top of that, the last two, you get serendipity, which is a really fancy word for lucky encounters. You happen to be there at the moment that someone else just happens to turn up in the community and they’re working well and you can do things together. From that, you can really accelerate the business and push forward whatever you’re doing with all these clients, little bits and pieces that come from other people. That’s the real value of co-working, I think.
Mick: Well, that’s great, okay. We might close up on that then, Justin. Thank you very much for that. That’s good for today. We are looking forward to catching up soon. When we have our meet-up group out there it’ll be an opportunity for us to have a look around.
Justin: That’d be great.

 

What do you think would be the best and worst thing about operating out of a co-working space?

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