Business ideas for 2014: Regional coworking space

With growing start-up communities across the UK, a coworking office is an attractive proposition for 2014…

A concept which began in the US, coworking offices have taken off in the UK and with the number of start-ups reaching a record 500,000 in 2013, the demand for affordable office space is now higher than ever.

More and more businesses are turning to shared offices as an alternative to traditional office lettings, marking 2014 as an optimum time to launch a coworking office to cater to this demand.


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Starting a regional co-working office: Why it’s a good business idea

A model which sees open plan offices rented to individuals and entrepreneurs working alongside one another, co-working is a flexible, low-risk option for start-ups and new businesses looking to take on commercial space.

The recent popularity of coworking is in part due to changes in ways of working, the new “Sharing Economy”, and the rising trend towards collaboration as entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to network and discuss strategies with like-minded individuals.

With London home to one of the largest start-up clusters, coworking offices and workspace “hubs” have surged across the capital, with the likes of Google Campus, TechHub, Impact Hub, Central Working (pictured), Co-Work and their ilk.

And that’s without considering business lounges from the likes of Regus or private entrepreneur clubs such as One Alfred Place, Adam Street, and The Clubhouse.

Steadily becoming a crowded market, starting a coworking office in London is ill-advised particularly as property prices are becoming steeper, but the success of this model demonstrates the potential for coworking elsewhere.

Start-up communities stretch way beyond London and there are new clusters emerging across Britain in various cities such as Manchester, Newcastle, and Brighton with its “Silicon Beach” tech scene.

With experts warning of a “regional office space crunch” as there is little new office space outside the capital with office leasing at its highest for five years, the availability of regional coworking office isn’t just a viable start-up opportunity but a necessity to help support evolving businesses.

Regional coworking office business opportunities

With the number of new businesses only expected to increase over the coming year, there is huge potential for coworking in regional markets, especially if you launch in a digital and technology district.

In a recent infographic published by recruitment aggregator Hiring Hub, aside from London, Manchester, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Bristol, Birmingham, Brighton, Sheffield and Oxford, were all identified as top UK technology clusters for 2014; representing key growth areas for coworking offices. Techhub, as part of its national and international expansion, has already opened locations in Swansea and Manchester.

When thinking about where to locate your workspace offering, TechBritain.com has created a site which maps out exciting tech start-up clusters outside of London building on from Tech City “hype”.

High start-up capital is required to purchase office space but there is government support available to facilitate the development of workspace areas. This backing is through the government’s national Space for Growth initiative which makes dormant office properties within its estate available to business incubators and coworking companies to help grow small businesses.

Many of these spaces are already set up for businesses use and there are no rents or rates to pay for, although you would have to finance service charges and utility rates of the space. There is currently “Space for Growth” in several UK locations including Bristol, Guildford, Croydon, Norwich and Nottingham to name a few.

Coworking offices are usually operated on a membership basis and at basic you will need to provide your members with suitable furnishings along with internet services, a phone line and Wi-Fi. Fitting out an office can cost as little as £5,000 dependent on where you source items and the size of your workspace but you may want to look at extending you’re offering to include a host of services and equipment.

For instance you could look to provide meeting rooms and boardrooms, lockers, a kitchen or catering service, fax, photocopying, office cleaning and even car-parking.  To create a successful co-working office, member retention is key so you will need to continuously work on building the space and community. Sites like officegenie.com allows you to list office space on its platform for a small fee which will help businesses to find you.

Who else has started a regional coworking office business?

Coworking is an arena which up until recently has been dominated by major players such as Regus, HQ, and the Regus-acquired MWB but in the last few years there has been a huge increase and multiple co-working offices have emerged such as Central Working, Club Workspace, Desk Union, Techhub and Co-Work.

With most of these businesses predominantly London-based, there is a clear gap in the market to open space further afield and the success of Edinburgh technology incubator TechCube, which was founded in 2012, along with Manchester’s recent £950m MediaCityUK development demonstrates the potential of launching a regional co-working office.

James Layfield, CEO of Central Working:

“There has been an irreversible shift in the way that we work and the old concept of our office space is swiftly becoming obsolete. As new technology disrupts how we communicate and work with one another, people are running businesses more flexibly than ever, breaking down physical and geographical boundaries.

“This is where communal working spaces such as Central Working come in, where businesses of every size and age are encouraged to work collaboratively. This approach encourages businesses to work together to share knowledge, talent and ideas – the outcome is mutually beneficial for all and produces astonishing results.

“In a space like Central Working, where global banks share desks with fledgling start-ups, it is the partnerships that form between small and big businesses that are especially exciting as they are likely to provide big results.

“As the world of work becomes increasingly mobile and business leaders find themselves working independently, the need to collaborate in order to evolve, grow and achieve more has never been more important.”

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