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Couples in business: A startups story

Startups.co.uk sits down with Nick Donnelly, the CEO of startup WorkClub, to discuss what it’s like going into business with your partner


Coming up with WorkClub

“She wanted me to have a purpose,” Nick Donnelly says of his wife and business partner, Tori. He speaks incredibly fondly of her – you can tell that they have a solid partnership.

Back in June 2017, Donnelly was in a life changing bicycle accident when he was hit by a car. In the first three months after the accident, he couldn’t walk. As a result, his mental health deteriorated. “She realised I needed something to focus on,” he continues. “Starting a business and having something to work towards was her way of helping me recover.”

And so, out of the ashes of a horrific accident, WorkClub was born – a business idea that drew on Donnelly’s experiences of working in vacant property management and flexible workspace with Hubble HQ, and Tori’s experience of using public spaces as a working environment.


The beginning of WorkClub

Registered in August 2017, Donnelly describes WorkClub as his and Tori’s “first-born.”

And it was the couple’s ability to listen to, share, and talk to each other about their ideas that enabled WorkClub – as a business concept – to grow and flourish.

An app that helps teams and individuals find local, flexible workspaces that are free and paid, sounds like a business idea born out of Covid-19. But, at the time of writing, WorkClub is already three years old.

During its first few months, both Donnelly and his wife worked alongside a developer to create a very simple app to test the idea, before releasing their BETA platform alongside new co-founder, Upile Chasowa, for testing their new paid subscription.


The impact of Covid-19

Donnelly states that Covid-19 has accelerated their business plan by three to four years. However, they had to cut short user testing when lockdown hit, as everyone was asked to work from home.

“In a time where people are now looking to flexible and local spaces as a place to work, socialise and just get out the house, WorkClub offers members three to four professional work space day passes and hundreds of other free work spaces – from just £45 per month.”

WorkClub is now extending its membership plans to support teams.


Starting a business with your partner

Whether you start a business alone or with a partner, it’s never plain sailing. For Donnelly and his wife, it’s been a mix of hard grafting, taking calls at inconvenient times, and chance meetings in pubs.

Donnelly tells us about the time Tori was answering calls while in labour with the couple’s first real child.

He then goes on to tell us about the time he went to the pub, helped a man clean up a spilt beer, and then found out the very man he helped was an investor that had an interest in flexible working.

When they’re not gunning for investment or onboarding new clients, Donnelly and his wife and business partner Tori know how to switch off from the business.

He says they’ll often “put their phones in the other room”, or head out on the weekend to explore the outdoors. They particularly love visiting the coast or travelling around Europe – before Covid-19, of course.

But when it comes to keeping the motivation going, he says the greatest thing about going into business with your partner is “knowing that Tori has my back 100%”.

So for couples who are looking to start a business together, we ask Donnelly a final question – what advice would you give?

“Find something you’re both passionate about. A concept that you both understand. Put in place a rule where you spend one hour a day where you do not work. And finally, be aware that at least one of you is going to have to devote the majority of their time to the business.”

Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Writer and researcher

Aimee recently joined Startups as resident expert in business tech, products, and services. Having ran her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she is an advocate of self starters and small businesses.