Recently I was asked to speak at a new business networking group in Ballarat called Think Like an Entrepreneur. It prompted me to ask, ‘What is thinking like an entrepreneur? And do I do it?’
I opened the doors to Platypus Coworking in August 2018 but I had been working on my business idea for at least twelve months prior. I had to find the right site, design the layout, buy furniture, develop a brand and more. Although I didn’t know it would be a coworking venue at the time, most of my friends would say I have been looking for a business idea since I left school in the 90s.
I went to University to establish a business background. I knew I would need basic skills when the right business idea came along. After University I joined the workforce to increase my general business and management experience. I kept my eye out for the right business opportunity but nothing spoke to me.
Thinking back, I realise that the timing wasn’t right anyway. I was too young to deal with the financial commitment and responsibility on my own. I think too that I was looking for a business that would become a long term asset and not just an income source.
I was lucky enough to be raised in an entrepreneurial family. Our family business was a big part of my life for twenty five years. I enjoyed and worked in it with my Dad for over a decade before we sold. Although I loved it and learned a lot, it wasn’t the right time for me to take over.
In the years following I worked in a variety of management roles in both Melbourne and Ballarat but nothing that gave me the sense of passion and purpose for which I was looking. When my daughter was born I felt the time was right for me to launch a business of my own. That is when I discovered coworking. It was a great match for my skills – customer service, business management and facility management.
Building the brand
My biggest challenge in the early days of Platypus Coworking was building awareness of the concept in Ballarat. We were the first coworking space locally, although we have shared offices and an incubator. I believed that my market was those working from home but how was I going to find them, explain this new concept of coworking and show them the benefits? I knew from my research that moving from a home-based office to a coworking space could improve their productivity, allow them to separate home and business and create collaboration. But how could I attract them to such a new idea?
It was a leap of faith but I opened the doors and started marketing and educating our community about coworking. Word slowly got out and I discovered that there was also a need locally for flexible small office space, which my setup could easily accommodate.
What I’ve learnt
As more members have joined Platypus Coworking I’ve been able to share in their successes and learn more about what our local business people need from a workspace.
One business owner moved from a home office and was working from Platypus a couple of days a week. She went out to get coffee, ran into a contact who said, ‘I’m so glad I ran into you. I need your help with something’ and from that conversation they have established ongoing business. It was exciting to see how moving from the isolation of home to coworking has created new opportunities.
I also see regular collaboration between members, which I love. We have established a series of business events at which members speak to share their skills and knowledge. This helps them to connect to a wider audience and helps me to introduce our local business community to Platypus and what we do.
Members often tell me how focused and productive they are here without the distractions of home or working in a public space. As more members join and trial our venue, it has gratifying to see my ideas come to life and to know that the environment we have built is productive and offers alternatives for small business.
I am loving my business journey. It will be fascinating to see who walks through the door next, how I can help them and what we can learn from each other. I’m looking forward to further building the business and sharing the benefits of coworking to even more of the Ballarat business community.