Teresa Jackson, Collabor8te: Staying true to your values in a changing marketplace

Teresa Jackson, Collabor8te: Staying true to your values in a changing marketplace

We recently sat down for a chat with Teresa Jackson, founder of Collabor8te, a coworking space in Glasgow, Scotland. As long-time Nexudus customers, we have grown together in many ways, and it was fascinating to get more of an insight into not only how the idea for the space came about, but also how they have adapted and grown over the years into the space they are today. 

Tell us a bit about Collabor8te and how it came about.

Okay, well, it was a bit of an accident. I didn't really intend to open a coworking space. Nine years ago this year, I wanted an office for myself in town. I definitely didn't want to be sitting in a little box by myself, so I spoke to a few people I knew from networking in businesses. I said, “Look, I'm thinking about doing this taking a bit of a big office. Would you be interested in joining me?” A few people were like, “Oh yeah, that sounds great. Yeah, definitely interested.” So, of course, I went ahead. Signed the lease, not for a huge space, it was only about a thousand square feet and said, to those people, “Right, good to go.” And of course, when it comes to actually signing the contract and handing over the money, some of those people disappeared into the sunset. 

Basically, I was left with a bit of a problem. I've got this big office, all to myself, and the bills are starting to come in. I didn’t have the money to pay, so it really was a bit of an accident. I thought, “How can I make it easy for people to join me in the office?” 

I was already part of a networking group and paid membership for that networking group. So I thought I'd do the same thing. I'd never heard of coworking, so I just came up with this idea of a monthly recurring payment, an easy way I could introduce it to people and they could pay. 

Once I started looking into it, I realised coworking was a thing. It wasn't in Glasgow though, we were the first. There was the Melting Pot, of course, in Edinburgh, which had been there for some time but really it was happening in London and America. 

That's kind of how it happened, and I just felt my way around it. I offered a few memberships and figured out what people wanted.

Wow, so you were right in at the start! You must have seen the industry change drastically over the years…

Yes, people hadn’t heard of coworking at the start. You'd say coworking and people be like, “what's that?” 

Back then what people thought was, “Oh, I could have an address in town. I could have somewhere in the city that I don't have to pay for all the time.” They really talked about and bought into the physical location of it and the physical facilities whereas now, people are saying “I want community, I'm fed up of being in my own house. I want to be at work with other people.” It was what I wanted right from the beginning, but actually, people didn't really ask for that or think about that when we first started out.

Back then, we were a small space and had just a two years lease, because as I said, I wasn't thinking about opening a coworking space.  By the end of the two years, we were full, with a small profit and I had to decide what to do next.

Am I going to stick and do something else? Or am I going to go bigger? I decided to open a bigger space, We've always attracted members from all industries and everyone from freelancers to small business owners. Post-Covid, we're seeing a lot more remote employees of larger companies and small teams too. The demographics have definitely changed, not just for us but for the coworking industry as a whole.

The market is much more crowded now, have you had to adapt to this changing marketplace?

We've never changed the way we operate. We've evolved, but never changed. Everything we did right in the beginning, in the way we offer memberships, and what we do now is exactly the same. We offer all-inclusive memberships. Basically, people buy a block of hours, and there are four different levels. When we moved to this new space, the prices went up a bit, because it's a bigger location and more facilities. But still, they're all-inclusive. 

You get guaranteed access to your desk for a number of hours, you also get access to meeting rooms free of charge, you just book one, and we don't do credit or anything. Some spaces are doing this, but a lot of them are still charging extra. There's a lot more competition for sure, but we've just kept doing what we do

We've just kept doing what we do and we've got a really solid membership base. We've had members with us right from the very beginning. Nine years later, we've still got some of our original members, which I know is unusual. As well as new people, we've retained a lot of our members for a long time, and I think that's because we're flexible. 

So, yeah, we haven't, we haven't really changed, but I think the world has changed and what we do works pretty well. Now people are wanting flexibility. We're finding actually, since the covid and lockdown, people are coming to us and saying: “I just want to get out of the house one or two days a week” or “we are shutting down our office, we don't want an office all the time. We want to meet our team once or twice a month”. So, while the world has changed, luckily right now we fit this change perfectly.

How do you see your role and the role of Collabor8te in the lives of your members?

We are all about community, all about people. 

My strapline has always been “go far with others” - that’s what it’s always been about. People can do better, and businesses can do better if they work together and not against each other. I’ve thought that the whole time I've been in business and I still think it now. So, it's really about providing a space where people can meet, connect, and collaborate. The whole Collabor8te name came from that. 

We have lots of events, lots of social events. We do hikes, quiz nights, pub nights. We do business events, coffee chats, and have a big Christmas party every year. So that whole aspect is a big part of what we do here. If it were just a space, just four walls, then we wouldn't have people with us for so long.

The cost of living crisis has been affecting everyone, what has it meant for you as an operator?

At the moment we've been fairly protected from the energy rises because we are still in a contract, however, that runs out fairly soon. I've just renegotiated a new contract, so we will be hit with higher prices but not as high as they otherwise might have been. 

We've not put prices up yet, but like everyone, we will have to think about it. We're actually undertaking a review currently. This involves putting a survey out to our members, asking lots of things around, how happy they are with the services, if there is anything else we can provide, whether they have got what they need, and also, how would they feel about a price rise?

So far, I think the feedback has been pretty much a hundred per cent positive. So, that's good news for us. I guess it's kind of expected, but I don't want to put up the prices and we may not, we may just change things. For example, while we give away a lot, it’s certainly not as much as we used to. Before covid, I think we were getting a little bit carried away with our freebies. We used to have pastries coming in every day, we used to do a couple of lunches a month and other extras as well.

During lockdown, I had lots of time to sit and look at this kind of thing, and I looked at the amount of money we spent on office food and drink and was absolutely stunned. So, we did pull that back when we reopened and it made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Not one person has said: “Oh, where are the pastries?” 

Certainly, little things like that we're looking at to just make sure that we're just keeping our costs sensible, while also still providing the nice homely feel that the space has.

We still do a breakfast cereal bar. That's here all day long. People can come and have breakfast cereal any time of the day. We do still do the occasional free lunch and things like that, but we don't do it all the time. and I think that probably works better as well.

Do you have anything exciting coming up that you want to tell us about?

Well, we are in the final stages of going for our B Corp certification. 

We worked really hard on that. We're really into being a very sustainable business. We use a lot of local, small suppliers, and that costs more money sometimes, but I think it's important. We're a small business, and we want to support other small businesses. So all our suppliers are local, Scottish businesses.

We started doing the B Corp process through covid. The process is really challenging but also really interesting. It made us think about everything, a lot of things we're doing already but as a small business we didn't necessarily have the process written down or we didn't have the policy written down, and we make some changes to the way we operate as a business too.

It has been a great experience, and we are now in the verification stage, so fingers crossed it all goes well from here.

And finally, what’s the one Nexudus feature you couldn’t live without?

Oh, invoicing! 

I mean, I love all of it, and we use all of it. I was tempted to say CRM but the invoicing is all automated and just makes life so easy!

To find out more about Collabor8te, and the amazing work that they do, head over to their website and find out a little more about them. 

For any other Nexudus customers who would like to be featured on our blog, we would love to speak to you! So, please reach out and we can get something put together to feature your amazing spaces as well.

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