Fenna Leake, Future Leap: Creating a coworking space with a sustainability focused mission

Fenna Leake, Future Leap: Creating a coworking space with a sustainability focused mission

We recently sat down with Fenna Leake, Managing Director of Future Leap, a coworking space and business network in Bristol. At the heart of their business is a keen focus on environmental sustainability, and it was fascinating to get Fenna’s thoughts on how to create a coworking space with this very much at the centre of everything they do. 

Tell us a bit about Future Leap and how it came about.

Fenna: Future Leap started as a sustainable business network that wasn't linked to a physical space. It was a small team of about four people running a successful business network within Bristol and the Southwest and supporting organisations with their sustainability journey and hosting events on Sustainability themed topics.

So, it's been going since 2005 in that format. Eventually, the founder of Future Leap, who has a background in property, wanted to create a coworking space that also embodied the sustainability focused mission and values of the business network. 

In 2019, the first coworking hub was being put together and the coworking operations were being set up, which is when we onboarded with Nexudus. That was my role when I started at Future Leap; I was setting up the operations of the coworking space.

We were supposed to open our doors to the public on the day that we went into lockdown in the UK. So, yeah, that was a bit of a spanner in the works, but in some ways, it was quite useful to have a little bit more prep and planning time over lockdown.

Since then we've been in and out of lockdowns but we've had a good year and a half or so of uninterrupted trading and in that time, the community's grown really, really quickly and we’ve now opened up a second hub, as well.

What role do you see the workplace and coworking heaving in environmental sustainability as a wider movement?

Fenna: It’s no secret that we’re in an ecological and climate emergency. In order to progress with wider sustainability local authorities and governments have set targets to reach net zero. Bristol has set a target to reach net zero by 2030, which is really, really soon. 

In order to make that kind of rapid, huge transformation everyone needs to collaborate and work together and that's the spirit of a coworking space. Having a mixture of ideas and people from different backgrounds, maybe working on separate pieces of work, but within a community and supporting one another and helping each other out. 

So, I think there's a really strong link between what needs to happen with sustainability, and what naturally happens in coworking spaces.

What would be your top tips for other workspace operators looking to make their workspace more sustainable? 

Fenna:  A really good starting place is to look at your carbon footprint, and it's not as difficult or as scary as it sounds. In order to be effective in doing that, you need to have a good data capture system and robust processes in how you store your business's data. Things like your energy and utilities and then supply chain analysis.

Measuring, your carbon footprint is fairly straightforward and Future Leap also supports businesses around the Southwest with their sustainability. Not only do we measure carbon footprints, that’s just the starting point, we work with businesses on their Net Zero strategies and reduction plans. We're more than a coworking space, we also support businesses within our network practically. 

We have a whole consulting team who work directly with organisations to improve their sustainability. Carbon measurement is one of the first steps but to do it properly you would then have a carbon reduction plan and would actively work on reducing your emissions over a targeted timeline. 

But if you just want to start somewhere, then figure out what your carbon footprint is in the first instance.

How do you create a culture of sustainability among your membership as well?

Fenna: Within our membership, we run weekly events on sustainability topics that are free for our network members and our coworking members to attend. We invite the wider public to join as well and they would purchase a ticket. We invite experts on a variety of different topics to come and present at those events, so there's a really strong culture of knowledge sharing within the network.

How do you think the workplace and coworking will evolve over the next five-ten years?

Fenna: It's a good question. I think the last three years have seen a major revolution in how people work, and the pandemic has been a big factor in this transition to hybrid working. Everyone's had to get more digitally competent, really, really quickly. So, that's definitely not going to go away.

A really hot topic in business culture right now is flexibility and offering more flexible ways of working and really thinking about employee well-being. We see this a lot within our business network. In order to sort of retain the best talent, companies need to be more dynamic and flexible and offer extra benefits and improved well-being considerations. 

I think flexibility and coworking spaces offer those extras, we offer our members monthly yoga, socials, and extra benefits. People are looking for that in their future employment.

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

Fenna: I just want to reiterate that while Future Leap is a sustainability-focused coworking space offering all of the facilities and benefits you'd expect within a coworking space, but additionally we support businesses through consultancy, and our events program to help them on their sustainability journey. 

In May 2022 we launched Future Leap Finance whose mission is to provide network members with financing options to support sustainable business activities, so it’s really about supporting business at every level.

We tap into our wider network to ensure that expertise is as current and up-to-date as it possibly can be. We also run a big event series called the Festival of Sustainable Business. This is three large events over the course of the year that we host in larger venues than our own space.

In June, we’re providing a sustainable business exhibition. It's a trade show with over 50 exhibitors and then various guests and speakers. This year we are launching a pitch hour at the exhibition to bring investors and innovators together. Later this year we have our sustainability awards ceremony, where we celebrate the excellent work of organisations in the Southwest and beyond that really pave the way in terms of sustainability. 

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

Fenna: We love the discussion board and the Members' Portal. Not only do we have a physical space where we can create community, we can also host an online community as well. We have subscribers in our network that are fully remote and not even using the coworking space which is brilliant and they can engage with the community entirely virtually.

To find out more about Future Leap, 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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