How to Start a Coworking Business During a Pandemic and Lockdown?
I am Alex Molokwu, and I founded Cowork Hub in 2015. We had two coworking business locations, one in Notting Hill and North Acton. I sold most of the business in 2019. I spent a year researching locations, competition, transport links and potential local clients before starting my coworking business.
It is essential that you do your research before you start your coworking business. For example, is there a case for your business to start in the first place, how much will it cost to start, what does your business plan look like, how will you obtain customers?
Preliminary Preparation for Opening Your Coworking Space
The Business Library has great research facilities, which are free in the IP centre. They have satellite centres across the UK. Most of their resources are accessible online too. So plan your budget and spending schedule.
Visit other coworking spaces and offices with full PPE. Ask venue operators how they started. There are virtual tours if you can’t go in person and chat with local members. Take note of their covid procedure; it is important that you know the government guidelines and rules for being covid secure.
Get to know your local community and the area and ask what they want to see in a coworking venue. I used social media, the local council forum, the community centre, and local networking groups on meetups.
Starting Your Business
There are many great banking options to choose from; I picked Metro Bank. Get accounting software so you can keep on top of your tax situation. It is essential you have a business plan by this stage. If you have looking for investing or funding, it is important to have a business plan and model.
Finding and Setting Up Your Property
This last year has been challenging for commercial property landlords; however, it has allowed a venue provider to acquire space for coworking at reasonable prices. Use a commercial property agent to help find your location to match your requirements. Your agent will help negotiate the terms of the lease, rent-free period and other conditions for opening. You may need to set aside a deposit for the landlord. It could be up to 6 months’ rent or more.
Even before you open your doors, you will have to consider paying for a refurbishment of your facilities, Health and Safety checks, business rates, utilities bills and furniture. Look at any potential rebates or business rate reduction schemes. Your local council may be able to offer support or grants to stay open. It is essential to have a fast internet connection before you open your doors for business.
My advice would be to budget for more spending than you think you need, find a great location within your budget and factor in hard times. Be prepared for the worst, like having no clients for six months, the internet going down, plumbing issues, competition and theft. Most importantly, what would you do if there was another lockdown or pandemic wave?
Prepare a Marketing Strategy and Diversify Revenue Streams
Marketing will be essential in launching your business and getting members. Google and Facebook Ads is a must, but I found using local networking resources were the most cost-effective and made the most impact with the local community. Contact the local government council and let them know your facility has opened. They could help you. I worked with office brokers that provided me with instant members for a fee.
Creating a coworking office is challenging, stressful and long hours. No one tells you about the long hours, the events, the workshops that take out so much energy and time. But it can be rewarding, exciting and fun. You meet some great startups and some really cool people with great ideas.
Be flexible and be prepared for other forms of revenue from your venue. For example, I allow my venues to be used as film locations and conferences. Being open-minded can turn a bad month into a great one.