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New Winnipeg coworking space set to launch

‘Collective motivation’ space for entrepreneurs and independent professionals coming to south Winnipeg.

The main idea behind Winnipeg’s Launch Coworking Space is about providing physical office and workspace for young and growing businesses, but it goes far beyond four walls and desk. Jason Abbott, Managing Partner of Launch, says the concept is about creating a connected community of entrepreneurs and freelancers.

“You’re creating a professional environment,” Abbott says. “When you’re meeting a supplier or a client, it’s not in your home office and it’s not at the coffee shop with distractions next to you.”

The ‘coworking’ concept isn’t entirely new, having been around for over a decade, but it has been evolving. With the goal of offering work and meeting space to nascent and developing businesses outside of the home environment, this gives business owners another option without having to fully commit to longer-term, higher-cost office space leases.

If you’re successfully self-employed, you could have a workspace issue

An entrepreneur for the better part of a decade, Abbott started Oi Furniture three years ago, a company specializing in modular furniture. He came to the coworking concept out of his own needs, while spending some parental-leave time in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and family two years ago. Abbott quickly came to realize it would be tough to get work done at the kitchen table of his in-laws’ home.

“I don’t have a need for my own office, per se,” Abbott says. “But when two young kids enter the fold, suddenly working out of the home or coffee shop isn’t as practical as it once was. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who start their journeys that way. I had heard of this thing called coworking so I looked around and, sure enough, there was a coworking place called CO+HOOTS in downtown Phoenix, and I joined.”

“It was a great environment and atmosphere, and really drove me to think about doing something like this back home.” With numbers of the self-employed booming in Winnipeg, Abbott saw the southern part of the city as fertile ground. “It seemed high enough for us to think there was an opportunity here,” Abbott says.

How coworking spaces…work

Abbott likens the coworking model to a concept very familiar to most.

“The best analogy is that it’s kind of like a gym,” Abbott says. “You buy a membership, you show up at your leisure and it’s first come, first served on the equipment. It’s the same idea here. We have no private offices, but it can deliver what you need for the stage you’re at in your journey. There are a lot of independent entrepreneurs, ‘solo-preneurs’ and independent professionals who need something like this.”

Launch Coworking Space offers up monthly-renewed memberships in several formats: an hourly rate, starting at $9 an hour; a casual membership in which you pre-buy hours in the space at a rate of $129 per month; a part-time membership which offers 80 hours for $249; and the unlimited or full-time membership which is priced at $499 per month.

When members step into Launch’s 5,000 square-foot space located at 200-1460 Chevrier Boulevard, they’ll encounter a reception area staffed by a ‘community leader’ during regular business hours. The space opens up into the main area and its open-plan workstations. The facility also features a boardroom, presentation area, private and semi-private meeting areas, kitchenette, lounge area with café-style seating and smaller rooms to use for phone calls requiring privacy.

“The community leader will be kind of like the greeter at the gym, with the difference that they’ll be the heart of the community,” Abbott says. “They’re going to know every member, the events for the week and who they can introduce members to.”

Workspaces are not assigned, but are first come, first served – and members can use the space 24-7, getting in with a security fob. However, locker space will be provided for members, and a booking system will be used for the boardroom and meeting spaces.

“Individuals who join our coworking space will have full access to all the amenities within the space,” says Abbott.

This is a place for ‘collective motivation’

It’s really all about the community of members, Abbott explains.

“I think where Launch is going to stand out is in terms of community. The community will be the members who will create this experience and it’s intended to inspire creativity and collaboration.”

Winnipeg coworking officeWhile some coworking spaces focus on specific sectors — say tech or design — any type of business is welcome at Launch. In fact, that’s part of the philosophy Abbott is nurturing at Launch.

“It’s about that chance encounter with another member, where you have an interaction that makes you think differently about how you’re operating your business or pursuing your project,” Abbott says. “A new trend or buzzword that’s talked about is the idea of ‘cotivation,’ or ‘collective motivation.’ It’s the idea that by sitting in your office as a solo entrepreneur, there’s not much motivating you. But when you get in a group environment and you see that other person ringing the bell and having great success, genuinely you’re going to want to model after that success. There’s an underlying philosophy around the dynamics of an environment.”

Along with serving as a hive for small businesses looking for space, Abbott says Launch will offer up regular speaker sessions and seminars on a variety of relevant topics, a feature he’s seen at other coworking centres.

“We’re looking to engage our corporate community, to help educate members. That’s the biggest thing with coworking — it’s about creating a community of entrepreneurs who share collective wisdom.”

Coworking scene taking root in Winnipeg

Other coworking spaces are currently in operation in central Winnipeg. In the Exchange District, a space called 245 McDermot is operated by the Arts and Cultural Industries (ACI) Association of Manitoba and Startup Winnipeg. Downtown, Regus offers two coworking spaces, one on St. Mary Avenue and the other at 201 Portage Avenue.

Abbott and his business partner, Oleg Miruk, have hosted a couple of well-attended open houses for Launch. Launch plans to open in January and Abbott says he hopes to have about 50 members on board by then, likely maxing out at about 120 members.

“We’re hoping to stimulate a great environment for entrepreneurs,” Abbott says. “Part of it is about creating a really fun, energized environment for people to come to every day.”

The space will feature MTS Fibre Optic Network service, Abbott says, as connectivity will be a critical importance for the business community. Launch is also planning to look at adding a snack bar with beer and wine.

“I believe we’re going to see some great business ideas come out of this space and its community,” Abbott says. “Person A is going to meet person B and maybe they’re going to say, ‘Maybe we should develop X.’ That happens as a result of bringing a community of people together.”

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Jason Halstead

Jason is a Winnipeg-based journalist and photographer who has been published across Canadian media.

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