Interview with Coworkly's Founder | Promoting your Space During the First 100 Days
Located in Ontario, Canada, Coworkly is a workspace for tech entrepreneurs, freelancers, location independent workers and digital nomads who are looking for a great work environment where they can get work done.
They are the first Coworking Space in the East End of Ottawa and are the only coworking space specifically focused on tech entrepreneurs. Inhouse you’ll find they have incorporated lots of tech into the space. For example:
- Meeting rooms equipped with high-end videoconferencing.
- Event space equipped with the latest A/V technology for recording and livestreaming.
- Audio/video studio for podcasting, photography and videography.
- Facebook corner for live video streaming.
- Nap and meditation room.
The space opened in May 2018. We spoke with Maher Arar, Founder and CEO and Victoria Landreville, Director of Community Engagement to get some insights on their first 100 days running the space.
What’s the concept behind Coworkly? Which type of members are you attracting the most?
We promote ourselves as a productivity hub. This is a quiet, modern and professional space to get your work done. It’s for tech people who want a space away from noise and distractions. Our founder has a tech background, he started several tech businesses himself which is what motivated him to approach similar tech-minded people. Fortunately, that’s exactly whom we’ve been attracting. Freelancers, solo tech business entrepreneurs, tech consultants, designers, etc.
We don’t take anybody. We are a tight-knit community with limited space so it’s very important to attract not only like-minded people, but people with a tech background. This way organic collaboration occurs, our members get each others lingo so it builds a tighter community.
On which channels, online or offline, are you promoting your space?
We rely on a variety of channels to attract members and build a brand around our business. There are 4 main area in which we are active:
- Listing platforms: especially Coworker.com - the Yelp of Coworking Spaces
- Offline: hosting entrepreneurial events as well as tech meetups
- Paid digital channels: Google AdWords and Facebook Ads
- PR and communication: local newspapers, online magazines, podcasts, social media shout outs, etc.
How early before the actual opening did your marketing efforts start?
We started community outreach around the same time we started the construction. By then we had already done online research and we were positive there was a need for such a service.
You are currently offering discounted rates for students, has this proven to be an effective way of attracting new members?
Not yet, but after all it’s summertime and there’s not many students around just yet. We’ll wait to see what comes from this in the fall.
How do you track return on investment on your marketing activities? Which KPI are you monitoring?
Our paid ad marketing has started as of July 1st, 2018, so it is too early to judge. We’re still conducting experiments to figure out the best paid channel for us. The KPI we monitor is the average membership signups per month.
You currently organize different kind of events, what is the strategy behind this? Are they for members only or open to anyone?
Currently, most of our events are private, since our primary goal is to serve the community. That being said, not every event we host is specific to entrepreneurship or tech, so we also try to broaden our reach.
From the few entrepreneurial events we have lined up, our plan is to build awareness but also to be involved in the entrepreneur community as much as we can (as our way of giving back) and participating in what we are passionate about and share an interest in.
Every week we have lunch and learn sessions exclusively for members. Because we still are a tight-knit group (i.e. under 20), we want to encourage members to interact, learn from each other and make friends. This creates a connection amongst members that organically makes coming to work more fun, but also give each member a sense of community that they otherwise would lack if they were working at home.
Eventually we will provide more learning events that members will be able to attend but with caution. We want to be careful not to enforce events or overload our members with events; at the end of the day most of them go home to a family with young kids at the end of the long work day. Our focus is to provide a great atmosphere filled with like-minded tech entrepreneurs who love coming to work everyday.
What did you learn during the first 100 days of running the space?
Accepting everyone is not our focus. We want to be picky about who we target and most importantly who we accept as members because we want our members to learn from each other and connect on the same topics/passions. Also we want to avoid getting any rotten apples that could disrupt our image and/or our members who are serious about getting work done.
Study your competitors inside and out. Know what sets you apart and be different from them or else you begin to blend in with every other business.
Creating a connected environment is key. We use Slack to keep our community connected; throwing memes out every once in a while, joking around, and making sure everyone stays informed.
Focus on the low-hanging fruit: Individuals who live nearby, are already aware about coworking and are in need of office space. They are your best targets to start building momentum. We did this through word of mouth, Facebook and Google ads.
Talking to your members, getting their feedback, asking them what’s missing etc. Not only helpful from our exact target market but also builds connection and shows we care about them.
Slow growth is better than fast growth. We can maintain control of things. We can improve as we go. Quality over quantity is key for us.
It’s VERY easy to get consumed with ideas for expansion, growth and fun extras but your #1 focus needs to be acquisition in order to cover rent costs. Once our costs are covered, we’ll have time to experiment and implementing fun things.
Events are key, but not everything. We saw a nearby competitor close down because they put all their time and energy into hosting events which did not directly translate into customers.
We hope you enjoyed their insights! Are you running a coworking business and would like to be featured on CoworkingResources? Just get in touch!