GoGo Remote spoke with Corryn Mounstephen, founder and CEO of [inn]space, about her decision to open a coworking space. [inn]space is a hybrid coworking and shared office space located in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, about one hour north of Toronto.
Sheila Proteau: What led to you opening a coworking space? How did you know there was a market for a coworking space in Barrie?
Corryn Mounstephen: I’ve always had a passion for design and real estate, and I had been looking for another real estate investment for some time. I’ve had my finger on the pulse of the remote work movement for a while now and recognized the need for flexible office space in Barrie.
At the time, there were other shared offices in Barrie and only one was strictly a coworking space. I knew there was demand for both coworking space as well as office space.
So when this building became available, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy both my desire to invest in real estate and the demand for flexible office space.
SP: Tell me what went into the layout and design of [inn]space? What needs specifically were you looking to address?
CM: As I mentioned, we’re a hybrid space, so we have traditional office space as well as common areas and coworking spaces.
The upper level of the building houses our executive office spaces, micro offices, and boardrooms. The offices are occupied full-time by various businesses. The ‘micro offices’ offer all the benefits and amenities as our executive offices but on a smaller scale.
The lower level houses our coworking space — what we call “The Lounge”. It’s a combination living room, café, and office.
[inn]space was designed to allow each guest to treat it as their own and to work in an environment that is specific to their needs.
SP: How has [inn]space been doing since it opened? What has the adoption rate and growth been like?
CM: We have been very well-received. We started off with just a few members and very quickly, month by month, our membership has grown to a point where we are almost at capacity.
For businesses looking to maintain an office space, we are an ideal solution. They are able to base their business out of a beautiful space without the overhead of having to maintain a building.
SP: What is unique about [inn]space?
CM: We are unique in several ways. For one, we are a hybrid space, meaning we offer both a coworking space as well as traditional office space.
Also, we own the building which is uncommon. Most coworking spaces typically lease space from the building owner. This gives us complete control over what we do in our business and also how we can plan our financial forecasts.
Another unique aspect to [inn]space is that we offer exclusivity within each business category or sector to our members. Doing so allows our members to conduct their businesses in privacy and without the concern of potential competitors being around the corner. It was a business decision we made that we felt was important even though it affects our bottom line.
SP: Tell me about the people and members that are using [inn]space. What are their challenges as remote workers and how do you help them with those challenges?
CM: Well, being a hybrid space, we have many businesses who maintain an office here full time. But with our coworking space, we also have many people who work remotely and just need a space where they can come to work and be amongst people. As you know, isolation is probably the number one challenge of remote work, and this is where coworking spaces fit in to address that problem.
But of course, we’re more than just a space to work. We provide additional benefits and amenities such as mobile dry cleaning, a lunch program, and an onsite RMT.
We also put on workshops and lunch and learns. Our goal is to create a sense of community.
SP: What are the biggest challenges of operating a coworking space?
CM: I think profitability is one of the biggest challenges. I recall reading something that said that 80% of all coworking spaces are not profitable. If you think about this, it’s no surprise since most coworking spaces are young – only a few years old – and most businesses take on average five years to become profitable.
Also, I think most coworking spaces who lease their space from a building owner are at the risk of things that are out of their control that can have a major impact on their business. For example, a landlord could suddenly raise their rent substantially once the lease is up, and this could put a coworking space out of business.
SP: What are the top three tips you would give to someone who is thinking of opening a coworking space?
CM: First, do your due diligence. Find out what other spaces exist and what the needs and demands are for a coworking space in your area.
Second, make sure you create a solid business plan at the start so you can forecast your cash flow and profitability.
Third, make your space a community, not just a place to come and work.
SP: Why should companies adopt a remote work policy?
CM: Companies need to consider allowing employees to work remotely for many reasons. There are so many benefits to working remotely such as increased productivity, better quality of life, and access to a wider talent pool.