I used to work in marketing and advertising for well-known consumer brands, based in big shiny offices with glass lifts, cafes in the reception areas and stationery cupboards on every floor, but when I started Postcards Home I couldn't wait to join smaller offices with a bit more soul, that were slightly rougher around the edges, that just felt a little bit more 'me'.
But what I initially found was that even though the co-working spaces I first tried were smaller than previous offices I had worked in, the culture wasn't that different. I was still drinking coffee from a machine and having to leave the space to make phone calls. I quickly realised that it was all about finding the right people in complementary industries, so I hunted for a space which focused on creative businesses that were around the same age as Postcards Home so that I could spend time with people I had shared experience with.
Since we relocated to sunny Brighton, Postcards Home has been based in (almost certainly) the best co-working space in the UK. It's run by One Girl Band and is a dedicated space for female founders and creative entrepreneurs.
We've worked in co-working spaces before that have either felt stale, or too noisy, or competitive, but with One Girl Band the space is engineered to be collaborative, creative and FUN. Headphones go on and come off as someone has a hilarious email to read out, and we have a kettle and motivational mugs rather than a fancy coffee machine and matching Ikea cups.
Co-working generally can be intimating for small business owners, and often it's too expensive to make good business sense, so spaces like One Girl Band are so important to nurture entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of camaraderie.
The space feels like a home from home - people curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and their laptop, and there are hanging plants and motivational posters generating a cool creative vibe to set the tone for a working community. More often than not there is a dog having a snooze under the main table, ready for a snuggle if one of the female founders is having a hard day. For me, a huge benefit of being self-employed is that I don't have to commute in rush hour every day to a sterile big office block, but I do miss the buzz of an office environment, so a co-working space that feels homely and welcoming is perfect for me and allows me to just get on with my work.
The One Girl Band space feels collaborative, not competitive, which prompts open debate and knowledge sharing in a warm and welcoming way. Headphones go on and come off as someone has a hilarious email to read out, and people make rounds of tea in motivational mugs to keep energy levels up. We each have very different businesses but there is always common ground, and the diversity of skills and experience means that whatever the small business world throws at me, there is pretty much always someone who can give me a tip on how to move forward.
I was recently featured in an article in The Telegraph looking at the different co-working options for start-ups with my office buddy and small business pal, Sally from Mumsback. We spoke about why creative co-working spaces had had such a positive impact on our businesses and whether we'd recommend them for all founders out there.
My opinion is that if you're a solo entrepreneur, co-working is like a networking event that never ends, but you don't have to wear a name badge and drink really bad wine. You can knowledge share and trade tips as and when you need to. It completely changes the feel of your working week to make you feel included, not isolated, and helps you overcome issues quicker (someone has always been there before).
But every start up is unique, as is its founders preferred way of working, so it's so important to find the right space for you and your business. I'd recommend doing a trial day and getting to know the people who use the space you're eyeing up. As opposed to when you apply for a new job, owning your own business allows you to choose the people you surround yourself with every day, and that is a real privilege in itself and one that I never take for granted.
*Since writing this blog post the One Girl Band co-working space has relocated up to Glasgow - so if you're on the hunt for a shared space up there get in touch with the lovely Lola who runs it them here*
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