How to start a Coworking business during a pandemic and lockdown?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
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 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. 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 to 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 would want to see in a coworking venue. I used social media, the local council forum, community centre and local networking groups on meetup.
You would need to have registered your business with HMRC and companies house before opening a business bank account. Once you done this then you can open your coworking business account. 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 really important 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.
This last year has been challenging for commercial property landlords, however it has given an opportunity for 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 terms of the lease, rent free period and other conditions for opening. You may need to set aside a deposit for the landlord. This 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 maybe 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 budget for more spending than you think you need, find a great location within your budget and factor in there will be hard times. Be prepared for the worst, like having no clients for 6 months, internet going down, plumbing issues, competition and theft. Most importantly, what would you do if there was another lockdown or pandemic wave?
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 prepare for other forms of revenue from your venue. I allowed my venues to be used as film locations and conferences. Being open minded can turn a bad month into a great one.