We’ve seen amazing changes in the way we work, with many small and medium start-ups operating in the “virtual” or online space. In larger cities, this has seen the rise of co-working spaces and “hot desk” opportunities. One enterprising local businessman, Kyle Brown, has embraced this new way of doing business by establishing a unique co-working space called “UpSpace”, right here in Taree.
Hi Kyle. Can you tell our readers about your background and your connection to the beautiful Manning-Great Lakes?
I was born in Taree 30 years ago and grew up here enjoying all the things the Manning Valley had to offer – the calm lifestyle, the weekends at the beach and on the river and the close knit community that you just can’t find in bigger cities. I then moved away to Sydney and Newcastle to study what ended up being accounting after a few years in hospitality management and property valuation, before eventually returning home to start my own family with my wife, Cristen, who is also local.
Co-working is something that’s really gaining in popularity, and we are seeing co-working spaces emerging in cities and major centres. What is your take on this concept?
There are two main benefits to co-working, and they are the reduced costs and overheads, and the community benefits. The reduced costs is the main driver for co-working in the large cities, as through access to these co-working spaces many smaller companies are able to afford an office in the main CBDs, as well as allowing access to a wider array of resources such as meeting rooms and technology, including video conferencing.
However, with lower rents in the Manning, although UpSpace is cheaper than renting your own private office space, it is not as significant as our larger city counterparts. The main benefit we see for local businesses is the ability to gain access to the community and the network of other people using the space. For example, you may be having an issue setting up the website for your new business – feeling frustrated. If you’re working out of a co-working space like UpSpace, you talk to the person who is sitting at the desk next to you, they happen to be a web developer and can suggest a few quick and easy improvements for you to make, without the need to engage an expensive consultant. The ability to help and be helped by those around you in the space is the biggest benefit we see.
How has business changed in our area since you’ve been in your own business?
The business environment is always changing, but I think that the pace we see technology moving at the moment, that change, plus the ability to keep up with those new technologies is more important than ever. We are seeing a real shift towards customer focused business, and that is something smaller towns like Taree do really well. There’s no better feeling than walking into a shop and having the person who is serving you know your name and being able to really engage with you and your needs.
What was the reason or catalyst behind you setting up UpSpace here in Taree?
We just really wanted to see local businesses thrive. Technology has given the chance for regional businesses to compete on a global scale, and with a push towards lean growth in the start-up community, why not bring a small app development team of three – four people to live here in paradise while you take on the world! But, we wanted somewhere for these forward thinkers and “side project hustlers” to go – somewhere to really let loose.
How does UpSpace work?
We wanted to make it really simple and basically self managed. So, the way it works is that people just book what they want, when they want it. So, for example, if you need a desk for a day, a meeting room for a month or a breakout room for a couple of hours, it’s all available. And if you need something that you don’t think we have, or could fit in the space, definitely send us an email. We have access to some other amazing places all over town, so we can make sure we get something that suits your individual needs.
So, how exactly do people book UpSpace?
It’s all through the “Optix” app, which is available from your app store. Simply download and search for UpSpace, sign up for a membership, and you are ready to start booking in your meetings, desks or seminars – it’s that simple!
What is your vision for the future in relation to business in our region, and how do you see the flexible co-working spaces like UpSpace contributing to this?
The ease with which Taree locals can travel to big cities, as well as our ever popular lifestyle, means that we should be the first place people are looking to start any online business, or anything that doesn’t directly deal with their customers face-to-face. By allowing small ideas to grow in a flexible space like UpSpace, improving the start up culture of the local area, there is no reason why in the future we can’t be seen as the start up capital of Australia. UpSpace has also done a deal with the Regional Startup Hub in Sydney, meaning any of our members get full and free access to a co-working space in the centre of Sydney, which is really exciting for local businesses and is worth the membership fee, even if you never use the local space!
We love new business and cool ideas, so if you have an idea and need a space to work on it, make sure you contact us! In fact, even if you don’t need space and just want some people to talk it through with, make sure you get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure we catch up with you over a coffee to see how we can turn that dream into a reality.
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.