I’m new to this forum. My name’s Suzanne Vale and I’ve just opened a coworking space called Jam Jar Cowork in Collingwood, which is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
Below is some info about me, why I’ve started Jam Jar, the space and the community we’re building.
I’m really glad to have found this forum and can see it’s really supportive with lots of helpful, insightful advice and discussion. I look forward to joining in! I’ll also be at GCUC in Melbourne next month so hope to meet some of you there. Drop me a line if you’re coming along.
Why I started Jam Jar
Some of you may have met me at CU Asia 2016, in Ubud, so you’ll know that I’ve been working in offices for my whole (varied) career (admin, customer/financial services, public service, law) and that I studied architecture at one point and I love people and their creativity.
So I’ve started a coworking space because the opportunity to take on the building that we’re in coincided with me finding out about coworking and thinking that it was the coolest thing I’d heard about in ages. Coworking also addresses a long term beef I’ve had that workplaces and spaces are missed opportunities. They should be better and controlled by the people who work in them. Coworking spaces are finally doing this, and in lots of different ways that are still emerging and changing. Good times.
I’m about offering the small businesses of this neighbourhood a good quality space that they can shape and refine over time, where they can come to work together, meet new people, hang out, run events, have meetings and have the facilities they need to do these things pretty seamlessly.
Jam Jar is just over 200m2 and primarily aimed at post start up businesses in the neighbourhood. We also have some decent meeting rooms (a boardroom and 3 smaller rooms) and have found that there’s been interest in them from CBD businesses wanting to get offsite for workshops etc.
We’re in a really great location in a gentrified, former industrial pocket right near Smith Street, which is well known in Melbourne for its restaurants, cafes, shops, street art and culture, and which has a tram line direct to the city.
We refurbished the building we are in, which was a tired, 3 storey office building that was only 15 years old. Our emphasis was on getting natural light in and creating lots of different types of useful spaces while dedicating most of the floor area to open plan desks. Every decision of our fit out was made with the environment in mind despite our tight budget. This meant we preferenced low VOC products, natural materials and products from companies that are ahead socially and environmentally. It also meant we reused as much as we could from the previous fit out and bought quality second hand where we could. We balanced this to create a feel that the space is new and ‘clean’ aesthetically. (Examples of reuse and secondhand included reusing the old aluminium and glass partitions to make new meeting rooms, reusing the kitchen sinks from the old tea-points in our new break out space and tea-point and reusing perfectly good security hardware, buying secondhand Knoll / Formway task chairs that are barely used ex-Tax Office and secondhand desks from Grimshaw Architects’ when they refurbished their office).
We’ve tried to create a casual but professional space that’s airy and comfortable. We’re also emphasising health in the workplace. For example we try to give members control of the space/their environs, we’ve got plants, and office dog, ergonomic chairs, the beginnings of an activity based set up.
I’m a little sheepish that we opened and are now building our community. All the experience and knowledge at CU Asia said build your community first but logistically this didn’t work out for me. We have 2 open plan spaces so we’re only using the smaller of these at the moment so people aren’t spread through the building. As we grow, we’ll open the other area.
So far we’re doing ok with a handful of local people joining us as part time members over the last few weeks - a lawyer starting a new practice, a business adviser, a graphic designer just moved down from Sydney, a wine maker/wine events business, a couple of creative writers and a couple of other former lawyers who are moving into the start up space. It’s slow - we have people here each day but not a lot of cross-fertilisation because we haven’t had a critical mass on any one day.
So we need to work harder to get the word out that we’re here and to get communication happening between our members to help them form a community. We have lots of ideas that we are carrying out butwould love more ideas and to know what’s worked for other brand new spaces, especially in comparable cities. I’m finding podcasts super helpful and inspiring here too, especially The Coworking Weekly Show and Everything Coworking. Interested in others’ favourite podcasts and forums.
Our attention to social and environmental responsibility is continuing - we’re big on recycling within the space and we’ve opened our space to community groups for use out of hours, which accords with the ethos of our neighbourhood and something our members love. We want to explore more opportunities to partner with the neighbourhood in this way.