Ecosystems, Expansions, and Energy Exchangers, Oh My!
Well, 2016 was a turbulent year. With so many unpredictable events happening around the world and here at home, and in a time of constant information overload, it can feel like we have no control or stability.
While all of this uncertainty and change can be stressful, I am encouraged by the knowledge that there is a group of people in our economy who always find a way to thrive in this environment, and that group is getting bigger all the time. They are our entrepreneurs, and they’re the reason I’m optimistic for 2017.
Now that the clock has hit 00:00 on a shiny, new year, it’s my privilege and pleasure as Executive Director of Common Ground Coworking to share some of the exciting things happening within our social enterprise, and within our province’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Now, I know: “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” It’s a phrase that makes me feel like I’m back in business school amongst dry textbooks and dryer PowerPoint presentations. But in reality, it’s a pretty cool concept, and I believe that Common Ground has a critical role to play within it.
Imagine you want to start a business. You have an idea that you’ve been mulling for awhile, and and you want to make it a reality. Or maybe you’re feeling like you want to to take control of your own time and destiny. Either way, you want to be an entrepreneur.
There is a wide variety of organizations today who provide support and resources to help you. Our friends and partners Propel ICT, the Genesis Centre, Futurpreneur, YMCA Enterprise Services, and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) are well-established and ready to help you begin.
Beyond their immediate support, you have access to many others including the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI), Memorial University’s Centres for Entrepreneurship (MCE) and Social Enterprise (MSE), and the St. John’s Board of Trade. Together with existing and established entrepreneurs, you’ve got a diverse and enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem right at your fingertips.
We know that Common Ground has a unique role in this ecosystem. Our mission is to provide physical spaces: community hubs that inspire, energize, and reflect the diversity of entrepreneurs and their ventures.
In other words, while our partners and friends provide critical supports and programming, Common Ground provides the physical environments for inspiration and collaboration, two critical components to a truly successful, creative, and entrepreneurial economy.
This was the vision when Common Ground opened its doors in 2014, and two years later we are bursting at the seams with entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, startups, small businesses, students, and the occasional industry association staffer. Everyday, more come in to ask if there’s room for them and their ideas.
Looking forward into 2017, we’re extremely excited to be able to say, “Yes, we have lots of room!”
For the past year, Common Ground has been working with Slate Asset Management, a progressive commercial property owner, and their leasing team CBRE, on the first phase of a three-phase expansion plan.
Phase one saw the (temporary) move of some larger, established Common Ground members and partners into the old Fortis (or “Royal Trust”) Building on the east end of Water Street. Sometimes referred to as “Staging Ground,” this initiative will give us the chance to develop a larger lease agreement with Slate, generate revenue from an expanded membership base, and prepare the location for the second phase of the project.
That second phase is a more permanent move of our adventurous members into the Neal Building, a red brick building resembling a lighthouse, at 50 Harbour Drive. Right now an architect is developing plans, and there’s huge possibilities: lots of open, coworking space with a view of the Narrows; rough-and-tumble ground-floor makerspace for our creators; a gallery area for our arts, crafts, and maker communities; as well as event and presentation space for members and ecosystem partners.
While things could technically end there at the Neal Building, we’re big dreamers -- exploring a third phase, which could see four more adjacent buildings along Water Street converted into a full-fledged, creative innovation hub in downtown St. John’s. The opportunities for this concept to reinvigorate our local economy are massive and can’t be ignored.
All the while, a vibrant community continues to collaborate and create at 30 Harvey Road, every day giving us the energy to drive this expansion and helping us to understand the pieces of a community coworking space that make it a great place
The opportunities and potential for Common Ground in 2017 are not small -- or even average -- which is why I’m so pleased to have come on board as ED at the same that Common Ground welcomed a phenomenal Director of Operations, Anna Smith.
Expansion is exciting, but it’s critical to stay focused on our membership and existing community. Anna is working hard to ensure that we continue to offer an inspiring place to work -- one where everyone has the ability to focus, meet with clients, and share ideas with a diverse and enthusiastic community.
One major new initiative is an “Energy Exchange” Program, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it! Targeted at community members who are perhaps ‘more wealthy in collaborative spirit than they are in cash,’ the program kicks off this month, when we will welcome a team of individuals who keep our space operationally excellent and constantly improving, in exchange for full time access to our physical space and community.
With an enthusiastic and talented team, dynamic and dedicated partners, and a membership full of awesome, inspired entrepreneurs, you can see why I’m so optimistic about 2017 -- and I hope you are too. Join us -- be a part of the conversation and visioning for the year (and years!) ahead.
Would you like to get involved? Have an idea for our expansion, or just want to learn more to see where your passion and energy might be a fit? Get in touch with us any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.