Daniela Milosheshka is the Founder of Coffice, a coworking space located in Skopje, Macedonia. The space is 90 square meters; it has 12 desks, a meeting room, a lounge and a kitchen. They opened two and a half years ago, and their members include people coming and going both from Macedonia and from outside the country. They’re out of country clients who are looking to build new companies in Macedonia; they use the space for recruitment. After 5 pm, Coffice also does training with a local educational platform call Brainster.
Sajid Islam gets info on the coworking scene in Skopje, Macedonia, through an interview with Daniela Milosheshka.
Kindly share your journey into coworking. How did it happen?
Two years ago, Daniela started working from home, operating an online shop for selling clothes. She wanted to go somewhere and hang out with people who were also freelancers. During that time, there was only one small coworking space which had five desks and was within an accelerator located in Macedonia. The lack of places for people like her to gather prompted her to open her space where she could collaborate with the people coming into the space. Currently, there are three or four coworking spaces in Macedonia, including Coffice. Each one of them targets different customers; Coffice aims more for freelancers and people who are coming from outside of the country wanting to found their own company there. The others are focused more on developing IT startups; they are both incubators and accelerators at the same time. Coworking is still a relatively new concept in Macedonia, and people are just starting to get used to the idea. “A lot of freelancers that are working here want to come and hang around in the space just to share ideas, meet other people; they see it as a way of opening up with other people that they might not usually have the opportunity to,” said Daniela.
What kind of real estate options did you consider to obtain the space? And how did you go about designing it?
Luckily, Daniela owed a space located in the city center, the central part of Macedonia. She never had to look for commercial spaces. Most of the money she invested, was spent on furnishings. For Sudoku lovers out there, they included the ‘world’s hardest sudoku.’ In the design aspect, she collaborated with a local graphic designer, with the aim to be more creative and make the space more interactive with people who were coming into the space.
What kind of marketing initiative did you undertake and what has worked out for you?
The first form of marketing Daniela applied was ‘growth hacking.’ Daniela was alone the first few months she opened the space. She then decided to search for freelancers located in Macedonia, which she did through GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform. This approach of hers was a first for Sajid, and he was thoroughly impressed. She collected the email ID of freelancers in Macedonia and formed a database; the next step was to send a bunch of emails notifying them of Coffice and its services. People started to respond to those emails.
Next, they launched their website and social media (Facebook and Twitter). The site was in English, because at that time the people of Macedonia seemed less forthcoming to the coworking concept, and they wanted to attract different people from different countries. They even offered initiatives; such as neck massages and free-trials. Daniela shared that they also relied on word-of-mouth marketing.
Do you do any collaboration with other spaces, such as attending coworking owners events?
“We are not really in competition, we are open to collaboration and want to promote the concept of coworking to Macedonian freelancers,” stated Daniela. There have been two or three get-togethers, where the operators discussed what to focus on after all each of the spaces have a different focus. One of them is an IT company; they are only working with IT freelancers and startups; whereas, we are mostly targeting foreigners.
Have you attended any coworking industry conferences?
Coffice is a part of the European Creative Hubs Network, a two-year project co-funded by the European Commission. They have had 7 seven different conferences where people in Europe who owns coworking spaces gathered together to share ideas. They had speakers coming from successful coworking spaces. This past year they went to Belgrade, Brussels, Athen, Edinburgh, and there were 4 or 5 conferences in one year.
You mentioned ‘Brainster’ in the beginning, what is that?
Brainster is an educational company that has different programs. “They do lectures on marketing, growth hacking, IT developing, some of those lectures are held at Coffice,” shared Daniela. The concept is to educate young people, to equip them with specific skill sets before they enter the workforce market to get suitable jobs.
Looking back, if you were to redo the space again, what would you have done differently?
Daniela responds matter of factly, “ I would probably go with a bigger space with a lunch-bar, a place to eat.” When she had opened the space, it was meant to be a test run to see whether there were other people like her, who were also interested in sharing ideas and working in a collaborative environment.
Regarding growth plans, have you considered opening in another location?
“The demand for such places is low here, so we are going to put our efforts into making this space work. Regarding growth, in the future we will add another area for drinks and meals,” responded Daniela.
How big is your team and what are your opening hours?
At the moment, Coffice’s team consists of Daniela and a graphic designer. They are usually open five days a week from 9 am – 5 pm. Brainster comes in later and conducts their lectures there from 6 pm – 8 pm. They do have the option of opening the space during the weekends, but that requires prior notification from the person wishing to access it on the weekend.