Jason Abbott used to work out of one of the premier coworking spaces in the US, Kahoots. There he had an amazing experience working in a community that allowed him to be productive. When he went back home to Winnipeg, he wanted to do something like it but could not find any spaces that matched what he was looking for. That is when he had the idea of starting Launch, a 5,000 square foot coworking space, now home to over 85 members.
Launch is in Winnipeg, Canada where there is a lot of growth. There are a lot of remote workers in the area due to the great commute to downtown office locations. This is part of the reason why Jason chose a suburban location for his space — to give those people a place to work.
Before a Lease
Before even signing a lease, they spent time developing their brand. Launch worked with a local creative firm who understood their vision and values — to help and grow businesses. This firm developed their logo and color palettes. They also helped with important marketing materials like their website and postcards that circulated networking events.
Once real estate was narrowed down, he conducted an open house. The landlord was very open to their concept. Part of their deal terms was that they had about 60 days to garner support and interest for the location. Launch held three open houses in within the 60 days. During that time, they were able to sign memberships in a completely unfinished space. The presales gave the assurance that there would be market demand, providing confidence to push forward and sign a lease.
However, the open houses were conducted in a a raw space so they needed to find a way to visually communicate their vision. So, they worked with a local architecture firm to showcase the design. The objective was to inform people that something new was coming.
The lease for Launch was signed September 1. At the same time, they shortlisted general contractors that would work on the space. They were left with impression that the work would take three months. Unfortunately, they soon discovered the general contractor was disorganized, not meeting timeline expectations, and not paying some suppliers. Many meetings were held to try and remedy the situation. However when December passed, they had to release the general contractor. Jason then took on the general contracting job himself and opened in April.
Launch’s commitment to community engagement is a huge part of what makes them different. When doors first opened, they embarked on an ambitious event program that was open to nonmembers as well.
- “Launch Talks”
- This event featured a local entrepreneur once a month who shared their story with the community.
- “Launch School”
- This is an education based program.
- “Thirsty Thursdays”
- This event is the typical Happy Hour.
In addition to their event planning, Jason took care to select a qualified Community Manager. Ultimately, experience is important. Look for previous experiences that show operational capability and marketing or sales experience and results.
At Launch, they select a candidate and hire them for a week to see how they perform. During the trial, they monitor, educate, and inform the candidate. This allows them to see how that individual interacts with members. After the trial, members give their feedback on the potential hire.
With his fair share of hardships, Jason had plenty of advice to give.
Be prepared for a journey. It is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. Jason noted how he has met 150 people in the last 13 months that he would have otherwise never met. These people and this journey add value to his life. The personal and professional development that comes with it will challenge you.