On May 9, 2018, Sajid Islam interviewed Jessica Edwards. Below is the summary of the conversation.
Jessica Edwards comes from Buffalo, NY where she had her first coworking experience. There, she contributed to the redevelopment of the area and got selected to be curator of design innovation garage (dig). Dig coworking space was inside a 4-story business incubator on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which has been the economic hub for Buffalo over the past decade. Jessica opened and launched the 6,000 square foot coworking space. With support from elected officials and widespread community support, dig quickly became the epicenter of the start-up community.
In July, Jessica was recruited to do a similar project in Dubai. She built one of the first fully integrated coworking spaces within a worldwide branded hotel. Going to Dubai from Buffalo, NY, Jessica wanted to use the drastic location change to test what were constant variables of successful coworking spaces. In Dubai, there was more resources and wealth than in Buffalo but Jessica found the start-up communities to be similar as they are both just emerging. Through this experience, Jessica learned what can translate everywhere and what needs to be adjusted. She discovered that successful coworking spaces are all about building strategic partnerships and aligning with people that have the same mission and vision. It is important to figure out where your resources can compliment someone elses to make a bigger impact. NEST puts community first because Jessica realized that human capital is what makes a community great, not just good.
Dubai is a very fast-paced city keen on what is the biggest, best, and newest product. Things move breathtakingly fast so sustainability isn’t something that is always at the forefront. One challenge that Jessica faces is how to sustain NEST when it is no longer the newest, hippest, cool thing around. She is trying to continually attract people to the space and get them to stay by perhaps constantly reinventing themselves. Jessica sees NEST as a more high-quality space which is better for those looking long-term. NEST does not just provide a space but partnerships that can sustain themselves through the fast-paced nature of Dubai.
NEST is strategically located in Barsha Heights. Barsha Heights is the perfect location as it is a 15-20 minute maximum drive downtown or the financial district and is closest to the internet city metro and to media city. The 3,000 square foot facility opened on November 1, 2017 with private phone booths, open community collaborative spaces, and small private meeting rooms. All coworking members are essentially hotel guests regardless of what membership they possess. This gives them access to all hotel amenities like complimentary parking, pool and gym privileges, and 20% off at the three bars and restaurants. Members have the opportunity to unplug while still having a productive workday. Jessica wants NEST to test the effectiveness of coworking plus hospitality and marry the two for optimum results.
Mission and Vision
As the Curator of NEST, Jessica acts as an operations manager doing a little bit of everything. She describes it as a hybrid position entrepreneurial role. Jessica helps others with their coworking concepts and implements their vision into something tangible. She builds both the physical space and collaborative environment by collecting all the necessary resources to ensure a rich community and productive work environment.
Jessica’s bigger mission is to help scale the start-up community in Dubai. Upon her arrival, she did asset mapping in the area to find a niche for NEST Dubai. She wanted to contribute rather than duplicate in the larger community. For NEST, Jessica wants to leverage all the assets of the hotel to make it easier to make local connections. For example, they provide a package called “Rest & NEST” for a preferred business rate. In this package, members get a locked-in rate for the hotel room and full access to the coworking space. Full-time members are able to give the rooms to visiting clients and use the conference rooms for meetings. The NEST Dubai coworking space combines local entrepreneurs, local events, and programming with international entrepreneurs and business travelers.
NEST is perfect for contractors that come in and out of Dubai by giving them a dedicated workspace to call their meetings. The facility attracts a lot of people in the fields of marketing or digital and graphic design as well as consultants. NEST is very heavy on the creative types and even hosts “Creative Mornings Dubai Chapter” every month. The facility also attracts a good mix of influencer types anywhere from beauty launches to seminars and investors.
Success and Marketing
Despite NEST’s success, Jessica thinks a soft opening would have ensured the facility was at the top of the game before being presented to the public. Soft openings provide a good learning experience and quick way to enhance your product. Since she was not able to do a soft opening due to timing, Jessica was unable to test out her space making it a little bit of a bumpier ride than it could have been.
In order to market more efficiently, NEST Dubai always asks their clients how they heard about the facility. Around 50% of answers has been simply through Google. Although NEST has not spent money on Google ads, reviews about Nest on other platforms has strengthened their SEO on Google. Currently, when people search “Dubai coworking”, NEST comes up either second or third on Google.
NEST has also optimized their social media presence and uses their online community to reflect the offline community. Jessica uses Facebook and Instagram more predominantly than Twitter because they are the leading marketing tools in Dubai for social media. Additionally, NEST utilizes a platform called PeopleVine. It is all-inclusive and contains access to their events calendar, and a way to take and renew payments as well as get a lot of analytics. So far on PeopleVine, NEST Dubai has around 71,000 hits.
Watch the full interview here.