Co-working New Zealand: The Bridge Street Collective

The Bridge Street Collective was established in 2011 by Galen King, who owns and manages a web and graphic design studio called Lucid Design. The company prefers collaborating with a variety of people and describes itself as community oriented. As such when it moved into new offices in Nelson, New Zealand, they bought a space that was bigger than they needed and decided they wanted to open it up for others to use as a co-working space. The Bridge Street Collective has a gallery space and a café at the front of the building and at the back is the co-working studio which includes an open plan working space and enclosed meeting rooms. Bridge Street Collective

Source: The Bridge Street Collective

The co-working space operates with one employee managing everything, and the clientele is a mix of permanent and casual users (different rates apply for using the space depending on how frequent you are there). Customers can rent a permanent desk, a hot desk (i.e. one shared with others), or even rent out the meeting rooms for one-off events. It has 18 desks available and has around two-thirds booked by permanent members.

Most co-working spaces have traditionally serviced technology start-ups and freelancers looking to network or be inspired, which is understandable as a co-working space is far better than being at home on the couch if you want to achieve these goals. But Nelson as a market is too small for the co-working space to focus on just these kinds of customers. Fortunately for The Bridge Street Collective, and similar to other co-working spaces being established around the globe that are targeted at large enterprise employees or “professionals”, it is currently experiencing an increase in the number and type of users it services. The client-base now includes architects, designers, enterprise office workers (some on business trips and others from Nelson), and engineers.

Some office workers using the space, for example, are provided funds by their company to be there instead of travelling or relocating to work from headquarters. This has dual benefits. It allows the employee to continue having a professional and social environment in which to work that is close to home, and for the company it allows it to employ talent from a broader pool than just those physically located near headquarters. Another example of a newer user is a company booking the meeting space to conduct recruitment interviews for new employees it needed in the region. In short, the point is that co-working spaces like The Bridge Street Collective have evolved and can now cater to a variety of needs and will continue to do so in future.

One of the important aspects of this evolution that is apparent at The Bridge Street Collective co-working space is that it also runs events. This is both in the gallery for exhibitions, but also business-oriented events to help its own users and the broader business community. Many co-working spaces in New Zealand, and indeed across the globe, have partnered with business coaches and other experts to help the clientele build and improve their organisations. At The Bridge Street Collective, they have run web meet-ups, and a Game developers meet up.

Although those with demanding client confidentiality obligations will baulk at using a co-working space (sometimes with legitimate concerns and sometimes just because they are risk-averse) there are benefits that TRA believes are clearly apparent, including:

  • In-person and immediate access to the opinions and expertise of other co-working space users that have a variety of experiences and expertise. This is not readily available to those who work from home or from an independent office.

  • Lower office occupancy costs when compared to renting out a space independently. This is true both when looking at the rental costs and also the funds needed to fit-out an office with furniture and technology.

  • A professional environment from which to serve and interact with customers. This is particularly important for newly-established companies and freelancers seeking credibility with existing and potential clients.

From Lucid Design’s perspective, establishing the co-working space (and the gallery and café) has also allowed the company to better utilise the space available to it and make a better return on investment. Instead of just setting up its own design studio, it has created a multi-use environment that brings in not just additional revenue, but also a broader community (that can also be considered a potential client base or resource).

To do all of this, technology has played an important role. Those using the co-working space have to bring their own devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) and of course the applications and data they intend to use. The Bridge Street Collective provides technology support in the form of access to a fibre broadband connection – either via WiFi or a LAN cable, although the former is more popular – and a shared printer. In the meeting rooms it also has large-screen TVs that are connected to Apple TV so users can share their screens with others and conduct presentations.  

The Next Steps for The Bridge Street Collective

In line with its mantra of building a community and helping local businesses grow, the company has set up a “kick starter” fund to help support new business ideas. Essentially, entrepreneurs and new businesses will be encouraged to apply for funding and if successful will be supported financially for an agreed amount of time while working from the co-working space. They will also be provided with business mentoring to help give them the best chance to succeed. One of the key reasons for doing this is that for The Bridge Street Collective, the more businesses there are in the region and the more development, the bigger their own opportunity becomes to be successful.