Holly Allenby started The Acey, an online retailer for ethical clothing, working at her kitchen table and “hopping around cafes”. It was only when she got her first part-time intern that she made the decision to move to Netil House, a sixties office block overlooking London Fields in East London.
She says: “It’s a community, which is nice, and I find this important for my mental wellbeing. Having my own business, if I was still sitting at my kitchen table, it would be tricky.”
Like many small businesses, she opted for a co-working space that offers desk space or studios, with shared facilities for the tenants.
Co-working spaces, which bring together small businesses, sole traders and freelancers under one roof, have enjoyed explosive growth over the past decade. An estimated 1.7 million people worldwide were working in these hubs at the end of 2018, according to a study by Nexudus, a co-working space software provider.
These spaces range from basic to very high spec, with onsite climbing walls, childcare and wellness centres. Crucially, co-working spaces offer flexibility, with short leases and a promise to accommodate the needs of companies as they expand.
Holly now employs one other person and several freelancers. She pays £1,000 a month for a dedicated studio on a 12-month lease. She says it is “definitely” worth it, as she holds stock there as well. “It kills two birds with one stone. For us it makes sense, it means that we’re able to have up to four people in here when we need that.”
Her neighbours are the offices of a hair salon that specialises in organic products and a group of freelance textile designers. Holly says: “What’s nice about that is the others that work in the studios are like-minded people to us. So it feels like we’ve got our own little ecosystem within Netil House. We all say ‘hi’ and make each other tea.”