Chester has become part of the growing trend of cities across the UK supporting entrepreneurs and other small businesses through the introduction of a coworking hub.
Last August, a pair of local entrepreneurs launched a campaign via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to bring a coworking hub to the city centre.
Their 30-day campaign was such a success it was overfunded; surpassing their goal original funding goal and having raised £4,000.
The Coworking Hub in Chester (CHIC) started offering desk space last month at the Railway Station building’s West Wing Offices.
The original plan was to utilise an area within the Exchange building on St John’s Street but it was no longer available when the campaign completed.
However, as Bob Hadfield, local photographer and CHIC co-founder explained: “Marketing Cheshire were very supportive of what we wanted to achieve with the coworking hub.
“They allowed us to use some of their office space which has meant we can offer more to our community. We have meeting rooms and seminar space ideal for training activities. These are all additional facilities we initially wouldn’t have been able to offer.”
Coworking is when two or more people work in the same office space but not for the same company and under a core set of values around community, openness and collaboration.
CHIC co-founder Adrian Nichols said: “Self-employment in the UK is forecast to increase by around 15% over the next decade.
"With collaboration viewed by micro businesses as a strong driver for that growth we can play a key part, not just in Chester but the wider region as we are very accessible being based by the railway station."
Bob and Adrian’s inspiration for setting up the coworking hub initially came from their own personal experiences when trying to work from home whilst having young families; there appeared to be a lack of real alternatives in Chester.
Bob added: “We held a series of clinics during the campaign. We invited people to come and meet us, ask us questions about what we were trying to do. They were well attended and gave us reassurance that we were definitely going in the right direction.”
With prices starting at £30 a month for 30 hours usage, CHIC seems to be striking the right chord with freelancers and micro business owners who need an appropriate place to work that isn’t going to cost them the earth and gives an opportunity for collaboration.
Freelance writer and CHIC member David Atkinson (atkinsondavid.com) said: “Self-employed people and micro businesses can be the backbone of the post-austerity economy, but they need a stable working environment and a community of like-minded people for support.
“What I’ve liked about CHIC so far is the flexibility of hot-desking, the professional discipline of walking to an office every day and, most of all, the opportunity to bounce ideas and projects off other people to foster new co-working opportunities.”
Sam Howarth of EcoBikeAds (ecobikeads.co.uk) added: “I have found my time at CHIC a very simple process and everyone was very welcome.
“Three weeks in and I have already seen a high increase in my work rate. With fewer distractions I find my days a lot more productive. My general mood has also improved because I don’t feel so alone – often a problem for people working from home.”
Bob and Adrian see the potential for CHIC for events or training seminars to benefit its community.
As such, Barry Roberts of Roberts Development Solutions is excited and looking forward to sharing his financial and accounting experience to the CHIC community on the evening of February 19.
He said: “This is an exciting development which will help bring new businesses into the Chester Business Community.”
Additionally Steve Jones of #chestertweets will soon be using space at CHIC to hold regular social media courses for the novice through to expert.
For more information on CHIC, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chic-chester.co.uk .