Nanaimo Design Nerds keen to open co-working space

With yoga at lunch, barbecues in the courtyard and desks for rent, Nanaimo’s new co-working hub won’t be your typical office space. In fact, the entrepreneurs behind the idea are counting on it.

“It provides a model that doesn’t exist yet,” said Monica Shore, a director of Nanaimo Design Nerds, the group behind the city’s new ‘funky’ co-working space for creative professionals.

The design nerds aim to bring the metropolitan trend of co-working ‘hives’ to the Harbour City this June, when they open their first co-working hub for creatives like architects, designers and not-for-profits.

It’s the second of its kind in the works this year. Innovation Island and the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation plan to open a co-working space for the tech industry and are currently searching for a space large enough to meet the demand.

The idea behind the Nanaimo Design Nerds’ new space is all about offering entrepreneurs a chance to leave the isolation of basement offices and coffee shops for work environments where they can grow their business, build community and share ideas with those in similar professions.

The design nerds say their project will give people the perks of an office space, with a board room, mailbox and lounge – but with affordable prices and extras that could range from a courtyard with barbecues and yoga sessions to a licensed space for after-work parties.

People will also have the choice to buy membership packages or pay for short-term ‘hot desks’ if they are only in the area on business temporarily.

According to Shore and Jackie Duys-Kelly, also a director with the Nanaimo Design Nerds, the space will also be connected to Vancouver’s Hive co-working space and 90 others across Canada, not only facilitating travel and potential work excursions, but giving creative professionals a reason to stay and develop businesses in Nanaimo.

“We are really about connecting people in the community,” said Duys-Kelly. “We are stuck in our basement or we are stuck in our attic or we sit on our computer in this lonely little space and try to be as efficient and effective as we can when really studies are showing ... interaction with people is the most profitable and beneficial way to advance your business.”

The co-working space is still in development, but would open in the Painted Turtle Guesthouse in downtown Nanaimo.

Nanaimo Design Nerds are searching for sponsorships to help pay for the $50,000 cost of building the space and plan to host ‘jellies’ – simulated co-working sessions – to highlight the experience and generate ideas on what people would like to see in the hub.

Sasha Angus, chief executive officer for the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, calls it a great idea and doesn’t believe it will compete with his organization’s tech hub.

“We need multiple venues and opportunities for folks to grow their business,” he said, adding co-working spaces tend to eliminate barriers for start-up businesses and foster spaces where entrepreneurs can “feed off each other’s energy.”

The first jelly will be held at the Vault Cafe, 499 Wallace St., March 17 from 9:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m.

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