As the way we work continues to shift, we learn more about Workshop17 – an offering featuring a portfolio of collaborative working spaces with branches opening soon all over South Africa
WORDS: ATLEHANG RAMATHESELE
When the commute to and from traditional office spaces became obsolete during the lockdown, remote working took centre stage. This has thrust co-working models like Workshop17 into the spotlight. Offering a myriad of flexible co-working solutions for everyone from individuals to large corporations, it fosters an environment for collaboration, productivity and functionality. Since the vision for Workshop17 was conceptualized ten years ago, it has been thriving. But now more than ever, as working preferences evolve and the pandemic impacts the economy, it is set to support SMEs, freelancers and big businesses alike with its practical and customizable approach to the traditional workspace.
Co-founded by Paul Keursten and Mark Seftel, Workshop17 was created to enable people from different spheres of life to work together in an inspiring and energizing environment. These spaces enable community-building, accelerate entrepreneurship and innovation, help drive the economy, and encourage dynamic networking. Now with over 1,700 members nationwide, Workshop17 has set its sights on expanding to enable what it calls ‘working close to home’. Keursten, Workshop17 CEO, provides some further insight.
How was Workshop17 conceptualized?
We opened our first place called Open in Maboneng in 2012 and it has since become Workshop17. We felt there was a need for a place where young and seasoned entrepreneurs could connect and make magic. We were inspired by Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation that explores what fuels innovation. Some of the best ideas take shape through accidental meetings – you speak to someone and something they say lingers in your mind and, before you know it, an idea comes alive. We wanted to create a space that facilitates that process. We wanted to create a level playing field for start-up entrepreneurs, professionals, NGOs and major corporates to come together in one environment. This is why we also created an events element to the business, to ensure proper networking could take place. We wanted a situation where a CEO of a large multinational company can interact with a local entrepreneur and create synergies.
How is Workshop17 going to plug into the hybrid of working from home and a fixed office space?
A workspace is not one place. It is your home, a shared space and your corporate office, and all three play a role. I think we are moving from ‘work from home’ to ‘work near home’. You don’t have to sit in traffic to go to an office five times a week to work from a desk. Conversely, you don’t want to grapple with your kitchen table competing with home-schooling, dogs and cleaning in your actual home. But if you’re going to work elsewhere, it should be a beautiful and exciting place that isn’t too far. We’re living in a 15-minute economy, where everything should be within 15 minutes from your home.
Tell us about the tenant mix at Workshop17?
It includes everything from budding entrepreneurs to business owners who are already on their fourth business having sold the previous ones. We also have former executives and corporate international companies. We even have two banks as members. You will find professionals from financial, marketing and IT spaces and the list goes on.
How do you facilitate member interaction?
We have a member directory through which people have access to everyone using Workshop17. We also use a noticeboard that can be accessed online and we have recently launched an app that further helps members to connect their needs to the right person. Every location has a community manager who can facilitate personal connections with relevant people. We also host events that allow for social interaction and networking.
How do you want to grow Workshop17?
We want to be closer to the areas where people live and not just in the business hubs. The semigration trend of people moving into an area where the quality of life is high and they can still be productive is increasing, so we’d like to accommodate that. We want to create beautiful workspaces with a homely feel to offer the best of both. Productivity can wane when you work exclusively from home because you’re not able to feed off other people. Social energy, input and learning from others makes way for more ideas. We want to create that social and cultural element of work without it being a cold office space. We also want to support companies with dispersed teams where we can offer IT solutions that enable them to have a secure network in our space and enjoy corporate-level security for data protection and safety from hacking.