Last time, I promised you details on why I picked Space2Cowork as my preferred co-working space. Here they are!
In our quest to find comfortable places to set up our laptops, my friend-and-former-colleague Liz and I enjoyed three free-trial days at various co-working spaces in Cardiff.
Things started well with Tramshed Tech. It's got that lovely hipster-coffee-shop bare brick and natural wood benches vibe. The staff on hand were friendly, and didn't laugh at me when I pushed the "pull" door. They had a big purple cow (not a real one) which was an amusing draw, and their coffee tasted good. Location-wise, they're fairly central, and not too far from the train station.
There was a lively buzz, but I can't say we felt particularly included. I understand that can take time, and is a two-way street, but I did feel a bit like the new kid in school. I also wondered if, in such an established space, my skills and knowledge may already be in plentiful supply.
Next was Indycube. We visited their Cardiff Bay space, and had an amusing experience encountering the building's receptionist. We managed to laugh it off, and I'm sure that given the time to build personal relationships, all would've been well... but it did set the tone for the day.
The gent who was on hand to greet us and look after us seemed like a genuinely lovely guy. He gave us a tour of their parts of the building, and made sure we had a cup of coffee. We did feel that front-of-house maybe wasn't his particular comfort-zone, and although this alone wouldn't have been enough to put us off, sadly there were other short-comings.
First of all, the place seemed a bit run-down and shabby. Not everywhere can have that trendy (is trendy still trendy?) look, but a lick of paint wouldn't have gone amiss. As it was, we felt a little like we should be claiming squatters rights in a recently abandoned office. Slow wifi plagued us (may have been a temporary glitch) and far from the buzz of Tramshed Tech, Liz and I were the only people there (apart from the above-mentioned representative).
The fact that Cardiff Bay is a bit of a pain in the bum for me to get to added to the overall impression that we were unlikely to pursue a membership with Indycube.
Which brings us nicely to space2cowork. When we started our free trials, we didn't even know this place existed, but I was intrigued when I attended an on-site workshop run by Business Wales. Before I left, I had a word with Elizabeth, the site's resident co-working guru. She gave me a quick tour of the building, explaining that the co-working space had only opened a few days before, as an addition to the serviced and self-managed offices they already leased to over 70 businesses. I blagged a free trial. (Disclaimer: free trial days were being openly advertised, and no actual blagging was required).
The trial day itself went well, and I was sold before friend-and-former-colleague-Liz had even arrived. Resident-co-working-guru-Elizabeth wasn't onsite that day, but she left us in the more than capable hands of the lovely reception staff. There were a few minor wifi/profile niggles that were sorted out quickly and efficiently. The coffee was nice, and the space had that similar coffee-shop vibe that Tramshed Tech had.
Again, we were the only two people using the space, but that somehow felt very different from the Indycube experience. This time, I liked the idea of "getting in early". I could see the potential, and far from feeling like the new kid in school, I felt like I had something to offer as well. I was buzzing about the opportunity to network, even though I hate the word as a verb.
Space2B is the furthest of the three spaces from my home, but the draws of free on-site parking and a regular shuttle-bus to the city centre make it the most attractive commute for me. In financial terms, I feel like I'm getting Tramshed Tech quality and aesthetics for Indycube prices. If I wanted to work from an actual coffee shop for a day or week, I'd spend just as much there as I will here, but without the added networking benefits.
Although it's not touted as such, there's a strong incubator vibe. I like the idea of my business outgrowing the co-working space, and progressing to an actual office here. I believe Tramshed Tech may have something similar, but nobody has explicitly explained this to me.
The gamble I'm taking is that others will see the potential in space2cowork that I see, and will make this their co-working space of choice. Right now, it feels like the good sort of gamble.