Aspiring small business owners and entrepreneurs often have a long list of questions about taking their ventures from idea to implementation, ranging from How do I write an appropriate business plan? to How can I secure funding for my website or storefront? Answering these requires time, space, and a dedicated environment in which to work and learn. More and more, coworking spaces are beginning to fulfill this role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem- offering workspaces and classes geared toward business fundamentals, as well as the flexibility, creative atmosphere, and community setting that entrepreneurs need to make connections and chart a path to a flourishing business.
Ionatan Waisgluss, of SquareByte.ca, found the perfect entrepreneurial incubator in Coastline Colab, a nonprofit coworking space located in Powell River, in BC’s qathet region. Waisgluss, a first-generation immigrant to Canada passionate about technological literacy, moved to Powell River in 2014. He was working for a Vancouver-based business and doing search engine optimization work for law firms when he started to hear about a new coworking space, Coastline Colab, from other locals who had worked there or participated in their programming. Coastline was part of a new initiative called the Powell River Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, and Waisgluss kept hearing about it. “Powell River is a pretty small city, and the qathet region overall has about 20,000 people, so a lot of things here are word-of-mouth,” he says. He also began seeing a lot of posters for the colab around town, which he says, “stood out for their modern aesthetic.”
Then Waisgluss saw an ad for Coastline’s 8-week Business Planning Fundamentals course on Facebook. “When I saw that I could take an eight-week course for a pretty low rate, and that there was a partial subsidy available, and that I could also access one-on-one sessions with a business coach through this program, I suggested to my partner that our family make the time for this as a way to support the launch of my business.” He saw that there was an opportunity to apply his background in SEO and digital marketing where he was living, and noticed that many local businesses and nonprofits were looking to increase their online presence and improve their websites, especially during the pandemic. He started to think of a business idea and toy around with names, coming up with the name SquareByte “while taking my kid for a stroller ride.”
Today, Waisgluss’ business increases the brand visibility of businesses and nonprofits in the qathet region and beyond. He offers a suite of services, including SEO, content creation, business networking, and consultation around selecting business-oriented technologies.Ionatan said that a few of his clients have come from connections made through Coastline Colab’s Business Planning Fundamentals and other programming. “Lots of the different business owners in the group were saying that they would probably really benefit from my services in the future…the space is a great place to network and meet people.” In addition to networking, Business Planning Fundamentals also allowed Waisgluss to flex his entrepreneurial muscle. One of the biggest benefits, he says, was that it allowed him to “[carve] out a chunk of time every week to work on [his] business plan and branding.” Every week, the course covered a different aspect of planning for and launching a business. The course built deep knowledge as well as connections, and Waisgluss says he’s very happy to have gotten involved.
This cross-pollination of ideas and local expertise is what Rachelle Harvey, Coastline’s Programming Coordinator & Community Manager, says the colab is all about. Coastline’s use of the word “co-lab” is intentional; whereas coworking is about a shared sense of community, Harvey says, “the term ‘co-lab’ nods to the idea of a shared laboratory of sorts- and we hope association with the word ‘collaborate’ is close behind!” She continues, “We feel that an office space should not just provide essentials like desks, wifi and printers, but also support and nurture the next stage of growth for wherever someone may be in their business or career.”
Harvey is responsible for helping to organize programs through the Colab. Some of these programs have been the Business Planning Fundamentals course & Resilient Powell River, a free online course about business resiliency for Powell River business owners and entrepreneurs. Of these courses, she says that the ultimate goal is to help “participants gain the confidence and skills to launch their business ideas”. That commitment is certainly paying off: nine new businesses were started as a result of the courses Coastline offered in 2021.
In addition to Business Planning Fundamentals and Resilient Powell River, Coastline also offers a host of other low-cost educational and entrepreneurial events, including seasonal networking evenings scheduled all throughout 2022. They will be running a second round of their original Business Fundamentals program, as well as a 2.0 version for returning alumni or entrepreneurs a little bit further along in their business. They also offer a variety of memberships for everyone from the casual co-workers to those who want a permanent, dedicated desk in their sleek and modern space.
Coastline Colab's sleek and beautiful coworking space in the heart of Powell River.
If you’re not in the qathet region, however, don’t fear! Below is a list of coworking spaces in British Columbia that offer flexible spaces and practical classes for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
L’Atelier Vancouver | Vancouver, BC
Located in Vancouver’s Gastown, this coworking space is geared toward creative entrepreneurs, start-ups, and freelancers. It offers several flexible memberships for the creative professional set, as well as access to meeting and events space, photoshoot space, and community events every two weeks. The 3000-foot space aims to be “comfortable, inspiring, and affordable” in order to help individual entrepreneurs and small business owners realize their goals.
Club Kwench Victoria | Victoria, BC
Club Kwench’s open-floor coworking space is designed to foster creativity and collaboration among startup founders, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Its three membership levels match this goal: you can opt for a hot-desk membership allowing access to the common space, or go for the mid-tier option allowing access to space anytime. These plans aim to be hospitable to startups and freelancer who need a flexible space to match their schedules. In the past, Club Kwench has hosted workshops include “Content Strategy for Small Business” and “Blogging, SEO, and Website Development Help”. They also have fitness classes and social events.
Okanagan co+Lab | Kelowna, BC
The Okanagan co+Lab started in 2011 with a small community of creative professionals. It’s grown in the ten years since into a thriving space for social connection, which it credits to its values of community, creativity, collaboration, productivity, and above all, fun. Regular events at the co+Lab include Founder Hot Seat Pitch Night, where budding entrepreneurs can pitch their business ideas to startup experts from the Okanagan Valley. The co+Lab is dedicated to co-creating the expansion of the Okanagan Valley economy, and offers six levels of membership ranging from a $20 per month access plan to a $350 per month “Creator Studio” plan including access to their AV studio and hot desks.
The Smithers Co-Working Space | Smithers, BC
Run by Community Futures Nadina, the Smithers Co-working Space provides a quiet, bright and modern space for locals to work, as well as a boardroom in which to take or hold meetings, and office amenities including a printer, desk furniture, and a coffee cupboard. The Nadina chapter of Community Futures also provides a range of business services for local entrepreneurs, including small business seminars for writing business plans, help in creating realistic financial projections, succession planning, and even small business loans.
Jam Factory | Nelson, BC
Providing an affordable, accessible coworking space in historic downtown Nelson, BC, the Jam Factory prides itself on creating networking opportunities for local entrepreneurs, tech workers, creatives, and remote workers alike. It offers permanent desks and a small number of hot desks, as well as an office space suitable for a small business team. Down the street is the Nelson Innovation Space, a flexible work hub for entrepreneurs in the technology industry.
The HubSpace | Prince George, BC
Though not a true coworking space, The Hubspace is Northern BC’s business accelerator. Their goal is to help grow the tech sector in northern BC, and to help entrepreneurs in the area implement and grow their technology ventures. In pursuit of this goal, they’ve brought the Venture Accelerator Program to Prince George, where they have helped entrepreneurs through a mix of one-to-one mentorship, classes, and guided exercises. They also host several Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, whose varied experiences and expertise can help you with all aspects of planning and running a small business.
The Aligned Collective is another great co-working space! It is in Squamish, BC.