Seven months in, ConnexionWorks is going strong
By Jeri Knopp
The elevator doors opened on the third floor of the Brunswick Tower at One Germain Street, and I stepped into ConnexionWorks, a recent addition to Canada’s coworking scene, and the only open-concept entrepreneurial coworking space in Saint John.
As I walked through the area to meet the founders, I first passed empty space, with a construction sign saying “Phase 2”. This space will be filled as ConnexionWorks attracts new members and expands. Then, I started to pass white desks, with brightly coloured blue, red, and green accent pieces and walls. There are a couple of people working in groups, including a few speaking in fast-paced Ukrainian.
I passed a kitchen area, brewing Java Moose coffee, and a photocopying area, and I was finally ushered into one of ConnexionWorks’ multiple meeting rooms, sitting down to chat with Heather Acker, Brendan Bates, and Doug Jenkins, co-founders, and Sharon Rathod, facility director.
Acker, of H2C Online, was first inspired by the coworking spaces she saw on a trip to Boston. She saw entrepreneurs from many different fields working together, although they were segregated by field. “I thought, ‘this is a great idea. Can this really go in Saint John?’” she says. “Being an entrepreneur at heart, I decided to meet up with some individuals and try to see if it could happen.”
She met up with Jenkins, of iSpire, and, frustrated at how difficult it was to collaborate remotely, eventually moved into his office. Then, Bates, of TOSS Solutions, came on board, and they started turning their ideas into reality.
With an idea and a design in place, they brought Rathod on board to figure out whether ConnexionWorks was financially feasible. Once she crunched the numbers, the founders set about looking for a location.
After surveying a number of potential locations, looking at cost, accessibility, space, and other parameters, they signed a lease at One Germain Street. “Very soon, we realized all of our 3D [model]s and all of the wonderful graphics and everything else we’d done were great, but we had to put the action behind our words.” Bates says.
They officially opened ConnexionWorks on Jan. 1, and by Jan. 2, the first organization, IT company iSpire, was officially up and running. Since then, they’ve made it their mission to attract all kinds of entrepreneurs to come work in the space and collaborate with others. The space is very open, and everyone is welcome to communicate with other companies, getting ideas, and sharing their skills.
"Coming into the space you have to understand that you will be collaborating,
interacting with people, you aren’t in your basement working by yourself,” Bates says. This can lead to many new ideas and exciting developments, but he is upfront about the fact that for a small minority of people, the space may not work.
The space strives to accommodate as many diverse individuals and groups as possible, and that is reflected in the membership options. Membership is highly customizable, whether you are one person who only needs a couple hours a month, or whether you are a group of three with two full-time workers and one part timer.
In addition, ConnexionWorks and The Chamber have partnered to offer their members an opportunity to join the chamber of commerce, giving them access to a variety of member benefits in more than one sphere. In addition, ConnexionWorks and their members are able to take advantage of the many networking opportunities and events that the Chamber hosts.
ConnexionWorks has hosted a number of businesses who have grown so much over the last half-year that it doesn’t make sense for them to still set up their offices in the coworking space. For example, Smart Signs, a local sign-making start up, grew from James Connell and his wife making signs in their garage to a company with enough on the go to require their own space.
“After a certain period of time, when you get up to six, seven, or eight people, it is not designed to be economical,” Jenkins says. "When people gain opportunities from being here and need to leave to something bigger, that’s part of the design. That’s part of the intention."
For more information about ConnexionWorks and membership rates, check out their website athttp://www.connexionworks.ca/