Tsveta, co-founder of Malkite5, went to Copenhagen in February 2017, to meet Republikken and its team through the European Creative Hubs Network and our Peer-to-Peer Scheme (P2P). This is his article about the experience of exchanging knowledge, creative hub to creative hub.
A month ago, the co-founder of Malkite5, Tsveta Stoeva, visited the most vibrant coworking space in Copenhagen, Republikken. Established eleven years ago, this space is one of the oldest in Europe and spreads on three doors with private offices, freelance spaces, chill areas, laser cutter and meeting rooms and an open workspace.
As part of the European Creative Hubs P2P Scheme, Tsveta talked about everything coworking with Ivan Lopez Garrido, Community Manager of Republikken for the last nine years. Read on their interview to see how the coworking scene has changed and why a coffee machine can be a really good conversation starter.
Community is such a buzzword right now and everyone is talking about it. Can you share some tips and tricks on how to build a robust community?
Here, right next to the open space, work two girls who are running our kitchen. Actually, they are members like everyone else here; they rent the kitchen and part of their business is to make lunch for our community. So to answer your question, the best thing we’ve done within the last nine years at Republikken is to have a lunch deal for all our members. It’s so simple, but you can sense the effect almost immediately. While we eat, we share not only our lunch but also what we read, work on etc. We know each other so well that it’s kind of a family.
We also have community breakfast every Thursday and we organise a feedback club once a month. This is a facilitated method of how to ask for help where we meet with all members and they have one minute to describe a need they have. We help each other with bits of advice for example tricks to get up in the morning when you’re self-employed and don’t have meetings to attend during the day. I think community building is sometimes also in the details. For example, we didn’t buy a fully automatic coffee machine on purpose.
Why is that?
Because if the coffee machine needs some level of skill to prepare your coffee and thus you don’t know how to do it, then you’ll ask for help. You will start talking to other members and they will help you out.
So your coffee machine is kind of a conversation starter?
Yes, that’s right! It’s a simple and casual way to connect with other members. Another detail is our contracts. You can sign a contract for a minimum of three months here and you have to give us three months notice to sign out. So from the beginning, everyone knows that they have to invest in the community and devote themselves to the place because they are going to be here for a while.
When it comes to freelancers community building seems like a piece of cake, but what about teams?
We divided them on different doors because they have different needs and we kind of work with clusters that way. Working with teams is a bit harder because they have their own group dynamic. And it’s not that they don’t want to communicate, they just don’t do it. However, when you work with teams you actually keep track of only one of them and this leads to more turnaround work. While with freelancers you have to connect with each and every one of them.
What kind of freelancers do work here?
This area here is designed for one-man companies and people working in the communications, copywriters, architects and other creative types. The space looks a bit different now because they rearranged the furniture. Initially, we had a table here but they moved it and placed a sofa instead.
Are you OK with that?
Yes, because it shows how they feel about the place – it’s their place. Sometimes they ask us before making a change, sometimes they don’t but we always allow them to do it. Moreover, every time we change something we ask them because we want to be sure that we’re taking the right decisions. What I found out throughout the years is that everyone loves innovation, but no one likes changes.
I noticed that everything in Copenhagen is centred around design.
Do you know why we are so attached to it? Because out of twelve months a year at least seven months you have to stay inside. So it’s very important to make it cosy. This is what hygge is all about.
Can you tell me more about your open workspace? I know that it was a cafe, initially.
Yes, this was our cafe, but we changed the concept in the beginning of this year. The thing is we don’t want to waste time in making co−ee that’s sometimes not really good. What we want to do is to build our community.
Today, everyone can visit us to work in this area. As you stay here, you get a daily pass where you put your name and check-in time and you pay by the hour. So now you can make your own coffee and it’s all included. We think that coffee is the same thing as Wi-Fi, heating or electricity.
The coworking business has changed a lot especially after companies like WeWork moved in Europe and opened their spaces in London and Berlin. However, I am wondering – are they really coworking spaces?
At least people think they are. That kind of spaces are built on other values and their vision is totally different from ours. Their main goal is to make money and they are not that focused on building a community. I think that they are more on the corporate side and will attract a different crowd from the people who come to work at our co-working. But let’s wait and see how this will turn out.
Do you organise many events?
We did this a lot in the past because it’s a good way to attract new members. However, we found out that is can be very exhausting and it also takes a lot of time. But the most important thing is that if you don’t really like the content of the event and you don’t have a personal interest in it, then it doesn’t make sense to do it. So we made a rule – if none of us is interested in an event, we are not doing it. Now our events are few but they are worth it.
Thank you, Ivan, for sharing so many insights and showing us around Republikken. For more information on the coworking space, see here. To find out more about Republikken’s music preferences, visit their Spotify Playlists.