(And if you are looking for a place within easy reach of London and the South East, read on.)
Yes, I’m being harsh, but for good reason. Becoming an entrepreneur is an education in itself. It’s possibly the most demanding qualification you’ll ever go for. So you need a space that helps you, and your business, to thrive. And the word ‘co-working’ doesn’t do justice to the best of those spaces.
Think about it. Whether you’re starting up or scaling up, the same thing applies. You’re acquiring skills at a reckless rate… in a good way.
In start-up mode you’re learning several roles at once – anything from Business Development Manager (getting new clients) and Head of Finance (doing your accounts) to Director of Marketing (keeping up with social media) and Facilities Manager (desk tidying). You might want to throw in Executive Assistant (diary keeping/transport booking) for good measure. And that’s on top of doing whatever your business actually does.
Then, if you want to scale up, you have to learn to discard these different roles and lift yourself out of the day-to-day business to become more strategic on behalf of the people you’ve recruited. That’s a big learning curve too.
So you are getting a degree’s worth of mental stimulation, sometimes in the space of a few sleep-deprived months. This is a degree of a completely different order to the normal university variety. If my experience is anything to go by, it spans many more skills and it’s much more intense.
You’re highly qualified.
That’s why I describe the most pioneering of our co-working spaces as ‘GEMs’ of places. For me, GEM stands for Grand Entrepreneurial Masters. ‘Masters’ because when you set up your own business, you are embarking on a new phase of higher education.
And ‘grand’ because your innovative thinking and products could be shaking up your corner of the market. In that sense your ambitions are big – going way beyond your physical size. (I write about the extensive Research and Disruption capacity of some of Britain’s smallest companies in this article on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me at the same time.)
If you want your business to flourish, you need a space which will support all those different roles and keep up with your enterprise as it grows. This is not just about working, ticking over or making a living. It’s about thriving – and loving the living you make.
And that is where Desklodge and SETsquared come in. Desklodge is a co-working space with bold ideas. It’s forward-thinking in two ways. First in the range of backdrops it offers businesses. Its Basingstoke space boasts a New York Suite, a full-sized watermill and an amazing roof:
Yes, those are a pair of legs dangling down. You can see more photos in another post – Why you must look your boss in the eye and say, “I’m outta here”.
DeskLodge is also uncompromising about the basics. You know, the essentials that you take for granted until your deadlines are pushed back because there’s a hitch: the really fast and reliable broadband drops out. The 4 bars on your mobile disappear. The ink runs out in the printer. There’s no fresh milk for your coffee. The tiny details that are a real pain if they are not working properly. Pain in the sense of reduced productivity – wasted effort while you look for the errant milk/printer ink/a mobile signal. That doesn’t happen at Desklodge. It takes fun and functionality very seriously.
You’re in your element.
The other bold idea is about collaboration. In its new Basingstoke space, Desklodge has joined forces with SETsquared, the incubator network which helps entrepreneurs with bright technological ideas to become profitable businesses. The Basingstoke hub is part of SETsquared Surrey, which also has the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Southampton in the Partnership. (Desklodge’s space is also home to businesses from other sectors. If you’re one of those, don’t feel left out. But I’m focussing on technology for now.)
Thanks to this collaboration, businesses with a technological bent have access to the 5G testbed that the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre has installed at Desklodge. This means they can work on fifth-generation mobile phone technology.
And there’s more. Adrian Braine is the Entrepreneur in Residence at SETsquared Surrey’s Basingstoke hub and is based in Desklodge:
We are building a set of assets. The first one was the 5G testbed. We are adding to that a virtual reality and augmented reality lab, which will be connected to the testbed. So if anybody wants to work on that, we have the equipment here to support them. We are also looking at putting in a IoT network – Internet of Things. So again, if you are developing product for that, there will be a network here that you can come and use.
So it is very much about bringing all those things together, rather than just looking at the space or the business support. It’s about looking at the bigger picture and saying, “What do companies actually need, around them in addition to that?” And trying to bring that altogether in one place.
So it really isn’t a space where you roll up, clocking in at 9, clocking off at 5, ticking off the hours until the weekend. This is the space you want to be in and where your business – whatever it is – will really take off.
It’s a gem of a space.
Find your gem now.
If your business is based near Bristol or Basingstoke and needs a place to settle and thrive, contact Desklodge at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t need to move there permanently, by the way. You can also hot desk and drop in for the occasional meeting. Health warning: once you’re there, you might not want to move out.
Miranda uses her BBC background to interview the founders and directors of purpose-led businesses. She explores their values and ethos, helping them to communicate more clearly why their businesses are special. Using her journalistic experience she shapes their stories, extracting the angles that will resonate most with potential clients.
She first came across Desklodge when she was collecting inspirational stories for Crunch Accounting’s micro-business community, another source of support for entrepreneurs.
You can find out how SETsquared supports ambitious start-ups with technological talents here.