ElementIQ has a fairly unorthodox approach to where we work. We currently spend two days of the week remotely, and the other 3 are spent at CMPNY, a coworking space in Coquitlam.
Wondering what a coworking space is?
Coworking spaces are shared workspaces with desks in the open, private offices, and meeting rooms making up the majority of the floor. The flexibility, price point, and amenities offered are stealing entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses from traditional workspaces.
We had the chance to sit down for an interview with boss lady Alicja Mazur, Director of Communications and Community at CMPNY to discuss how these innovative hubs are creating opportunities and fostering communities for teams of all sizes.
Stivian: Hey Alicja, thanks for doing this. Tell us a little bit about your professional background.
Alicja: I started out in retail, as we all do, where I perfected my salesmanship skills. Then I became an Executive Assistant for a software development company, whereupon I started working for the Port Moody Arts Centre as a Communications Manager. Then I landed this gig, where I was a Space Manager for about two years.
Stivian: Word on the street is you recently got a promotion?
Alicja: Yup, I’m now the Director of Communications and Community.
Stivian: What’s that gonna entail?
Alicja: It’s an experiment! I’m hoping to grow the community in Burnaby and Coquitlam. I’m going to come up with a strategic plan for us in regards to communicating the benefits of coworking.
Stivian: That’s exciting. Big role. Tell me a little bit about CMPNY, what you guys do, and what your values are.
Alicja: CMPNY is a coworking space that primarily focuses on shared office space, shared desks, shared meeting rooms, etcetera. Our clients are small business owners, entrepreneurs, contractors, freelancers and the like. They can share among the resources of CMPNY and the community to grow their business and look more professional to their clients, and be in that continual phase of growing and acquiring knowledge.
Stivian: Makes sense. Is there anything behind the name? You guys were Spacekraft before, right?
Alicja: We were Spacekraft before. That was a stylistic choice because we wanted to represent innovation. That being said, we felt that we’ve grown quite a bit from our original choice, so we rebranded as CMPNY. The reason it's CMPNY with no vowels is because it’s such a striking visual. If people recognize the brand, that’s the first step to success.
Stivian: It’s a strong name, I like the look. What sort of impact have you seen CMPNY have in the local community?
Alicja: The impact we’re having in the Tri-Cities right now is that we’re getting people used to the idea of coworking spaces. What we’ve noticed is that most people in the suburbs either commute all the way downtown or work from home. There’s very few local jobs that allow people to commute in 5, 10 minutes, and the people that work from their homes are comfortable doing so. Something that CMPNY’s doing right now is making sure that talent comes here because that brings the zest of business relationships, and that grows the businesses inside the coworking space.
Stivian: Nice. Why do you think businesses are coming here? What’s drawing them in over traditional working spaces?
Alicja: Well, there’s scientific-based research that says that working remotely isn’t healthy for people. People who work remotely are more likely to experience depression, they’re more likely to be divorced, and people who commute long hours downtown typically experience decreased life satisfaction overall. So for those able to work remotely, over the internet, and not having to be at a workplace, all of a sudden you have this opportunity to be at a workplace. You might not want to work at your house, per se, because there’s so many distractions there.
Stivian: That makes sense. I think the whole loneliness thing, being alone Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, that’s got to have an effect on those working from home. I guess some people can pull it off but…
Alicja: Well that’s why you see an increase of people working out of coffee shops. They want to be around people because we’re inherently social creatures.
Stivian: So you get a lot of freelancers and solopreneurs, do you guys do anything to build a community for them?
Alicja: Yes! So, one of the main missions of the Space Managers, and one of CMPNY’s main missions is to make sure we host events that people want to go to and make connections. Not necessarily rigid business connections, but more-so friendly, neighbourly, communal connections. I come from a Political Science and Communications background, so the value that people get out of micro-communities and micro-villages is stupendously strong and influential. That's where you form friendships. That’s why the eradication of neighbourhoods causes so much panic.
Stivian: Are people enthusiastic about the events? Do you see them come out pretty often?
Alicja: Yep, we have really great turnouts and we usually have a bunch of different people that come out to them. We have a mix of social events, and their primary reason for existing is for people to get to know one another. We have education programming where we bring in an expert on a certain topic so you can learn more and bring a new tool to your arsenal. Next week we’re doing a lip-sync battle. It’s just one of those things where if you can lip-sync in front of a bunch of strangers (who might be friends now), you now have the confidence to do that pitch in front of an investor that can take your business to the next level.
Stivian: If you could organize one event - your DREAM event, what would it be?
Alicja: If I had unlimited funds, I would take all the CMPNY folk on a 7-day retreat cruise where we would talk about professional development, and bring in a business coach, a life coach, a psychologist and a business planner, and have each person go through that, and go through it together as a community. That would be a cathartic experience.
Stivian: That’s better than what I had. For some reason, my brain jumped to bringing in like 12 llamas to the office. So the Digital Nomad movement has become very popular within coworking spaces, do you get a lot of these people coming through?
Alicja: Absolutely. Again, it’s one of those things where you want to connect. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Digital Nomads usually specialize in specific areas, and while they might be able to Google a resource or call a colleague in Alberta, it’s way easier to just talk to somebody face to face. That face to face interaction is key to improving and learning better. If somebody shows you how to do something, as opposed to reading a blog about it, that’s much more likely to stick.
Stivian: Has the industry changed a lot since you started at CMPNY?
Alicja: The industry has changed quite a bit. A little history of coworking - the connotation of coworking started with the dotcom movement in Germany. A bunch of hackers rented a basement and were like “...This is pretty sick. It costs us all virtually nothing and it’s fun working together.”. It then migrated to Silicon Valley, where it was more of the bean-bag chairs recreational area and developing personal relationships. You can see that at Google’s headquarters where they have a bunch of benches, a cafeteria, ping pong, and things like that. And then it came here because there was a need for it. With the whole Digital Nomad movement and the fact that office spaces were becoming increasingly more expensive, why not work out of coworking spaces?
Stivian: That’s a big impact. Last question. What role do coworking spaces play today and how do you see them evolving in the future?
Alicja: Coworking spaces right now fill a niche for community building and a lack of affordable building space. I see coworking spaces expanding like franchises, similar to Starbucks and McDonalds. People want to work close to home, as they’re increasingly starting to value work-life balance. For parents who have careers that are demanding, it’s important to spend as much of your time with your kids as possible. You want that balance.
I think coworking spaces are going to be a-dime-a-dozen, and what that’s going to mean is they’re going to really differentiate themselves. For example, there’s L’Atelier downtown that’s primarily catered to creatives. For us, 10 to 15 years down the road, I can see us having a coworking space primarily for Digital Marketing people, a coworking space specifically for engineers, a coworking space for X, Y and Z. It’s just going to silo.
Stivian: That’s really cool. Any last words you want to add?
Alicja: CMPNY is cool. We love ElementIQ. #love.