We had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Melissa Mesku, Founding Editor of New Worker Magazine. As an advocate...
As the community manager of a coworking space, I’ve been on the receiving end of proposals from tenants and external companies interested in partnering with a coworking space on certain initiatives. Whilst working at Winkley Street Studios and Cooks Yard, we would get approached to co-run events, host workshops and to partner with local businesses and restaurants where our members could receive discounts. Proposals for partnerships would fill my inbox, but those that stood out included a clear proposal of how the partnership would work. They outlined: who would be involved, if there was any budget required, what the benefits would be, and most importantly they included a strong call to action on the next steps to get the partnership set up and running.
As a community manager, you are incentivised to do things that benefit your existing community but to also engage with a wider audience. The successful examples of partnering with a coworking space are those which are beneficial for both parties and where both parties actively participate. An example of this is hosting Sofar Sounds – a secret gig that takes place in a secret location. (p.s. if you’ve never been to a Sofar gig, I definitely recommend it!) We provided a space (Cooks Yard), whilst Sofar Sounds hosted the gig and brought along an audience. We had a full house of enthusiastic people eager to know who the acts would be and many people came up and asked what the space was used for and enquired about desk space. We also invited a local pizza restaurant to offer some of their food (which was delicious!), who we then partnered with to offer a discount for our members too! Overall, this partnership worked so well as Sofar Sounds were able to expand their location base and Cooks Yard were able to engage the local business community to come along and support. A bonus was that newcomers to the space would then go on to tell their friends who needed a desk.
I’ve also been on the other side of the table, working for a startup, pitching a partnership to the coworking space we resided in. Monkfeet and Rainmaking Loft successfully ran a series of events, Investors on Stage, that saw VC’s from funds such as MMC Ventures, Mosaic Ventures and Playfair Capital join the stage to talk directly to startups about the types of companies they would like to invest in. Monkfeet came up with a proposed plan of what the events would look like, what we needed from Rainmaking Loft, and details on how to get the events set up as quickly as possible. After one conversation with the founder and community manager of Rainmaking Loft, we were running our first event within three weeks!
Perhaps you’ve got an idea and want to pitch it to the coworking space you work in (or even one you don’t work in!) How do you go about this? Figuring out answers to these four questions is the best place to start.
One thing I’ve noticed is that small companies, especially startups, tend to think that partnering with a coworking space will be beneficial to helping their startup grow. They think that if they can utilise a strength of another company (usually their customer base), this will directly benefit your own company. This is a fairly selfish but common way of thinking. When you’re thinking about your partnership, make sure your goal is clear. It’s ok to want more customers. You might also want exposure, hope to get picked up and written about in local media publications, or have another goal in mind. Decide on just one single aim. That way, you can create some KPI’s that you can measure.
It’s most likely that you want to use the event space of your coworking space at no cost. This is a reasonable ask, as long as the benefit to the coworking space is made clear. Perhaps you allow an ambassador of the space a three minute slot to talk about the space, or you offer a free copy of the filming of the event including some great footage of the space. Whatever it is, make sure you go out of your way to understand what incentivises the space you are pitching to work with.
During my time at Monkfeet, we partnered with 30+ coworking spaces in London to host learning events. Two common themes arose regarding what the spaces were looking for:
Leveraging these two reasons when pitching a new space seemed to be the winning trigger that would encourage a space to work with us.
Have you ever been in a meeting where everything seems to be going well until it turns out that whoever you are talking to isn’t authorised to take the decision? If so, you’ll know that the chance of the proposed event happening in this type of scenario is slim to none. Think about who your proposal affects. If you’re pitching an event, does the coworking space have an event manager? There’s no need to include the full team, but you do need to make sure that everyone involved fully understands the proposed plan.
If any resources are required (funding, additional supplies, permits, etc.), now is the time to state it. This way, both teams can understand if they are required to set any time aside to work on the new project, to block dates out of the calendar, or to add any new responsibilities to their role.
After finalising the partnership, both parties involved should have an idea of what benefit(s) they will receive.
Hopefully by now you’ve got to the part where you’ve created a partnership! What’s next? If you don’t move quickly, plans can easily fizzle out. Often our priorities change on a daily basis and suddenly the partnership you just agreed on can seem secondary.
First, establish who is responsible for what. With two parties involved there should be a lot of strengths that you can play to, but be careful of overlapping on your work! What worked best in Monkfeet and Rainmaking Loft’s partnership was that it was clear who were involved, and what each party was responsible for. This is how we portioned the work:
1. Before the event:
2. On the day of the event:
3. After the event:
1. Before the event:
On the day of the event:
After the event:
Make sure you have regular check-ins to assess what is going well, what could be done better/more efficiently, and if there’s any blockers to making the partnership work successfully!
You should always be checking against your KPI’s to make sure that you are achieving what you initially planned. Also, bare in mind that there is another party involved and it is a good idea to check whether they are also achieving their goals, too..
Overall, partnerships can greatly increase the success of your company. Don’t be disheartened if your partnerships get rejected when you’re pitching to people. Often it can just be a matter of timing, priorities, and resources. If your own coworking space can’t help you to achieve your partnership, think about using other coworking spaces. There’s many new spaces opening all the time. Often, before they launch is the best time to get in touch.
About the author
Yasmin Desai has worked in several start-ups and is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences. She is currently working for Catapult as a Business Development Manager. Yasmin writes about her thoughts on the London start-up scene for her blog The Startup Girl. You can find her on twitter @thestartupgirl_.
Be sure to check out Yasmin’s guest post from last month, where offered us some great insights into what goes into hosting a stellar coworking event.