What happens when you launch a new coworking space… but COVID-19 messes with your plans?

Sometimes your story ends in ways you never expected. When we launched our coworking space we had no idea that COVID-19 was about to mess with our plans.

Picture this… you’ve just spent months planning an exciting new initiative. It’s a coworking community for creatives, and entire teams of people have spent countless hours putting together planning documents, working on construction, outfitting the interior and coming up with marketing strategies to get people through the door.

After all of the long days and the late nights you’re finally ready to open your coworking space to the local community, but then… an infectious disease sweeps the entire planet, ushering in the worst global pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu.

This wasn’t how our story was meant to begin.

It’s certainly not a scenario that ever came up in the hundreds of planning meetings we had prior to launching our coworking space. But then - our apologies to John Lennon here - “COVID-19 is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”.

Our first Emporium Creative Hub Incubator cohort came together in October 2020 at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.

The coworking community that COVID-19 built 

In some ways it felt like COVID-19 crept up on all of us, as our collective attention was focused on catastrophic bushfires, and then floods. When we finally realised that Australia was next in line for the pandemic, we were all left with many questions. 

For us here at Emporium Creative Hub, there was one burning question: What does a coworking community do when the entire community is in lockdown?

Like many other businesses, our doors were closed to the public due to lockdown measures and social distancing requirements. And, like many other businesses we were forced to “pivot”, which is COVID-19 speak for “oh no, what on earth do we do now?”

So we pivoted. And boy, did we ever pivot.

We pivoted so fast that it felt like the world was spinning.

For us that meant emergency meetings, hastily convened brainstorming sessions and late-night ad hoc planning for a world that was now completely different to what it was only months before. But, out of crisis comes opportunity, and we came up with some great initiatives to engage with the community even though our doors remained closed.

Here’s some of the things we did in 2020, in spite of COVID-19:

We launched our first Incubator program

We knew that many of our peers in the creative industries were struggling with the COVID-19 restrictions, with their businesses either completely shut down or restricted in their operations. In response to this we developed an incubator program for local creatives, a 12 session series of workshops aimed at helping people start a new enterprise or to unlock the potential of their existing businesses. Read more about the incubator here.

We organised a Mentoring program for creatives

The spirit of helping artists and creatives in the Bendigo community was also behind our decision to develop a mentoring program, aimed at pairing up experienced mentors with local creatives and entrepreneurs to help them grow and to learn new skills. We made the program available to Bendigo residents working within the local creative industries, whose business had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about mentoring here.

We hosted an ongoing series of online events

Like many others, we made the most of digital platforms to deliver content to our community, to engage people in conversations and to ward off isolation. We developed The Studio Sessions, a digital webinar series that connected local creatives with some of the biggest names in the arts and creative industries. Hosted on Facebook, we streamed fascinating conversations and delivered online seminars to our community.

Our gorgeous coworking, project, and workshop spaces are now open.

Hello 2021, goodbye COVID… our doors are open!

We couldn’t start talking about 2021 without mentioning the effort that Victorians made in working together to flatten the curve in 2020. The only reason we can open our doors now is thanks to the sacrifices that every one of you made - and we are incredibly grateful for it.

We are so delighted that our doors are finally open and we’re keen to welcome new members to our coworking community. The good news is that we are now able to start hiring out our desks and using all of the meeting and project spaces in our building.

Coworking in a COVID-safe community

While we are open to the public we are taking all of the necessary health and safety precautions around COVID-19, with appropriate distancing measures and with our numbers restricted according to the most up-to-date guidance from health authorities.

What do we have planned for 2021? Watch this space. We’d love to continue organising events, and have even recently hosted our first in-person networking event, with drinks and nibblies. We partied like it was 2019 again - but with social distancing! 

We’d also like to continue developing programs that build the capacity of our local arts and creative industries, much like our Incubator and Mentoring programs did in 2020. Keep an eye out on our website and social media accounts for the latest updates.

We’d also love for you to see the space that we’ve built. Drop us a line or get in touch, and we can organise a tour for you to check out our facilities.