Chapter One

…and then one became eight!

We now have the kernel of a coworking community in our beloved Yarra Ranges – and a lovely bunch of people we are too.

f_orangeryWe met at Wild Oak in Olinda over lunch in the ‘Orangery‘, a cosy and bright space off to the side of the main restaurant with a long table, perfect to gather and share our work, our histories and our wants for our community.

Eight coworkers in all attended our first real meetup, we are:

  1. Digital Business and Marketing Pro
  2. Marriage Celebrant, B&B owner and host
  3. Facilitator and Not-For-Profit organisational expert
  4. Government/Defence Business Development Manager
  5. Graphic Designer, Purveyor of beautiful Stationary and Marketing Pro
  6. Copywriter and Wordsmith extraordinaire
  7. Health and Fitness entrepreneur
  8. Business Consultant and Technologist

A likely lot, if ever there were…

We started with coffees, chats and a round table of who is who, what we do and where we currently do it. Most of us work from home or bounce in and out of various cafés and other spaces.

Some fascinating stories and working histories were heard and all of us have a few things in common:

  1. We’re all experienced
  2. We’re all professionals and/or entrepreneurs
  3. We’re all local to the Dandenong Ranges and surrounds
  4. We’re all keen to collaborate and share our knowledge
  5. We all want a space that isn’t home or a traditional office

Sounds like the beginnings of a coworking community to me…

For my mind, I had made some assumptions before embarking on this journey of hills coworking. One was that there were like-minded people out there who wanted to collaborate and work independently, together. Another assumption was that people from my region would want to do it in the hills, close to the Olinda/MtD/Sassafras villages; and yet another was that these people would want to contribute democratically to the organisation of such a community.

Before this gathering, I had one or two data points to test my assumptions, now I have eight strong confirmations from our fledgling community and many more probables from people that just couldn’t make it yesterday though have indicated they’d love to be involved.

We kept going over a delicious lunch served by the Wild Oak team, the Puttanesca pasta is lovely and that paté looked nice too. We shared our experiences in the Ranges, why we’re in business and why we love to live here. We talked about the benefits of coworking and what kind of space we’d like. Most importantly, we all want this to happen and we just wish we could fast forward to the day our space is ready.

We threw ideas around about we’d like to see in a coworking space and suggested potential candidate buildings that we know of around the hills. I’d still vote to turn the old Olinda Golf Course clubhouse into a coworking space, though I’m sure we’d quickly outgrow it!

We jotted down some basic requirements like good coffee, wifi, comfy chairs, desks and plenty of heat. We’re pretty sure that we can find any number of spaces that contain these bare necessities for good coworking and perhaps we can even rent some temporary space before locking ourselves into a lease. In fact, we’re likely to come back to Wild Oak next week to start getting work done.

Coworking firstly and foremostly is about community. It thrives if it is populated by people with a collaborative, sharing spirit and democratic bent, willing to give back as much as they take.

We spoke about possible organisational structures and fundraising options. The front-runner so far is a cooperative structure that can be incorporated and operates as a one-share, one-vote system for the benefit of all members. We’ll probably be looking for council grants, patronage from hills residents and other partners to get this off the ground.

We ended after almost 4 hours of conversation by agreeing to open channels of communication between people willing to help organise the community, the space and the details. Anyone is welcome to contribute and help out and we’re looking forward to meeting many more future coworkers next week!