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Co-working space Connectech set to expand

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Success story: Coral Wells, founder of Connectech, updates a giant wall calendar in the co-working shared space offices on Cedar Avenue. The offices are about to increase in size as Connectech takes over the entire second floor (Photograph by Scott Neil)

A co-working shared office space in the centre of Hamilton will increase in size by 2,000 sq ft next week.

It is less than a year since Connectech opened its door as a technology incubator, encouraging collaboration and innovation, and also offering small office rental spaces, meeting and conference rooms and shared desk options for individuals who only needed to use office facilities for a short time.

The enterprise has enjoyed a productive first seven months, giving opportunities to start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses, while also offering after-school tech classes.

At present it covers 4,500 sq ft of space on the second floor of Cedar House, on Cedar Avenue. That will change at the start of February when it takes over the entire floor, adding an additional 2,000 sq ft to its co-working environment.

The expansion highlights the remarkable growth of the enterprise.

Coral Wells, founder of Connectech, said: “It started off as a tech hub, where we have small business that can rent office space by the hour, the day, month or longer.”

Spaces that can be rented out include small offices, meeting rooms, and a boardroom that includes a video conference facility.

On one wall is an eye-catching, wipeable calendar that stretches almost from floor to ceiling. It shows dates and times of upcoming training sessions, which feature tutoring in various computer programming languages, such as Python, the website building program WordPress, and classes in HTML code and Microsoft Excel.

“We have technology training; teaching kids coding, and also teaching businesses ways to use social media and program coding,” said Ms Wells, who is proficient in software development and teaches some of the classes.

There is a computer lab set up with desktop computers where children and those at beginner and intermediate level are taught. Connectech also uses credit card-sized budget Raspberry PI computers as an additional teaching and development tool.

Explaining the Connectech concept, Ms Wells said: “Our thought-process was that we wanted small business who were mostly technological or media-driven. We have tried to keep it on the tech side, as it helps with collaborations, but you don’t have to be tech to be here.”

Giving an example of how collaboration works within the workspace, she mentioned how one small office client was able to walk down the hallway to ask another of the businesses based at Connectech if they could help produce a logo.

It is hoped that as more young students learn tech skills at the various classes, they might find opportunities with some of the businesses based at the co-working space.

Ms Wells admits the collaborative working aspirations still have a way to go, and believes this may be a reflection of a Bermudian bent to work independently and guard ideas, as evident by the preference by most clients to have their own small office space rather than use the open plan co-working spaces.

However, some collaborations do take place, and this has been further fostered by Connectech’s support of the Start-Up Weekend initiative.

Ms Wells said co-working spaces have been around for many years, and are popular in the US and Europe. Before embarking on Connectech she checked the business models of US-based WeWork and Impact Hub.

“I thought it would work here because of the Bermuda job market.” She said when jobs become scarce, people gravitate towards running their own business to keep themselves going.

At Connectech, electricity, internet connection and some printing expenses are included in the rental charges for clients. There is a kitchen facility and the offices can be accessed 24 hours a day.

Some entrepreneurs have found it advantageous to move out of their “office at home” to a central location in town where they can have a dedicated space and more easily arrange meetings with clients.

Ms Wells said it can be a good idea for small business owners to think about renting an office space only on particular days of the week, thereby keeping expenditure under control while having the ability to meet clients at a town centre location.

Ms Wells said the variety of clients now based at Connectech was evidence of the concept’s success.

Crystal Lightbourne, of Profound Consulting, agreed. Her business provides expertise in matters relating to passports, work permits, immigration, status, and travel arrangements. It has been based at Connectech since the co-working space opened. Previously she worked from home.

She said: “It is much better here. Clients can come in and out, the office space is good and the rates are excellent.”

Meanwhile, looking to the future, Ms Wells explained that three connecting offices in the new section have already been snapped up by an IT consulting business, as her current office, which means she will move across to one of the offices in the new area when it becomes part of Connectech next week.

She added: “It has been going good, and we love the success stories that have been made.”

Connectech is on the second floor of Cedar House, at 41 Cedar Avenue, Hamilton. The website is www.connectech.bm

Moving forward: Coral Wells, founder of Connectech. An additional 2,000 sq ft is being added to the co-working shared space offices on Cedar Avenue (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)