Just a few years ago, finance expert Brendan Dixon had never stepped foot in a co-working space. Today, he not only works in one, but he owns it too.
Dixon, an ex-banker, has been running Pure Finance from a co-working space in the landmark Holt & Hart building in Sydney’s Surry Hills since 2012.
In 2013, when the space was set to close, Dixon decided to take over. The 80 square-metre space, called Studio 510, now has 15 desks and Dixon manages it alongside his “independent and ethically-minded” finance firm.
“When we were told we had two weeks to vacate … it wasn’t very good news for us and nobody wanted the risk of (taking on) a commercial lease, ie a four-week bond, set-up costs etc.
“I stepped up and took on the lease, plus negotiated the first two months’ rent-free, to allow time to establish ourselves and do a fit-out, to make the room much nicer for everyone, because I had to increase the rent to make it work. I was terrified of people leaving!”
Dixon was sold on co-working the moment he tried it, after starting his business at home in 2011. He went from distracted and unproductive at home to inspired.
“I found the co-working environment more conducive to my mental wellbeing, but also, I enjoyed learning about other small businesses and I started getting referrals which helped my business grow faster. Separating work from home was a beautiful thing,” he says.
As a user, Dixon understands what users are looking for – like no lock-in contracts and inclusions such as lockers, bike storage, printing, fast internet and cleanliness. He also understands people value a nice vibe, respectful culture and a diverse group of people.
“We also have a lot of real plants, so it’s a bit of a jungle, which requires a lot of maintenance, but everyone loves it. It feels healthier, even though we are sat down in an office!”
Being on-site has been a big plus for Dixon. “Something I think has gone a long way in my space is that I am the owner and I’m on-site for anything that’s required. Due to this, I’m always making small improvements to the space, as well as queuing up the music for the day if needed, and just being there, so people feel comfortable and supported while they grow their business alongside us.”
Dixon has plans to expand Studio 510. “I’d love to buy the neighbouring office and knock the wall down in future, so we can expand the community. We are the only share space in the building with permission from the building management to do as we like.
“They understand that I came in as a solo desk sub-tenant and from there, I grew my business in the building along with other like-minded business owners. This is good marketing for the building to be supporting small businesses,” he says.