Collaborative workspaces don't just save money for startups and solve the problem of an isolating home office, they can lead to incredible new ventures.
Sydney wedding stylist Jessica McLeod was running her own company, Oscar & Ruby, from home in 2011 when the opportunity arose to join a collaborative space.
Marissa Mills, a wedding photographer she had met through a networking group, invited her and another photographer, Nadean Richards, to share a two-level creative space in Alexandria so they could work away from home but not pay through the nose for an expensive corporate suite.
Within a few months of sharing the open plan space and one long desk divided into three, the trio recognised they could collaborate on something bigger than their individual business.
"We realised that there was some potential for us to work together on something -- we just didn't predict at the time that 'something' would turn into an international company," McLeod told The Huffington Post Australia.
"We started talking about how we knew so many people in the industry that maybe we could bring them all together and hold a wedding fair. We didn't really think it through.
"We just said 'let's do a wedding fair' and three months later we did it. We set a date and booked a space, committed to it, told people we were doing it and then we just had to make it happen. And it went from there."
The trio formed One Fine Collective which runs One Fine Day Wedding Fairs and, since 2014, One Fine Baby events. They have hosted 20 successful fairs in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide and are now a team of six and have moved into bigger office space.
And they are set to launch internationally, with two One Fine Day events in New York -- a Bridal Market for designers to meet international buyers October 8-10, and the One Fine Day fair for suppliers based in NYC on October 16.
McLeod said the business would probably never have happened if they were working independently.
"Sharing a space allows room for inspiration and thinking outside of our own ideas," she said.
"Obviously there are financial benefits of sharing rent and internet costs. But also the social benefit -- the sharing of ideas, the potential to troubleshoot and discuss things business and otherwise.
"There were things that each of us brought to the table, and it just meant we were a force to be reckoned with. Together we could achieve more than what we could on our own."
Shared workspaces are now an industry in themselves, offering hot desks, private offices, meeting rooms, weekly events and business mentoring.
Although McLeod and her fellow directors chose to rent their own space, the number of collectives around Australia are increasing -- and they are helping share inspiration and innovation, says Tania de Jong AM, Founder and CEO Creative Universe, Creative Innovation Global and Melbourne co-working space Dimension5.
"Co-working spaces create a shared space in which entrepreneurs and businesses can collaborate, co-create and support each other across diverse industries and pursuits," she told HuffPost Australia.
"It's all about enabling regular 'positive human collisions' that spark innovation, particularly through unique collaboration opportunities."
Dimension5 is a space dedicated to innovators, social enterprises and creatives, and de Jong says says if you're open to collaboration, it's important to find a space where your skills are complementary to those around you.
"You should look for the correct mix of people and ensure that the community is engaged and willing to share skills, networks and opportunities," she said.
Here are de Jong's top tips to collaboration in a shared space:
- Be curious, get out of your comfort zone and create positive human collisions.
- Befriend a stranger and be willing to learn more about other members in the space.
- Once you have established synergies, work on specific and measurable tasks to ensure top productivity.
A few Aussie workspaces to consider for your small business
Dimension5 in South Melbourne is targetted at entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives, social enterprises, small businesses, not-for-profits and disruptive teams from large organisations.
This Brisbane collective space started as a place where a group of friends could drink beer and do a little business. Now it has three locations in Southeast Queensland with a fourth opening in October.
This international collaborative space model now offers two areas in Sydney for startups -- in Pyrmont and Martin Place in the CBD.
Hb Australia is one of the more established workspaces with 1000 members across its three sites in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
This high-end model has had an office in Sydney and recently opened a lavish area in Melbourne. The idea here is to encourage a diverse group of users, so an application needs to be submitted and approved.