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A new home for small businesses

Melanie Rollins, a teacher turned videographer in Sudbury , felt she needed a change after working from home for six years. “At first I thought it was great, working in your pyjamas and all that,” Rollins said. “But it became horribly lonely.
Maxime and Jeff Caldwell started The Workplace, a new shared working space in Sudbury, on Oct. 1, 2013. Small business clients, like Krysta Telenko (above), can choose from a variety of options to suit their office needs.

Melanie Rollins, a teacher turned videographer in Sudbury, felt she needed a change after working from home for six years.

“At first I thought it was great, working in your pyjamas and all that,” Rollins said. “But it became horribly lonely.”

Loneliness was not the only problem working from home. The setting of her work environment also affected her professional credibility, she said.

When Rollins was hired to shoot a promotional campaign for United Way Sudbury she struggled to find a professional space “I thought, ‘Where am I going to do that? In my kitchen?” When Rollins’ sister, Maxime Caldwell, decided to start a shared working space in Sudbury, she became an early cheerleader for the idea.

Shared working spaces have become an attractive alternative for professionals, freelancers and small business owners who would work from home otherwise.

Caldwell and her husband, Jeff Caldwell, got the idea from similar spaces elsewhere in the province. One of the early examples that inspired the couple was The Code Factory, a shared workspace in Ottawa that has catered to programmers, web designers and other technology- centric professionals.

The Code Factory gives its clients the options to pay for a virtual office that supplies them with a professional business address and limited access to meeting rooms each month. Clients can also choose to rent a dedicated desk, a spot in a shared office, a timeshare office, or their own private office.

The Caldwells borrowed that model and opened The Workplace last October.

“We want to help small businesses and get them out of their houses,” said Maxime. “We really want to build a community with small businesses.”

The Workplace resembles an Apple Store with its clean, modern and minimalist design. It includes many of the amenities one would find in any office, including a printer, photocopier and Internet access through a local Wi-Fi network.

The space has two boardrooms and a number of offices, some occupied by clients, and others available to rent.

There is also a communal lounge area where professionals can meet and brainstorm over coffee.

For $400 a month a client can rent a private office.

A virtual office, with a business address and up to 50 phone calls a month, costs $100 a month.

Clients can also rent a space for a day, ranging from a co-working space for $10 to a boardroom for $160.

Members who already rent an office, virtual or otherwise, have reduced rates for daily rentals. Rollins moved her studio, Nova Films, to a space adjacent to The Workplace offices.

She said everyone who walks through the door for the Workplace is a potential client.

Rollins produces wedding videos and promotional materials for small businesses and not-forprofit organizations.

She produced a video for The Workplace client Danielle Daniel, a Sudbury author and artist, to help her promote her website and work.

Krysta Telenko, an art appraiser, also rents an office at The Workplace. She said the move was a positive change from working at home.

“It definitely helped with my productivity,” Telenko said. “I just find being able to talk to people has been a valuable resource.”

The Workplace has given her the opportunity to brainstorm with people from different fields, who can bring whole new perspectives, and solutions, to problems she might need to solve.

Telenko said a professional office has allowed her to cut back on her travelling and focus more on her work.

When she worked from home she often travelled to clients' homes. Now she can schedule more meetings at her office.

After a month in business, Maxime Caldwell said the concept has taken off and attracted a variety of young professionals.

She said one of her goals is to help young entrepreneurs in Sudbury start new businesses by providing an affordable and collaborative space for them to take those initial steps.