“Space matters,” said Kevin Penstock, founder of Water Street Profile. “The philosophers in Greece did not just hang out at someone’s place and discuss philosophy, they built structures that people were in awe about. Space is important, architecture is important. People want to work in amazing places.”
There are over three billion people in the world with jobs and one third of them are independent workers. According to Statistic Canada, Vancouver has about 150,000 people working from home, coffee shops or some alternative space.
In 2008, Penstock was one of those nomadic independent workers trying to be productive in his living room or subletting space from a law firm. The idea for Water Street Profile, a co-working business club, materialized after several businesses sharing the Gastown office suite with Penstock moved out. He began managing it and saw an opportunity to develop an inspiring office space for diverse professionals who want to create passionate projects and coexist with other supporting workers.
“One of the sacrifices you make when you are a startup is that you don’t work in an organization with a support system,” said Penstock. “When you are working in an organization you are accountable to several different departments and several different lead heads. If you are working on your own, you’re missing a lot of that. At least in a co-working space you get to know your neighbours. You’ll get really excited and you’ll tell them about your startup. They’ll come in one week and ask, ‘did you get that thing launched?’ Suddenly you are accountable to someone.”
A workspace can be any place with a desk and a chair, but Water Street Profile aims to be more. The objective is to create an inviting community for each unique profession, whether they are artists or technology experts. Work/life balance is a core value and that is why the company has designed the space to be more than a collection of cubicles. Café and lounge areas allow workers to take a break from the sometimes engaging, yet sometimes monotonous job of running a growing company.
However, managing a business is not all fun and games. Building a startup can be an intimidating task. Water Street Profile recognizes the important of having a premium business profile; they are after all named after it. They offer all the help young companies need to start their business, from implementing front desk services, handling couriers and other basic business services.
“If you are a startup there are a lot different things you need to do,” said Penstock. “You need to get your business incorporated, print business cards, design the website—all that kind of stuff. But what address do you put on it? Your home? That is not a good idea. Lets say you are an artist and you live in Burnaby, but I Google ‘Vancouver Artist,’ I’m not going to get you. I may find you, but I’ll look at your Google Places and zoom in and see that you are in a cul-de-sac. If you join the club here, you get to rent one of our unique suite addresses at 375 Water Street. You can use that prestigious address for your business.”
Water Street Profile’s recent expansion has doubled their size to 10,000 square feet, totaling their working space to 35 hot desk, 22 private offices, eight board rooms and meeting spaces, a bike room and two cafes.
“The interesting thing is if I’m a software developer, you’re a book writer and he’s an architect, that is fine we’ll have our specialties,” said Penstock. “But you might give me some advice to run my business that I never thought about before and that is very interesting—versus I’m always working around software developers. The disadvantage is when we have too many of one.”
Although co-working spaces such as Water Street Profile are a pretty new concept, large corporations around the world are embracing the structure after seeing positive results from mixing up individual workers on each team.
When it comes down to it a good workspace is a place you feel comfortable in and a space that inspires you to do the best work possible. It just so happens that The Landing, built in 1905, one of the oldest buildings in Gastown, Vancouver is contributing to the growth of the cities rising startups as well as sustaining the quality of work from established companies.