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Coworking connects entrepreneurs through shared office spaces

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The Toronto Star | By: | March 17, 2014

Chris and Asier at HiveWire 300x232 - Coworking connects entrepreneurs through shared office spaces

Coworking allows people to work at their own businesses in a shared space with common resources.

When Christopher Charlesworth’s crowdfunding business HiveWire started ramping up, he realized it no longer made sense to run the business out of his condo.

So two years ago, he rented four desks in the Centre for Social Innovation’s Spadina Ave. coworking space, one of more than 20 such facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.

Located between Dundas St. W. and Queen St. W., CSI Spadina has temporary and permanent workspaces in two renovated floors of an old building with plenty of light and exposed brick and beams. It is one of three CSI locations in Toronto.

Coworking is a growing trend among the self-employed. It allows people to work at their own businesses in a shared space with common resources. The major attraction for people like Charlesworth, an MBA graduate from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is that unlike traditional rented office space, the arrangement is flexible and there are plenty of chances for networking.

“I didn’t have to sign a lease,” says Charlesworth, who previously headed the undergraduate recruitment program at the University of Western Ontario. “I can easily arrange meeting space or rent additional desks. Because there is such a wide diversity of organizations and individuals you end up connecting with people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet.”

View:  4 Thoughts on the Future of Crowdfunding

CSI and other coworking spaces rent desks and office space and offer the usual amenities, including copiers, lounges and Wi-Fi. Many offer other services as well, such as workshops, seminars and social gatherings.

For example, CSI gives each member a profile on its intranet and the ability to promote events, jobs and announcements. Lawyers working in the space provide members with a half-hour of free legal advice, plus reduced hourly rates.

CSI was founded 10 years ago and offers monthly packages for ‘hot’ desks, which are available to multiple workers. Prices range from $75 per month for five hours of use to $250 per month for 100 hours. Dedicated desks can be rented for $400 per month and private offices or desk clusters are also available.

Last year CSI launched a loan fund that provides its members with loans of up $25,000 as part of a program funded in part by the Ontario government, with help from TD Bank and accounting firm KPMG.

The Foundery, a smaller coworking space at Bathurst and Dundas Sts., has room for 50 members at any one time. A day pass costs $25, with a monthly rate of about $290 for a hot desk. A permanent space with storage costs $490 per month.

Bento Miso on Richmond St., which caters to Web software developers and game makers, has no permanent desk arrangements. Members can sign up for a variety of hot desk packages from one day a month for $35 to six days a week for $325 per month.

CSI recently offered a seminar on how to use Google analytics and management of non-profit organizations. The Foundery has sponsored workshops on how to earn money making music. Bento Miso partners with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. They also offer after-hours game salons, pop-up Mexican cantinas and a scotch-tasting club.

Charlesworth’s decision to join paid off when CSI’s CEO Tonya Surman awarded HiveWire its first big contract to develop a crowdfunding platform for CSI members.

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