The PROFILE Coworking Business Club, Vancouver, Celebrates 10 Years

Gary C. Bizzo  |

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Sometimes it’s all in the name. The PROFILE Coworking Business Club is typically named among the top 5 best coworking spaces in Vancouver. It’s not the fanciest, doesn’t try to be a "hybrid" anything and certainly doesn’t want to be called an incubator, but it is the largest.

Founders Kevin Penstock and Sunny Hundle don’t spend big bucks on Google ads or any sort of advertising, for that matter, yet they fill their three Vancouver spaces with a diverse group of entrepreneurs who clamour for their space for any number of reasons. Whatever it is, they have been successfully providing a good work environment for 10 years this month.

They don’t produce their own workshops, and don’t intend to, but they facilitate workshops that seem to be going on, in one location or another, all the time. Kevin studied all the models and realized to be in this business you need to provide a workspace that meets a number of needs. He also said he wasn’t keen on incubators and simply preferred the coworking model. He also knows from watching others that many models simply don’t work.

He realizes that people need to be very close to a transit hub, the space has to be inclusive and management has to fight the urge to try to create a "community." I was most curious about this last comment.

I’ve owned a small cowork space that wasn’t one of the successful ones. I knew what he meant by community. If the space is comfortable, welcoming and you give them the tools, they will connect and create their own community. Don’t try to manage engagement.

When Sunny called their spaces "inclusive," he didn’t mean the politically correct buzzword. Rather, he meant a cowork space that wasn’t looking for the typical niche market. Sure you will find high tech companies, young Millennials and the other demographics catered to by the other niche branded spaces, but The Profile seeks creative professionals from plumbers to multinational employees who need a space while passing through Vancouver to the three programmers working on a gaming platform. I guess what he is also saying is that you don't have to be a startup to feel at home in their cowork space. He can tell you the different companies making up their 650 members, but he probably couldn’t give you a definitive niche his service fills.

While I thought lone wolf entrepreneurs were the main tenants of the cowork space, Kevin Penstock told me the majority of members were companies of two or more persons. He was in IT and had a couple of successful tech companies when he finally figured he was tired of the rat race, the commute and the crazy hours he worked until sleeping in the office and working at home were interchangeable. He knew there was a better way. In 2015, he wrote an article on “Flex Offices and the Future of Coworking.”

I had an ad agency many years ago in a 5000 square-foot heritage office. It was expensive but an agency back then without a fancy office went nowhere.

Fast-forward twenty years to when entrepreneurs wear a badge of honor to be able to work from their home. It’s a challenge sometimes to get out of your housecoat. Working from home has been a boon to entrepreneurs and generally it is workable, but there are issues. As Kevin and Sunny commented about my housecoat life they pointed out that as soon as a Founder gained a Co-Founder the game changes. You can’t call Starbucks your office and certainly can’t work from home any longer when there are more people in the business.

As a member of The PROFILE Business Club, you can use any of their facilities, 24-7. Drop your kids at day-care and if you don’t feel like going downtown to your Vancouver corporate office drop into one closer to you. It’s that simple.

The PROFILE realizes startups go through phases and stages of growth, famine and change. Members avoid the treacherous "5-year lease" and as the business grows from 2 to 5 to 10 like one of their clients, Picatic, did, there’s room to grow at The PROFILE. Picatic loves their space so much that even when they were bought out by Eventbrite(EB)] they still kept their 4000 square feet at The PROFILE.

The PROFILE is very much a community centre for more than startup founders. It is its own community but relies on making partnerships with the neighbours, art galleries and the general public. The North Vancouver location has a coffee shop on its ground floor that is open to anyone. From the interesting machines and layout it looks like a startup itself or an experiment in progress for coffee aficionados to try out.

Each location is different, is totally based on being in the perfect location and setup for networking and stimulation. The locations are one of the secrets of the company's success. People love to give workshops there, and The PROFILE gives them the space for free. Entrepreneurial business workshop/seminars from top people are the perfect lead gen for a cowork space.

A local office developer has tried to create coworking spaces in each of its office hi-rises from Whistler to LA but the dream isn’t working out for them. Yet The PROFILE gets calls from developers every week who want Kevin and Sunny to lease space from them. The developers can see the potential for growth and, of course, lead generation for them.

Kevin Penstock and Sunny Hundle have a clear vision for the next ten years. They have submitted an offer to purchase their North Vancouver office, a formidably large former Post Office. With the location at the heart of the city, rooftop patios and views it could be their new HQ, but I think the boys have their heart in their first location in Vancouver’s trendy Water Street just off the financial district.

Their plan is robust and one that only motivated entrepreneurs would undertake. They want 20 locations in the Cascadia regional market (Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver) by 2028, plus they are thinking of offering fractional ownership of some of their offices to startups that "want a piece" of the operation to call their own.

These founders claim they are disruptive in an industry that most believe has reached maturity. Kevin told me he wants to write a blog and maybe a book on “What Coworking Will Look Like in 10 Years.” I tried to get him to give me the low down on that but he told me to read the book.

I think I better hang up my housecoat.

Gary is a startup specialist and is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc.and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. He has mentored over 1000 business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018.

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Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News

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