With the boom in self-employment stimulating a mass surge in the number of co-working spaces, how – in an ultra-competitive and ever-expanding market – do you successfully identify and exploit a niche? Well, you make co-working pet-friendly of course!
Nestled in a quiet side street just five minutes from the excitement of Holborn and Tottenham Court Road is Rentadesk, an intimate and community-focused co-working space predicated on organic growth.
Oh, and dogs.
“It came about originally, because there were so many pet lovers here,” Bleddyn Williams, who founded Rentadesk in 2005, told Modern Work.
“One member, Farid – who designed the app KtchUp – brought in a Maltipoo called Ash, who stole the hearts of all the members. From there it was a natural development.
“We’ve always been pet-friendly, though we didn’t always shout about it. But now it has become something we do advertise. After people started bringing their pets in, we decided that we would officially allow it and talk about it.
“It’s something we decided to do simply because we like pets, rather than to maximise revenue or anything like that. We have a very strong community here and that means if somebody wants to bring their pets in, that’s fine – everybody is welcome here.
“We’ve had cats in before, though – thankfully – never on the same day as dogs!”
While the novelty of inquisitive animals wandering around while you work is certainly enough to attract people initially, it’s testament to the environment at Rentadesk that makes people want to stay beyond that.
The space – and a second, newly opened site near Westfield in West London – is limited to 150 members per site. On any given day there are 20–30 people working from Rentadesk which, although smaller than many co-working spaces, creates a warm and personal working environment.
“The community is the really crucial thing, and that is exactly why we have spaces of this particular size,” Williams continued.
“It’s just big enough to have enough different places for people to sit in on different days, but it’s small enough for everyone to know everyone else’s name too.
“We try to help that by putting everyone’s photographs and a brief biography on the wall. We also have a members’ website with profiles so that everyone can see each other and what they do.
“Over the years, our membership has grown organically to the point where we have a very wide mix of people. Really, we try not to be too focused in one particular field.
“The benefit of that, of course, is that working with people from all different professional backgrounds means you can get help with things you couldn’t do yourself. There is a lot of collaboration and that is all part of our community.”
Hot desks or fixed desks, the site offers anything from 25-hour memberships to unlimited 24-hours-a-day access. So, whether you’re a student looking for somewhere to work during evenings or weekends, or a career freelancer looking for a permanent space, Rentadesk has flexible memberships that caters for all.
The site is split over two levels. Downstairs has a mixture of smaller, individual offices and a bigger open plan area, regularly inhabited by snoozing dogs, that breeds a relaxed and communal work atmosphere.
But for those with a tight deadline, client call, or simply anyone seeking a little more peace and quiet, there’s additional space upstairs removed from the hustle and bustle below.
Free meeting rooms for members, a library of useful books, guides and resources, communal screens and Chromebooks, laptop chargers, batteries, stamps, lockers and storage units, and a selection of snacks are thoughtful and welcome extras.
“The plan is always to make sure that Rentadesk works for the people who work here,” Williams added.
“If we can do that, and it works for the second site in Westfield, then we can look at the scope for another new site. But we don’t want to minimise the quality of the environment. For us, it’s all about quality rather than quantity.”