To trace the roots of Ziferblat, a pay-by-the-minute co-working space nestled in the heart of Manchester’s thriving Northern Quarter, you have to travel to Moscow, 2011.
‘Pocket Poetry’ was a concept founded by Ivan Mitin who left laminated poetry cards around the streets of the Russian capital. People would find the cards, email the address printed on them and arrange a social or work-related meet-up.
As the group expanded, Mitin realised the venues they were occupying were not fit for purpose.
Mitin opened Treehouse for Adults, which was initially funded by donations until growth demanded the need to charge. Guests were charged one rouble per minute, initially as a joke, but the venue’s popularity boomed and thus was born the first in a portfolio of co-working spaces that now includes Ziferblat, Edge Street.
Ziferblat, a self-styled home away from home, is exactly that. Comfortable sofas, warm lamps and thick rugs spread across a giant 3,000 square foot sitting room creating a relaxed, warm, laid-back atmosphere.
The venue also has studios, classrooms and meeting rooms accommodating for events, workshops and a multitude of activities.
Ziferblat has identified a niche, but how does it differ from a traditional co-working space?
Visitors pay eight pence per minute – six pence for the meeting rooms – which includes unlimited access to tea, coffee, cake, snacks and Wi-Fi. There is a four-hour cap, after which guests can stay as long as they like at no extra cost.
“There are lots of co-working spaces available at the moment, which is a good thing,” Ben Davies, Ziferblat Head of Marketing, told IPSE in the homely sitting room. “But I think almost all of them operate on a monthly membership model.
“We are aware of several businesses who use us as their permanent base, but are only with clients twice a week. If they’re paying a monthly membership, they’re paying for space that they might not need.
“We’re trying to allow that ultimate flexibility where you’re almost working from home, but not at home. We’re conscious a lot of people want to try and separate their home and work environments.
“We are still expanding due to our ability to create that real community atmosphere where people feel comfortable and want to come back. We see ourselves as an alternative to a café or co-working space.
“When it comes to co-working we have a large portion of freelancers. We have over 10,000 guests through the doors each month.”
To try and place a label on Ziferblat would be a major disservice.
“We also run events for the community like yoga, gigs, martial arts, guitar lessons, knitting groups, baby raves, calligraphy workshops, origami classes, illustration groups, creative writing groups, board game groups, book groups,” Davies continued.
“The idea is to create an inclusive space for people to use as they want, as long as they respect it.
“Our end goal is to open 50 across the UK. We think we can put one in every provincial city with an active urban culture.”
Ziferblat currently has other venues in London, Liverpool and a newly opened branch in Media City, Manchester. For more information, visit www.ziferblat.co.uk