Colleagues on Tap plans for expansion
19th June 2012
When Gateshead businesswoman Jayne Graham came up with the idea of setting up a pop-up office for home-workers as a one-off event to promote her new online venue directory business www.spaceontap.com, little did she know that it would lead to yet another great new business opportunity which would be preparing for national expansion just two years later. Colleagues on Tap Co-working Days for Homeworkers has now become a regular feature in the North East business events calendar, with over 35 events having taken place across the North East.
(Pictured above: Colleagues on Tap co-workers at an event at The Beacon, Newcastle, June 2012)
“After the first event people asked when I’d be holding the next one, so I quickly realised I was onto something and was keen to oblige!” explains the company’s founder Jayne Graham, a local entrepreneur that set up her first business from home in 2004 so she could juggle working full time with looking after her twin daughters.
“Like me, millions of people are now running their businesses from home as it has lots of advantages. But there are definitely disadvantages too. Anyone setting up a business will know that it can be a pretty lonely job at the best of times, but if you’re working at home that isolation can become a real problem, and as a result many home-based businesses never quite manage to reach their full potential. Colleagues on Tap co-working days have contributed to solving that problem.”
Dona Skaife, a Gosforth-based accountant makes Colleagues on Tap a monthly feature on her calendar ever since it started, as she realised that the events helped her to move her business forward. "When I first heard that Jayne was starting the co-working days, I wasn't sure how it would work as I would be away from all my files and desk, but they have genuinely provided me a different way of working, away from the interruptions and the distractions of my familiar surroundings. Through Colleagues on Tap I have made new friends, great contacts and gained interesting new clients, but most importantly it also provides me an escape to work ‘on’ my company WBS Accountants, rather than just ‘in it’.”
Well over 150 home-workers have now participated in Colleagues on Tap, and like Dona Skaife they keep coming back. Attendees enjoy a welcome change of scene from the home office, but that’s not all.
Angela Dawson, known as ‘the Admin Doctor’ (pictured left), runs a PA/admin service from her home in Northumberland. She attended the very first Colleagues on Tap event, and now describes herself as a huge advocate of the co-working experience. “It’s vital that I make good use of my time, as my service relies on being available to busy professionals when they need my help, so taking part in Colleagues on Tap days with Space on Tap gives me that opportunity. Unlike traditional networking events I can have the best of both worlds; I can focus on getting my clients’ work done yet still enjoy networking with other business owners at the same time.”
Sarah Loveland, a Durham-based children’s photographer, has used Colleagues on Tap days to establish herself in the North East having relocated her home based business from West Sussex recently. “ I didn’t want to feel isolated in a part of the country I didn’t really know. I heard about Colleagues on Tap and thought it would be a good way to meet other local businesses as well as getting me out of the house. I’ve been to three co-working days already, and found the groups to be friendly and supportive. I was surprised to find that I get more work done there than I do in a day at home, so I’ve already booked to attend two more events in June and July; I didn’t realise how much I needed or benefited from co-working until I tried it!”
Events have a structured format, providing the opportunity for people to get on with their own work whilst in the company of other businesses.
Jayne (left) explains “The magic comes when people start to chat with their co-workers over coffee, or over lunch. It’s amazing how much can be gained from talking through an idea with someone who’s genuinely interested but who has no stake in your business. We always incorporate a business discussion after lunch too, to make sure people go away with new knowledge as well as new contacts. We’ve talked about social media, marketing, finance and a whole range of other business topics, and the emphasis is on sharing experiences so it’s really interactive and supportive for the people involved.”
Husband and wife team Jeremy and Rebecca Scally who run Darlington-based business Big Little Fish have attended several Colleagues on Tap days across the region, and co-workers have often benefited from their expertise in cloud computing as an added bonus. It’s a two way benefit though, as Rebecca explains. “I meet new & familiar like-minded home business owners, and the topical business chats after lunch are enlightening. There's an opportunity to swap ideas, tips and knowledge, and have a gossip without the office politics! I always leave Colleagues on Tap with a smile on my face knowing that I've conquered my 'to do' list, learnt something new, made great contacts and eaten the odd cake or two!”
Jayne has set up pop-up offices in a whole host of venues across the North East, from hotels and cinemas to more traditional business spaces. This month she’s at The Morritt in Greta Bridge, The North East BIC in Sunderland, The Beacon’s Centre in Newcastle’s West End, and on 21st June she’ll be returning to Newcastle Business Village in North Tyneside, the birth-place of the project.
Helen Reed, Centre Manager of the venue (pictured right) explained that Colleagues on Tap has helped them to connect with local home-based businesses who now use their facilities, but also that a lot more has come out of the relationship. “Since working with Colleagues on Tap we have gained enormous insight into the co-working scene and have incorporated it into our business model. With Jayne’s help we opened the first Co-working Hub in the North East last year, Newcastle Business Hub, which provides low cost, flexible workspace for people working from home and freelancers. We have built up a close relationship with Jayne and very much enjoy working with her, so much so that we are planning a new venture which will see Jayne taking an even more active role. Co-working is definitely the way forward!”
As a result of the success of Colleagues on Tap, its founder has now launched an Associate Scheme so venues can run their own events as she’s confident there’s sufficient demand through the swell of homeworkers that now exist across the UK. “The Beacon and Newcastle Business Village are the first venues to take on a licence, and so far it’s gone brilliantly. I’ll be continuing to run my own ‘feature’ events in unusual and creative places which are always a sell-out, whilst my business centre Associates will provide a service to local business people looking for regular co-working opportunities on their doorstep.
I’m keen to locate new venues in Durham, Sunderland, Northumberland and across Teesside in the next six months before launching nationally by Christmas.”