There is no shortage of co-working spaces around North America, and within each city block in a downtown area, you are likely to find at least one. So what makes an endeavour like Werklab, founded by Christina Disler in 2016, different from other co-working spaces?
Christina commits herself to building a space where her members can grow mentally, physically and professionally. Being a part of the Werklab community is much more than simply occupying a desk, and we had the pleasure of interviewing Christina to see exactly what those extra perks are.
P: Pendulum Magazine
C: Christina Disler, Founder, Werklab
Can you briefly tell us about Werklab? Who are your members? What range of services do you provide to your members?
Werklab is a holistic wellness and co-work community that creates the space for members to do good work and be their best selves. Much more than a co-working company, we are also a space for personal and professional development, community, and connection. We have a passion for doing our best work, and knowing that we must work on ourselves first before we create any output, our space and business is designed with the intention to always come back to self.
With that in mind, our services go beyond the surface level. Try a movement class throughout the week that gets you out of your head, and into your body, or slow down and restart in one of our guided meditations in the afternoon. Our bi-weekly lunch and learns are member-led, and garner interest and support for one another.
We structure our workflows differently in order to incorporate vulnerability and mindfulness into the day-to-day. We make wellness an accessible concept that inherently adds value to your work. The environment we foster, from the music we play to the essential oils that are diffused, to the brands we align with, all create presence within the moment. Our members are unique, extraordinary, and our family. Although our industries are diverse, pulling in individuals with backgrounds in IT, marketing, development, strategy, and so on, there is one common thread that weaves through all of us; a commitment to doing life differently, by doing life on our own terms.
P: What inspired you to create Werklab? How did you discover that there was a demand for this type of experience?
The workplace is changing. Workspaces are becoming more unconventional, and our generation carries a strong entrepreneurial spirit. We are here to feed that change and innovation, by being a space that thrives off of it.
Remote working (or satellite working) is also on the rise as well. With that in mind, working from home can create challenges of distraction, disconnection, and isolation. Spending hours in a coffee shop leads to the purchase of far too many espressos, and private offices are out of budget for many, or are too much space for one.
Co-working solves that problem, and Werklab specifically, by offering varying types of membership and varying workspaces; from marble coffee-shop tables to desks as wide as the eye can see, to private offices. Additionally, being on the more private end of a co-work space allows for a community to thrive exponentially. Everyone knows everyone, similar to a classroom, and therefore relationships are able to be established and then flourish sooner. We are in the business of human connection, and know how important a community can be for an individual.
P: Walk us through your journey from having Werklab as a concept to launching it as a business. What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company's growth?
C: As much as we would like to say that Werklab was a romantic inception that had a gradual build, it was rather birthed from a right place, right time, situation. There was a demand for co-working in the city (there were only five spaces at the time that we opened Werklab), real estate prices were increasing, and so was the self-employed and remote workforce. We had to act fast. Our doors opened rapidly, and desks started to fill up.
However, as we were closing in on year one, I was facing extensive burnout from the buildout of the business. Operations were not running as smoothly because I hadn't done the mission, vision, and purpose work before we opened the doors. Similar to a wooden wheel, that wasn’t perfectly sanded smooth. Thus, I slowed down, stepped back, and gave myself time to do the work that was needed to be done, internally, and externally.
P: What's the most memorable/impactful feedback you've ever received from your members?
C: Every time a member mentions to us how impactful the space has been to their work, themselves, or their life, we wholeheartedly take it in. our members are our family, and knowing that we help them make shifts to betterment, and that we support them in their path, is what gets us out of bed each morning. When we celebrated our third year of Werklab this past February, the community surprised me and filled out a yearbook, all with messages of gratitude for the space, the community, and even myself. It still leaves me speechless when I open up the book.
P: What were some of the most effective ways you discovered to promote your business?
C: Up until this point, we have had steady growth through recommendations from friends and word of mouth, as if we were a secret clubhouse. An affect from this is that our community is quite close knit because everyone pretty much knows everyone. We also have found that featuring our members on our social platforms has had great reactions and interactions with our followers might not necessarily be actual members. Sharing stories is what we do in the physical space, so why not highlight and celebrate our members online as well?
P: You were selected as one of BC 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs by BC Business (congratulations!). What do you feel you did 'right' to get you to where the business is? Is there anything you would have done differently?
C: Werklab would not be the place it is today without the creation of deep, lasting relationships with our members and community partners. Compassion and kindness are free, and vulnerability creates more open and honest dialogue. We see the value in each of our members and therefore find ways to let them know that we see them.
I also believe that following my intuition and slowing down created space for the business to naturally become what it was always meant to become. The moment I stepped out of a rigid, startup mindset, things innately unraveled and opportunities presented themselves.
P: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
C: Grit, kindness, and vulnerability
P: What is the most critical initiative you are working on now and how do you plan on achieving it?
C: We are crunching numbers and setting goals like no other. Right now we’re in a cocoon, creating systems and processes, and hiring the right people, supporting our work, in order to fully break out and blossom come the fall. Big things are coming down the pipe.
P: What are some of your future plans for Werklab?
C: We recognize that Werklab has physical limitations based on our location, geography, and the services we have to offer. To counter that, we are currently in the works of creating a solution so that anyone, regardless of location, can have access to information and be able to feed their curiosity around the integration of work and wellness.
Building a business in today’s ‘fast or die’ environment is tough for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs; with an intense on speed, we find ourselves compromising our mental and physical health practices. As Christina mentioned, her decision to slow down actually gave the business and herself space to discover and grow into the opportunities ahead. Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to get two steps forward, so take mistakes, setbacks, and obstacles in stride, as the experience will better prepare you for the challenges ahead. A holistic approach to co-working spaces is just what this generation’s of entrepreneurs and freelancers need to provide a well-rounded support program and network focused on their overall well-being in the long term.
Photo Credit: Britney Gill
Photos courtesy of Werklab