New West Newsleader: For startup entrepreneurs sick of working in noisy coffee shops

For startup entrepreneurs sick of working in noisy coffee shops and makeshift home offices, a solution could be coming to New Westminster.

The Network Hub, a shared rental office that caters to the self-employed, hopes to move into a 2,400-square-foot space at River Market this summer.

The Hub is more than just a rent-a-desk operation. It also hosts regular meetup sessions and encourages users to connect and collaborate.

Minna Van, 28, is co-founder of the Hub, which already operates 7,000 square feet of office space in downtown Vancouver.

“It’s important to have a space like this to support each other,” Van said, noting the first few months of starting a business are the toughest. “It makes it a lot less stressful and depressing when you have other people going through the same stuff as you.”

She and two college friends, John Van and Jay Catalan, opened the Vancouver office in 2006 after struggling to find an affordable place to run their development and databasing company.

“It was really hard to find space to work out of because we were young, we didn’t have any credit, there was no one to vouch for us—except for my mom,” Van said.

The students pooled money from their part-time jobs to transform a neglected, water-damaged floor of a Vancouver heritage building into an ultramodern, bright workspace.

They now operate two floors with 55 tenants, ranging from freelancers to solo professionals to small businesses.

Tenants can rent a desk by the hour, day or month at a fee that includes Internet access, phone reception, mail service and more. Conference rooms and private offices are also available.

Monthly desk rental starts at $250 in Vancouver, but will be cheaper in New West.

Van has had plenty of requests from residents outside Vancouver seeking co-working space closer to home.

“That’s the trend. People want to work where they live. They don’t want to drive, and they shouldn’t drive because it’s all about building the local community,” she said.

Tej Kainth of Tourism New Westminster said the Hub will be a positive addition to the city.

“The concept is great. Nowadays you see people who are either home based or pay a ton for a one-person office,” she said. “This will attract more people to literally co-operate together.”

Kainth said the Hub could even rub off on the local economy if more business professionals congregate for meetings and social events in the Quay and Downtown area.

“It would complement the existing business community and also make New West a destination for young professionals, which we are already seeing,” she said.

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