Vancouver View: Putting community back into the business community

“The entrepreneur community is very lively and active in Vancouver,” proclaims John Van of The Network Hub, which is the downtown Vancouver workspace that he co-founded with his sister Minna Van and their longtime friend Jay Catalan in 2006.

The Network Hub provides co-working space to entrepreneurs where they can connect, create and collaborate on their businesses, as well as exploring new opportunities together. In addition, they offer a variety of other services that growing companies may need, such as mail forwarding, phone answering services and meeting room rentals. The space has also been expanded into an art gallery called The Artwork Hub.

With so much to offer, many would argue that the Network Hub has also become the centre of the very entrepreneur community that John spoke of. For example, their space plays host to some of the most popular business events in the city, including the Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup. Jay explains that this all came about very naturally. “Over the years, we have created a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals, and I think we have done it in such a way that we are able to reach out to a very diverse group of people, both culturally and professionally,” he says.

The unique idea for their business came to John, Minna and Jay when they were looking for an office for their thriving web development company and stumbled on an empty Gastown heritage building. They had played with the idea of working alongside complementary companies to provide more value to their clients and saw the opportunity to create a shared professional space in the building. They really saw the benefits of coworking for entrepreneurs after they opened the Network Hub and decided to shift their focus to their current business model based on that success. Fast forward to the present, where in August 2011 they will be opening their second location in New Westminster’s River Market. “We’re coming into New Westminster during a transition in the community from being just a place to live to a place where professionals can live, work and play,” says Minna. “We’re excited to help create a local community where people stay within the community instead of coming all the way downtown to do business.”

These three entrepreneurs hope to continue opening additional locations throughout Western Canada, cultivating a web of entrepreneur communities and resources for their members wherever they go. “We believe that each Hub will take on the character of their community,” says Jay. “It is not up to us to dictate what shape that will take, but we do hope to be an asset in building a stronger entrepreneurial community wherever we expand to.”

Despite their big dreams, the team is mindful to never forget their main purpose. Adds John, “No matter what, our primary vision is and will always be to make it easy for individuals to become entrepreneurs through the resources and support of our business.”

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