The coworking space is a close, collaborative group of entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers

When Kevin McIntosh and his architecture practice decided to purchase and renovate an old landmark building to accommodate their growing business, he and his team also wanted to take the opportunity to provide a dedicated space for Toronto’s creative community. The result is a beautiful, well-designed coworking space that opened in 2018 to a group of local entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers. After joining the Proximity Network last month, Kevin shared more about Lokaal and the close community of creatives.

Why did you decide to open a coworking space?

I’ve been fascinated by the concept since meeting Tanya Surman, the founder of the CSI (Centre for Social Innovation), in Toronto in the mid-2000s. I was amazed at how people came together with different mandates and organizations but regularly fed off each other’s ideas, skills and strengths. When our architecture practice purchased a three-story, mixed-use building to house our growing office, we had an opportunity to design and build a coworking space and community of our own.

Tell us about your space. What kinds of amenities does it have? What makes it unique? 

Lokaal is relatively small with only 25 seats but all the usual amenities. The space is flooded with natural light through huge openings we carved out of the east side of the building. The name is Dutch for “local” and speaks to what we’re trying to accomplish which is to build a small but tight community of local entrepreneurs and remote workers.

What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space?

The people. I’ve always been a “connector.” I get great satisfaction in bringing people together and making new introductions and seeing opportunities between people, likely because of my 10-year stint running a recruitment company in the 90’s.

What’s your favorite story about one of your members?

Our very first member could not wait for us to officially open. He joined three months before we opened publicly while drywall and painting were still happening. His business is construction-related so it did not phase him at all and now we hire him through our architecture practice to consult on some of our projects. Great example of how coincidental synergies happen in a coworking space.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about operating a coworking space? 

Honestly? Just about everything! No matter how much research you do and how smart you think you are when you start up, you’ll be learning something new every day running a coworking space. One examplewe could have just leased our second floor to a company for their office but it occurred to me that if a tenant leaves, it could take months of lost revenue to find the next tenant. With coworking, you’d never lose all of your members at once so it’s a much more stable revenue stream… unless there is a pandemic.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to open a coworking space?

Assuming it’s your first space, be prepared to be uber-flexible and nimble to adapt your business and operating model. Hold tight to your vision but be flexible with your business plan. Keep your members happy but remember you are still running a business.

The Proximity Network

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