Let’s work together! Calls for more affordable business space

Friday, 12th November 2021 — By Anna Lamche

BuddyHub

Catherine McClen, founder of BuddyHub, far left, with Prof Anthony Finkelstein from City, University of London; Cllr Asima Shaikh; and Joel Davis of Tutors United

THE head of a social enterprise has stressed the importance of affordable workspace for emerging businesses.

Catherine McClen, founder and CEO of BuddyHub, started her business in 2014.

A long-term Islington resident, McClen established BuddyHub as a means of tackling loneliness, specifically among adults over 65.

After quitting a job in finance, Ms McClen started doing a lot of voluntary work in her community.

“It just felt natural,” said Ms McClen. “Why not start this mission around our social issues, loneliness and isolation?”

BuddyHub seeks to forge intergenerational friendships by matching four people of different ages who live near to one another and share common interests.

“For quite a few years we’ve been in Islington,” Ms McClen said. “We got a small grant from Islington Council in 2016, and that’s when the pilot really shaped up.”

Since the pilot, Ms McClen has relied heavily on co-working spaces to develop her business. “I think they’re crucial for social enterprise and start-up founders. They enable you to join an ecosystem and a community,” she said.

BuddyHub currently has three full-time employees. “We’ve always hybrid-worked,” said Ms McClen.

“Hybrid workers split their time between home-working and the office.

“It reduces costs when you only have to pay for two or three days in a co-working space.”

Co-working is a practice wherein several companies share a single office. In recent years, co-working has been hailed as an “unstoppable” trend with international companies like Regus and WeWork leading the way.

Covid has advanced this trend, as increasing numbers of people seek out flexible working arrangements.

“With flexible working, you’re avoiding a commute, and you can often work quietly at home when you need really deep thinking,” Ms McClen said.

In late October, Islington Council opened Better Space, a new affordable workspace in Farringdon supporting social enterprises and small businesses, costing individuals between £150 and £300 a month.

BuddyHub was one of the first businesses to join the co-working space.

“I think I counted that it was either the fifth or sixth co-working space we’ve joined,” Ms McClen said.

“It just feels like a permanent home. Of course, we hope one day we’ll outgrow the space and you would have other social enterprises come in.”

As far as Ms McClen is concerned, affordable workspace is vital for the local economy, encour­aging entrepreneurs who are young or on a low income.

“It’s crucial to help with innovation, it’s part of creating an environment for people to be able to start their own businesses.

“We have benefitted with Better Space for a rate that’s affordable for us. If it wasn’t, we couldn’t be there,” Ms McClen said.

She added: “It’s about being inclusive, isn’t it? Because the lower the cost barrier to being able to start a business, the more the enterprise space in London can be.”

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