The Byron Shire is bursting out of its entrepreneurial britches.
As a growing number of locals look for creative ways to make a living, there has been a spike in demand for spaces where freelancers and small-business owners can work.
Some of the available co-working spaces have become harder to squeeze into than a pair of skinny jeans on Boxing Day, creating new opportunities for those with a bit of suitable space in and around the Byron Bay CBD.
Byron Bay Business Chamber president Todd Sotheren said he had been watching with interest as the demand for co-working spaces in the Shire increased in recent years.
‘There’s been an explosion of entrepreneurship as people who aren’t involved in tourism or hospitality find a way to make a living using the creativity this area is famous for,’ Mr Sotheren said.
‘If you’re doing this kind of work, working all day in a home office can be nice, but it can also be quite isolating.’
‘In co-working spaces, you’re picking up ideas and ways to do things. The collaborative and networking side of things is huge.’
Some of this growing demand will be met by the opening of a new shared office space at the Habitat development at North Beach.
Unlike some of the other work spaces, Habitat’s offering includes 36 micro offices as well as a number of open-plan desks for one or two people.
Habitat’s access to the NBN is likely to attract those with a digital focus, and the company is also offering a free two-week trial for those wanting to dip their toes in the water.
The architect of the project, Fraser Williams-Martin from DFJ Architects, said the rise of co-working in Byron reflected a worldwide trend of people wanting smaller, more flexible workplaces where they can still engage with others.
‘The idea is to share facilities that you don’t need intensely, like kitchenettes or meeting rooms, but then to have your own dedicated workspace which suits many contemporary work practices,’ said Mr Williams-Martin.
‘During the design process, we looked at many different models and settled on this one, where you actually get a contained space which you can lock up within a community of like-minded individuals,’ he continued.
More open co-working spaces such as the Work Pod in the Byron industrial estate have also seen an increase in demand.
‘I feel that it wasn’t in the mentality of people in Byron in the beginning,’ Work Pod’s co-owner Noli Marcolin said.
‘But since the beginning of the year we’ve noticed an increase in demand.
‘Right now we’ve got people from the film industry working here as well as digital creative people. We’ve also got a happiness coach which is great for the vibe.’
While co-working spaces are beginning to pop up in Byron, other town centres around the Shire are still catching on.
Entrepreneur grants announced
In related news, Byron Bay has been selected as one of seven locations across the state to join a $2.1 million Local Innovation Network to support local entrepreneurs to grow and create new jobs in the region.
Nationals parliamentary secretary for northern NSW Ben Franklin said the funding of up to $300,000 will be provided by NSW governmen to support projects in Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, and the Newcastle and Wollongong regional areas.
Mr Franklin said, ‘Byron Bay has demonstrated strong potential for startup or small business growth, and so we’re backing that with funding to support projects that will help those businesses that have the very best chance of success.’
‘Jobs for NSW will also partner with Byron Bay [organisations] to make its suite of financial products – including grants, interest-free loans and loan guarantees – more readily available to our local entrepreneurs,’ Mr Franklin said.
‘Recognised leaders in the local startup and innovation community’ are encouraged to apply. For further information visit www.jobsfornsw.com.au.