[01.06] Kassem and Hugh Background. The Idea behind Good Gorilla
Kassem and Hugh running the design agency for many years. We had a small office in a very little amount of square footage. Apart from the office, we invited our cofounder Gracia Lam amazing illustrator. We were three of us and including some contractors working in the smaller space and we all went to school, university together.
We found some of our freelancer friends and creative peers would constantly joining us in our office, work with us or play board games and having a general discussion about the industry. It happens for a couple years and at one point what we wanted to do is create weekly meetings and weekly events. In addition to that, the discussion of Coworking space was starting to begin as a group.
We decided to think about how coworking space looks like. We're all our friends, members and community can join. The way we started is inviting people on a weekly basis and asking them what do you want in your space, what do you imagine a space where you can ask them questions or get instant feedback from creative peers, or what if you have an issue with a client.
Having a group where young entrepreneurs just come out from university and able to ask questions to someone that's already in industry for 10 plus years. Or if you have technical feedback as well on a weekly basis. By the word of mouth, new people joining us. There's weekly meetings that said where a place that we want to create this coworking space. We had people that wanted to create it, had more discussion about it. And we initially found space where we were able to create the ecosystem or business that would create all the requirements of people were willing to have.
Everyone had a sense of leadership about this space. We give them better background about the space that happens to be creative coworking space. Freelancers who work in an illustration, designers, advertising, copywriters, and anything that revolves around the industry.
[04.35] The Majority Demographic of Good Gorilla Member
If we go into more details about the community, one of things that's really specific about our space, we don't let everybody into the coworking space. There is some vetting process. Let say, whether you're working in a creative industry or not. We're the founders are all from a creative industry. Our language that we speak helping you from the struggling that we understand and we trying to resolve.
What we decided to do is really cater to creative demographic but we're also open and flexible about the diversity. As long as you're creating something, it could be a developer, it'd be a writer, marketing, developing a new product, we let you into the space.
I think that the demographic is between 25 until 45 and the average would be 30. From just graduated or have been in the fields for a few years. They have worked for a little bit and starting to generate revenue as a creative freelancer. or maybe they're looking a space for something bigger than their home office.
[06.16] The process to be Good Gorilla Member
The process is to sign up for an account on the web and having a tour first. We walk you through space, ask a few questions about what you do. We also want to have a diversity in terms of experience. We want people who are just fresh out of school, people who have a lot of experience and we want that synergy between all different levels. Because the person who just came out of school could learn a lot from somebody who has been doing it for a long time and vice versa.
[07.27] Mentorship in Good Gorilla
It's unofficial membership at mentorship. The community is designed to be very supportive. We have a slack channel, we share and check on. We encourage all our members to ask questions and then for other members to contribute answers to them. We have designed discussions on a bi-weekly basis where we just sit down and have a bunch of people shows up.
We talk about new topics every week, every two weeks. Let say, this week we're talking about taxes, how do freelancers deal with taxes and how do you charge a client. How do you deal with contracts, how do you tackle new business and we share all knowledge. It's really about contributing and receiving information on a continuous basis.
For instance, how to find the clients. There's a lot of different ways to go, you can send newsletters, you can go send out cold emails or phone calls, go to conferences and events. Ultimately, you need to put in the hours and try the different variations. The cycle could be Monday to Friday send emails, made phone calls, did some work, updated their portfolio. They spent a lot of hours and started to slowly get more work and more working now.
We have somebody who came out of school and join. That person was here every single day. When we show up, they would be there. When we leave, they would still be there. A year and a half after school, they were starting to hire other freelancers, to help them with the amount of work. It's really about working discipline and being part of the community.
We see members constantly hiring each other. First just being present and seeing another person working the same amount of hours next to you. Or hustling as much as you spending all those hours. Then you see the process, start to understand your work, get a project and allocating somebody else for sort of specific tasks.
[10.55] The Healthcare COHIP
For those who don't know COHIP Canada, it's it basically means the coworking health insurance plan and it's available for coworking spaces and members of coworking spaces. We pay a membership and we have access to these plans that are discounted otherwise you can be paying the full price. After three months of being our members are eligible to apply.
We don't force the healthcare on everybody. It's added as a bonus to your membership if you want. Some people have their own healthcare plans or get it from their partner but it's available in it. It makes a bit easier to survive in an industry that's not designed for freelancers.
[11.55] Coworking Space Landscape in Toronto
We've been working together for the last five years and we saw a rise in coworking space focused on startups and a lot of the tech industry. Toronto is growing really fast and becoming a number one class city around the world. We're noticing through after the wave of tons of space has been open for the coworking space. We're seeing more spaces focused for very specialized and tailored for a specific crowd. We focus on creatives and two doors down here, there's a space focused on do-it-yourself building robots or different mechanical things. We have another coworking spaces focused on architects. It's very specialized.
They're seeing more population who work in the freelancing field. They're seeing that they're able to build this kind of crowd. The lawyers also build a space that there will be tons of lawyers. Barbershops also doing the same kind of model as well, having community and collaboration.
One great thing about building weekly meetings before we open the space is we wanted to know people who interested in joining the space. What we wanted to do is create Kickstarter program providing early bird options. It's building a sense of ownership in the space. By paying for six months membership, we're gonna take and build the space. All of us contributed and it's the self-funded business-the majority of the project.
It's a massive group of people and helping each other. We couldn't have done it without the members. Spending that whole year on a weekly basis, talking to them and making sure we build something for them. They're able and excited to join us. It gives them a lot of ownership. The ownership has not stayed longer but also want to participate and fund it.
One of the great things is we're not owned by a big corporation that trying to churn out money of every seat. We're not trying to squeeze everybody in here and try to get anybody into space. It's about keeping a very good quality community. It's not about making a lot of money. It's about generating the energy of sharing and collaborating.
When we were going through the process even finding the location of where space would be, we even brought some of the members. And say, "let's go check it out together!" And getting feedback from members.
[17.24] The Meaning of the Station Name
We're slowly removing the station. It was the name when we were starting. We quickly moved to Good Gorilla. It will be the brand that's gonna be running everything. Also speaks to some of our vision for the future. The coworking space is run by Good Gorilla. The way we broke it down as we saw we looked at what is the life cycle of the freelancer.
Basically, we broke it down by learn something new or acquire new knowledge to apply for new work. Then going to proliferate or sell the work that they've produced. And the cycle through these three steps and so.
As an organization, we use the word of the incubator. Actually, we want to see how we can tackle all three steps that really supporting freelancers and what they're doing. The space is the first product of providing a space to work from and to a network. We're also building a series of workshops and events to learn from. We are putting together a store and a job board to sell the books they've made, sell the illustration they've been drawing and create an ecosystem that supports them across the industry.
We believe that the industry not yet designed for freelancers. It's designed for somebody who gets a job and that company will give health care. It will give you retirement money. If you're a freelancer and you're moving around, nobody's taking care of your retirement, nobody's taking care of your insurance, nobody's care if you get sued and you're stuck. This a company that's gonna come and help you. We want to create space that empowers freelancers and support them in an industry that against them. Giving all the tools and the necessary resources so they can move a lot faster and become really the best in their industry.
The way we help selling members product is by putting it online and we're also gonna put it in a retail space. Our coworking space is in a beautiful building here at Toronto called 401 Richmond building. The building has a lot of galleries, bookstores and art stores. It's the perfect crowd for the creative community. Inside the retail space where people passing by will see the work of some of our artists. We're also going to have a gallery to show some of the work. Hopefully, that thing accelerated for them.
[21.18] The Future of Good Gorilla
Hopefully, in ten years, we spread up to a few cities. There's a lot of great cities with a lot of freelancers and creatives. I mean just to mention a few, New York is really big, London is really big, LA is really big. Those are all places where there's a high concentration of creative freelancers. Hopefully, we can grow our ecosystem. We can have a lot of products by freelancers that designed for freelancers, books, education, learning tools and online resources. It's really good communities across different cities. If we can reach that in ten years and have all of those, we will be super happy.