Meet the start-ups working in old hospitals and converted schools

While some start-ups get their inspiration from businesses in different markets or from thought leaders in their industry, there are some start-ups that choose a unique office environment to inspire and motivate them.

The immediate environment that a business grows in is paramount to shaping many different aspects of a company including culture, ethos and team wellbeing. The community and network a team can build and learn from in their workspace can also prove pivotal to their future progress and mission.

One such unique workspace is The Collective Hub that was built into the Insull Wing of the old National Temperance Hospital in Camden, London. After lying derelict for over a decade, The Collective decided to turn it into a workspace for creative start-ups. In the same spirit of regeneration that the building was designed in, the Hospital is now a self-sustaining network, where member companies must contribute at least 2 hours a month to mentoring others and the ethos of the centre.

Alex Kann from The Community Channel, a small business that has based itself there, explains how the art-deco and rustic nature of the space “gives us a shot of energy and creativity to our work”. Kann goes on to emphasise that there is also a certain magic to “working with shared amenities, activities and digital spaces. It is extraordinary working in a place which has a collegiate approach to collaborating, and participating in the community.”

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Working in such surroundings has helped the business build on its own social mission of highlighting on TV, issues from both local and international communities as well as the voluntary and charitable sectors. Kann notes a direct cross-over between the mission of their workspace and their own company mission, and therefore sees their environment as a direct complement.

Another fascinating space transformation is a Bermondsey primary school that has been converted into a not-for-profit workspace for social and green start-ups. Andrew Cribb, the mastermind behind the “BuyGiveWork” project, explains how “for every paid-for space, one is given away to a local non-profit, early stage start-up or experimental project. This makes for an exciting and eclectic mix of businesses.

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Yfood, a company driving food innovation, is one such resident. Founder Athena says that “when space is at a premium in London, it's a shame there aren't more initiatives like this. It's very laid back but still has a cool community feel.” In addition, being in such a dynamic environment presents the possibility of a serendipitous collision which could strike up an interesting business opportunity. Athena explains “we've even met a company we're going to partner with, another which is building an Urban Farming incubator right in here and another which does community events to restore electronics to help keep them out of landfills. Each person I meet is someone I end up being able to collaborate with. It helps that everyone is passionate about sustainability and purpose - you won't get that in a standard commercial co-working space!”

Owen Hunnam, founder of IdeaDrop, another business based in the BuyGiveWork primary school, describes how “people who work here, have a great passion for what they do and it’s inspiring to hear other entrepreneurs tell their stories while making yourself a cup of coffee in the shared, minimalist kitchen space.” The playful history of the school space has also translated into some perks for the office including a ping pong table and dartboard. “It allows our team to get up from our desks, play for 20 minutes, clear our minds, get our brain racing and come back to work refreshed.” says Hunnam.

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Whether it’s a converted hospital or primary school, where you work matters. At Hubble, we have found that businesses flourish in environments that complement their business objectives, and have a pre-built community ready to tap into. Some of the best business partnerships can be struck up while boiling a kettle of tea or mentoring another in the workspace.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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