Claire Carpenter, Founder and Managing Director of the Melting Pot (LGiU Scotland’s home from home in Edinburgh) on supporting entrepreneurs, creating new social enterprises and making Scotland a world leader in coworking.
We launched the Coworking Accelerator Network, in November. The product of years of work from myself and the team behind The Melting Pot in Edinburgh. It’s a project aimed at helping new quality coworking spaces establish themselves across Scotland and internationally. Local councils can help with provision of spaces and support and be part of this entrepreneurial revolution.
We’re a nation driven by small business, many of which are run from the kitchen table. Figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) show that small and medium sized enterprises currently make up 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK. Of those, 76% did not employ anyone aside from the owner. And this trend towards home-based owner-run businesses is set to increase.
The entrepreneurs that come to us have often explored all sorts of working environments. They’ve tried shared work spaces, hot-desk spaces or even cafes, but they discover quality coworking offers far more than somewhere to set your laptop down. The Coworking that The Melting Pot offers, is underpinned by values of Belonging, Nurturing and Place-Making. We not only provide an escape from the distractions and isolation of home working, but a chance to thrive within a supportive community. Quality coworking spaces establish the culture that allows the cross fertilisation of ideas, they provide learning opportunities for members and a chance to develop a support network. In short, we provide the structures that forward-thinking corporations would hope to offer their employees, but for entrepreneurs.
A tried and tested model
This year we’re celebrating 10 years in business. The Melting Pot is a flourishing social enterprise, boasting a strong community of coworkers and playing host to over 10,000 visitors through their central Edinburgh events space. But the road to our current success has not been easy.
My dream was to create a dynamic and diverse community in my home city, that shared a sense of collective purpose. We’ve had to learn how to succeed the hard way. This is not just about spaces where people work near other people, this is about applying values that help businesses to help each other; to learn, to adapt and to build social value into their business plans.
As well as providing a dynamic and vibrant working space, we are driven to support social innovation. As a result, The Melting Pot supports not only traditional businesses, but also a raft of not-for-profit organisations, whose aims are to address social needs both at home and abroad. The social capital this generates is almost impossible to value. From projects that nurture disadvantaged kids, through upcycling businesses, to initiatives that get ex-offenders back into work and contributing to society, the ripple effect of this quality coworking space is far-reaching.
We also run an active education programme to stimulate and support social innovation, the centrepiece of which is the Good Ideas Academy. Now in its fifth year, it has supported over 80 new social enterprises to get off the ground and start making an impact.
The Benefits of Experience
For new and emerging quality coworking spaces in other towns and cities, taking advantage of a decade of our hard-won experience makes sense. We will help them to avoid the many pitfalls and traps that might otherwise see them fail.
The Melting Pot’s experience has been hard won, but we can make it easier for everyone else following us. The spaces we want to help create are hubs for social change. They are places where entrepreneurs help their society to thrive along with their businesses.
At its simplest, the Coworking Accelerator Network connects quality coworking spaces internationally, who share the same values. At its most sophisticated it provides the tools, systems, templates, advice and even staff time necessary to start a new independent quality coworking space; wherever you are.
Making Scotland a world leader
In our first year, we plan to help grow six new quality coworking spaces across country. We want Scotland to be the world leader in this method of working, demonstrating its advantages to the world.
We’ve seen so many success stories, the impact of this revolution is undeniable. Chris Hellawell, an alumni of the Good Ideas Academy programme, started ‘The Edinburgh Tool Library’. Speaking about his experience, he says;
“Claire and the Melting Pot have been an invaluable resource, that have been vital to our development. We’re now growing our membership, opening new workshops and training up people with skills so they can get themselves back into employment, and it all started at The Melting Pot”
Value driven enterprise
The ethos works in both directions, as many of our regular for-profit businesses who come to work at the Melting Pot discover. Gillies Kleboe, runs a successful recruitment agency from The Melting Pot, Keep Steadfast,
“I have been inspired by the values of The Melting Pot, and have increased our pro bono work with charities such as Prince’s Trust and Volunteer Edinburgh, we want to build social capital into our business and make it part of who we are.”
Small businesses, entrepreneurs and social enterprise are the engine of our economy and a vital part of our shared global future. We know we work better when we work together, and we’re here to make that happen. We hope to inspire all our potential partners across Scotland to be a part of this and help make these hubs of positive change and economic success across Scotland.
To find out more, visit www.CoworkingAccelerator.network and follow the Coworking Accelerator Network’s tweets @CoworkAccNet. You can also find The Melting Pot’s profile and learn more about them here.