It was on a fateful Wednesday afternoon last week when I stumbled across something different, the best kind of different. The goal at that time was to find someone to write an article about and complete it by my arbitrary deadline of that Friday – feeling rushed would be an understatement, I had nothing at that point but the Lighthouse Route idea and a prayer for the most part. I had started stopping at places in Mahone Bay, weighing the fact that I would be interrupting some poor individual for an interview, so I chose carefully. Desperation started setting in and I decided to go for the prettiest signage in sight and during my second pass through Mahone Bay’s three main roads, I stumble across a graphic design company called Skysail. I figured that one artist in business and another could make something great together, why not. So I walk up to the front entrance and had a look at the signage. It resembled more an office building you would see on Spring Garden Road or Joseph Howe Drive than a building in rural Mahone Bay, there were more than half a dozen company logos decorating the outside wall before you made your way inside.
I enter into what felt like an old home, not quite a heritage building, but I could tell there was some history in the place, I started to imagine being in the stomping grounds of one of Mahone Bay’s ancestors and I was becoming more and more intrigued the further I dived in. I followed the Skysail signage until I arrived, and I was greeted by the team of women who run the company inside one of the coziest offices I’ve ever stepped foot in. There wasn’t a single cubicle in sight, with their desks lining walls surrounding the center of the room, It felt modern, like you walked out of history and back into the current time.
I complimented them on their office then explained my predicament as well as the blog idea and they mentioned that Andrew would be all over it. I was handed a WorkEvolved brochure and one of the ladies mentioned that they were renting that office from the person that owns that company.
When I got back from my trip, I had a look at what exactly WorkEvolved is and after a bit of research, I had come to realize that I had just stumbled across Lunenburg County’s coworking scene, a concept that was totally foreign to me.
Imagine a place you can go to just to talk to other business owners to get a fresh perspective on your idea, or an office space that you can rent on a short-term basis for a couple of months. What if you only need an office for in person sales? Coworking Spaces are a game changer for people who are looking to start their business and need the capital to spend on other things like inventory or supplies. For an entrepreneur who is just starting out, using a boardroom to pitch to potential clients is big, especially when they’re running day to day operations out of their home and don’t want to commit to a lease on a commercial space.
Anything you can think of — events, training seminars, workshops, it all happens under the WorkEvolved programming. I remember thinking that it reminded me more of a Silicon Valley company than one you would find in rural Lunenburg County.
There is way more to their mission than just the spaces, but I was sold after a quick browse, and after a couple of e-mails, I had the opportunity to interview the owner, Andrew Button, and his chief administrator Nicole Knickle-Hatt at WorkEvolved Bridgewater, their second location in the heart of the town by the Lahave River. I finally had my article, I could breath easy because I knew the interview was just around the corner and I would get to meet the team that is on the knife edge of something new, and they are growing because of it.
Work Evolved is a separate entity of Andrew’s original business called Mashup Labs, which he founded way back in 2014, a for-profit or “for more than profit” as Andrew says, that gives entrepreneurs a chance to turn their ideas into an operation through facilitation of training programs and networking with Andrew or members of his staff. At the time of Mashup Lab’s inception, Andrew was a part of the then called HUB Coworking Space over in Mahone Bay, and after finding his success with Mashup Labs, made the big move to launch his own coworking space over in Bridgewater which he called CO3 at the time. He has since purchased the then called Hub location in Mahone Bay and consolidated both locations under the brand of WorkEvolved alongside his work with Mashup Labs.
“It’s important that the spaces have their own personality” Andrew said, “but not necessarily a separate brand identity. One space feels different from the next and that’s something that we want to preserve.”
Part of the challenges of expanding WorkEvolved is figuring out what the Andrew Button brand will look like by the time their new location has launched. During CO3s launch back in 2018, Andrew wanted to make sure that he had that question under lock before moving on to any future projects, like the opening of their new location in Liverpool as of May of this year. Nicole and Andrew decided to drop the CO3 and The Hub names and simplified them to WorkEvolved Bridgewater, and WorkEvolved Mahone Bay.
Going into the interview, there was even some confusion on my part as to where each organization fit, but that’s a positive thing when you think about just how much goes on here — chances are, if you’ve been involved in any way with entrepreneurial development in Lunenburg County, you’ve also been in touch with someone from Mashup Labs or WorkEvolved in at least one form or another . I myself have had the opportunity to take part in a few workshops at the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre where Bernice Williams was an instructor for many of them. She is also one of the facilitators for Mashup Lab’s Dream Business Program, one of their many programs for turning business ideas into companies in the rural South Shore.
At the time of WorkEvolved Bridgewater’s launch in 2018, Nicole was hired to be the administrator. Also known as “the boss”, her and Andrew both make decisions on the major tasks, and as a team have kept the wheels of the WorkEvolved machine in motion.
“Nicole does a great job of sort of pulling the reins,” Andrew said. “Left to my own devices, I’d probably be off in twenty different directions doing a half-assed job at those where I should probably go in three and really focus my energy. If you want to grow and do more audacious things it can not be a solo operation, you need more than one set of eyes on your decisions – I try to distance myself from those decisions as much as I can until I’m certain they are something we can pull off.
Since the launch of WorkEvolved, Andrew and Nicole have also hired Juanita Haley to handle their social media marketing as well as administration, which has been another boon to progress, where Andrew can focus more on his outreach in the business community, and the operations surrounding their upcoming launch in May, and allow WorkEvolved to prosper under Nicole and Juanita’s leadership.
The day to day operations of the two spaces are dynamic to say the least – where one space would be a quiet workplace to get your daily tasks completed, the next could be a bustle of activity because a launch party might be taking place or training seminar is being hosted. Part of Nicole’s job is to make sure the all the parts of the company remain in operation, and things run smoothly for the people who work out of them.
“We have two locations right now, but on May 1st we’ll have a whole new group of people, so things will be a lot different.” Nicole said. “We work from both spaces equally so if things change and I’m needed in Mahone Bay, Juanita can be here. We always try to have at least one person who looks after the programming and the opening/closing.”
“Managing here is nice because when coworkers agree to work out of the spaces, they know they have to be self sufficient, meaning when they’re finished with a particular area, they have to be sure that the next person or group will be able to use it too and that’s something we’ve never had a problem with.”
There was an article published by the Harvard Business Review called “Why People Thrive in Coworking Space”, where the researchers had this to say about coworking:
“… the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who cowork demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts. But what matters the most for high levels of thriving is that people who cowork have substantial autonomy and can be themselves.”-HBR
Earlier today, I had the chance to return to their Bridgewater location to take some photos of Andrew (Nicole couldn’t be there unfortunately). I have to say that this business has grown on me quite a bit in the time that I’ve known it. At WorkEvolved, I feel free to talk shop with business owners and be me, where I’d otherwise be figuring out the administrative tasks on my own, trying to navigate the business world solo. Like Andrew said, it’s tough to make the hard decisions on your own but I’m nowhere near the point where I can hire talent like Nicole or Juanita yet, a coworking space like you see at WorkEvolved is a great solution to that problem and after talking with the people in this community, I’ve become re-energized again so I can focus my energy to one day get there myself.
If you own your own business, or are thinking of starting one in the future, this is a great place to start, Andrew and his staff have helped countless entrepreneurs do just that, start thinking about owning their own company one day. Take it from me, you can do it if you really want it and I never thought in a million years I would be a business owner at 29.
I hope you enjoyed Matt Forgione Photography’s first episode of Lighthouse Route. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram so you can stay up to date on future releases!