I can’t tell you how excited I was to see my company name up there in the entrance of one of the coolest spaces in Shoreditch, London, it really felt like the start of an exciting journey for me personally as well as for my product launch and insight agency TigerLeap.
Joining a real community of people that I can hang out with, bounce ideas off, not only keeps me motivated but has done wonders for me and my mental health. I’m what you might call a people person; I get my energy and my vibrancy from being around others. Something I’d never really thought about until it started to seriously affect my health and my wellbeing.
Previous to Huckletree, I spent 4 years living and working just off Carnaby Street in Soho. I had a beautiful flat with an office in one of the best locations in London. It was definitely fun and exciting and helped me keep my finger on the trend pulse and what was going on in the world of retail, but I was spending an awful lot of time working alone. 80 – 100 hours plus, often 7 days a week, to keep up with all the work I had to do.
Sometimes the only people I spoke to all week in person were the people in the local shops. The team who worked in Bolangaro Trevor, in the fashion store right below my living room, kept me from going completely mad. I’d snatch 10 – 15 mins with them a day just for some human contact. Funnily enough, many of them I remain incredibly close friends with after all these years, as we kind of helped each other. Lonely souls in the middle of mayhem. (Their store was quiet, hence the lonely).
I spent a lot of time on the phone to my Dad, trying to calm me down, because the stress of trying to get new brands into retail was just too much for me on some days.
In those 4 years, I achieved a lot, as I gave my entire life over to making the brands successful and getting traction, but it was at the cost of my mental health. It left me feeling depressed, and lacking in confidence, as I had no one to jive with after yet another retail rejection. (happens all the time in my job).
The fact that my father, who I was incredibly close to, got sick and passed away in July 2016, compounded the situation even more. Every day I woke up with a heavy feeling of fear on my chest, feeling it was never going to get better, but I had to keep hustling and working hard in order to make the brands work and to pay my very expensive rent.
It was a hard time and one that I would realize later was mainly compounded by the complete lack of human contact. The more depressed I got, the more I stayed inside on my own. Was a vicious and dangerous circle. A lot of the trauma I was to find out later I had caused myself, by listening to my own very detrimental self-talk.
I had kept thinking about co-working spaces and tried a few but didn’t really get a good vibe and the thought of paying for co-working when I had my own office, did seem kind of ridiculous.
When I thought things could not get any worse, my landlord told me his brother wanted to move into my flat, so I have 5 months to leave. That was November 2016. I cried. He felt terrible. He gave me an extra 6 months to find somewhere. Then the next day I woke up and though, this is it, the kick up the backside I need to jolt me out of this glamorous prison I had created. Time to leave and start fresh.
I decided to find somewhere super quiet, so chose Belsize Park, where literally nothing happens, but it is right by Hampstead Heath (above) that at least calmed me down as I had a garden, could see trees and hear birds and in 10 mins I could see the above scene. I moved within 3 weeks. Packed everything up and left. I knew no one there, but I did not care. I knew I needed peace and quiet.
Various friends by this point (yes you John and Sindy), and many others kept telling me that I had to get a co-working space immediately. That being at home was not good for me. I still could not find one I liked, and for a while was going to Shoreditch House with a friend, but there was no vibe. No one talked to each other. Everyone was just posing and posturing. I had already had enough of that from living in the West End.
Then my best friend told me that she’d had a meeting in Huckletree and that it was “my space”. Was totally me, with all the bright coloured walls and funky decorations and I would not have to dress up as it looked casual. She said the place looked fun and eclectic, so no doubt the people would be. That’s what I need and that’s what I like. She knew it was my vibe.
So I booked a visit, praying that it would be exactly what I needed. Even the phone call was fun and jovial, so I was getting the right feelings straight away.
I turned up for the tour and I met Jax, who was the membership manager, now the general manager, and one of the worlds loveliest people. I love her. She makes me so happy when I see her, as she’s always smiling.
You have to interview, where you present yourself and have to sound cool, interesting and intelligent and are going to be building a huge trillion dollar company so that you are allowed to join. ( at least that’s how I saw it). I also was acutely aware that I was probably double everyone else’s age, as they would all be 20, mega-successful hipsteresque types.
Turns out I had let my stereotypes get the better of me (again that nonsense self-talk) and it is, in fact, a bunch of cool eclectic people, but the age range is wide. They don’t all look at me like I should be home knitting slippers just yet and there are freelancers, start-ups and larger companies across many different industry sectors.
So they let me in, that was way back at the beginning of 2017, and I found the cool eclectic bunch of co-workers I was looking for.
The People & Culture
What I really like the most is that they select not just on the company type, but they are really looking at who you are as an individual and a team. Culture is probably the biggest part of it, and that really comes through. Quite often I’ll be sitting by someone or chatting at the coffee machine and they turn out to have done some incredible work, but they remain humble. I really really love this more than anything, especially since I do have to work with a lot of ego-driven people in my sector.
I wish a few of them in my sector would eat all the humble pies. Maybe Huckletree should start a training school on being humble. I digress, but according to Professor Edward Hess and Katherine Ludwig, Humility is the new Smart. Edward was interviewed by my favourite Podcaster Tayo Rockson on as Told by Nomads about his new book on this very topic. It’s definitely worth a listen, as this is a skillset that has to be relevant in the next age. The age of collaboration and more feminine energy as promoted by Huckletree. ( I don’t think they promote it as that openly, but I feel it!)
It has been said before that I would attend the opening of an envelope, but I really do like events, if I have time. I love meeting people and especially new people, as like learning. New people = new opinions and insights, at least that’s how I see it. Time is always the issue though, and travel time in London is killer. You always have to factor in an hour at least. Huckletree have A LOT of in-house events, and they are wildly different too. If you want to look at their weekly timetable then they show it on their website here. I’ve met mentors, seen some of our members on Dragons Den (Pouch team), done amazing workshops (GroHappy), attending Female empowerment talks (FEMTECHTalks), listened to the editor from Marie Claire talk and that was just in the last 2 months!
Where to work ?
So you can choose a fixed desk, team desk, an office or co-working. I’m on a flexy pass, which allows me 10 days a month. I work at one of the desks, but there are sofas, benches, a library (below). Some people sit, some use the standing areas. Or you can just move around. I like to move around every week, gives me more inspiration somehow.
Focus & Productivity
People work really hard at co-working spaces. They are focused on getting shit done. Most people leave by 6 ish. There are some late stayers, but the focus is really on focus. So I get a lot of stuff done, but if I fancy a chat, which I do and often. I just go stand at the coffee machine and talk to someone. There is always someone new and people are always really friendly. That way I feed my need to connect, whilst also getting a lot of shit done. I also like the fact that I travel here and travel home and that 30 mins or so is decompression time. So while I’m here, I’m on. When I leave I try not to be. Although that’s a massive work in progress for me.
I’ve met some amazing people in here and I think the key to that is being open and approaching people, as well as attending the networking drinks that they have every Thursday. If you stay closed, then you won’t meet people. Be open and you will get opportunities that you in never imagined. If you read the post on the photo shoot you will know that I met the marvellous Lady Velo ( Author, Blog owner, Presenter) in Huckletree, over member drinks. I then met her partner Ian over another members drinks and through their dual inspiration of YOU CAN DO THIS over quite a few weeks ( as in this blog) and you CAN have your photo taken, and it’s not like root canal, that this blog was finally born. Collaboration is everything, that’s how true ideas get born and not only that I have two new amazing friends to boot!
Some people thrive on working from home, some thrive in big companies and in big company offices, but not me. I like my inspiration to come outside the companies I work with, from all walks of life, as that’s how you stay fresh and keep innovating. So although I’m leaving Huckletree for now, I am hoping that when I’m back in between my travels, that I’ll drop back in and get some productive work done.
Thank you to all the Huckletree team, who do an amazing job day in and day out of making the space, awesome.
Portrait images by @grobelaar
7 comments On How Co-working Changed my Life
I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. Wales isn’t cutting it and I feel isolated! Need to find me some cool peeps to work with, thank you 😊
Well you have big things in the planning Marie-Claire, so it’s key you surround yourself with people that can inspire you and lift you up. It makes a huge difference when you surround yourself with people who want you to succeed and want the best for you. I look forward to seeing what you decide to do 🙂
This is amazing, Zoe! 🙌
Super happy you had such a great experience at Huckletree.
Good luck for today and for the rest of your travels! 🙂
Thank you so much, Louis. You were the first person I spoke to, who gave me that brilliant first impression if you remember. So thanks to you, I was inspired to set up the meeting and the rest is history. Thank you for the well wishes on my travels 🙂
That’s so cool! Wish I had one of these co-working spaces in the neighborhood, but nothing 🙁 it was a great post though!!
They are popping up like weeds at the moment. I would not be surprised if one opened soon by you. Or maybe you could set one up yourself? Many restaurants and bars are offering space in the day when they are empty to co-working groups. If you have time you could coordinate with a local cafe and bar yourself? TreeHugger wrote about it, and a few others. https://www.treehugger.com/culture/upscale-restaurants-bars-turned-into-coworking-spaces-during-day.html
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