Exeter co-working hub The Generator set to expand into quayside location
A pioneering co-working space in Exeter city centre has proved so popular it is set to expand into a second location.
The Generator was opened in Dix’s Field three years ago to provide creative types and other freelances with an alternative to conventional serviced offices or the isolation of working from home.
About 70 individuals and businesses rent desk space there on a regular or ad hoc basis. Now founders Neil Finnie and Jim Strong are preparing to open a second hub at Kings Wharf on the city’s quay.
Neil, who also runs Corkscrew, a start-up and internship consultancy, said: “I had worked in co-working spaces in the US and elsewhere before but there was nothing like it in Exeter.
“It was a bit of a gamble, but we got a good rate on the space and have been able to expand within the building as we have outgrown the space.
“We brought in a few people at the start who were really well connected and it’s mostly grown through word of mouth. Now we’re seeing more established companies as well as start-ups and freelances using the space because they know their staff will be more productive here than working from home.”
Desk and meeting space at The Generator is available on flexible terms, from hourly to monthly rates, with communal space for breaks, lunchtime and informal meetings.
“One of the key things about the space has been the community feel and we have been really lucky that people have bought into the concept,” said Neil. “Even when people leave they stay involved.
“The majority of people come from out of town and they are looking for somewhere they can get to know people in the Exeter business community.
“It’s a good place for people to come and meet friends, so it’s like being part of a bigger office but with none of the office politics.
“Now three years in we understand the need for something like The Generator and we want to become more of a focal point for the business community.”
The open-plan environment has fostered collaboration between specialists from different fields, with many sharing expertise and doing work for each other.
“Co-working spaces are how people want to work, and I don’t doubt that there will be more of them in the next few years,” said Jim, a director of Geo.me, a Google for Work partner which helps businesses exploit location data.
Among those now using The Generator on a regular basis are James Allen, of ShareLaTeX, who said: “I work from home and after moving to Exeter I was looking for somewhere I could meet new people and have a life outside of the house.
“The Generator makes it feel like I have colleagues – who have now become my friends – even though I otherwise work on my own.”
Bene Netto, of Felix Culpa, added: “It’s a fabulous creative working environment which provides the all-important social interaction that you don’t get working from home or in a more corporate serviced office.”
Former Dragons’ Den contestant Tom de Pelet, founder of Hornit, which makes the world’s loudest cycle horn, said: “Being run by entrepreneurs means the Generator shared office space is a breath of fresh air. They really get what small businesses need: a bend over backwards attitude, no paperwork, straightforward pricing and bags of flexibility.
“More than that, though, it is a fun, lively place to work with a unique sense of community. This is carefully nurtured by the owners, Neil and Jim, as much it is created by the businesses that thrive here.”
Daniel Honey, of HoneyBe Creative, said: “As a creative agency, joining The Generator was more about environment and people than it was about office space.
“It offers a friendly, open and creative business space. There’s a real buzz to the place and it’s a place we, and clients, love coming to.”
Marc Taylor, of Big Consultancy, added: “I came to work at the Generator to escape the madness of young children at home disrupting my concentration. What I found was a relaxed working environment, a great community of like minded people and Friday beers, ping pong and cake.”
Gian Ellis, of GLE Environmental, said: “I was finding working at home increasing challenging and needed to find some office workspace.
“Finding the Generator online I then went for the free day and really liked the set up. After a few days on the daily desk decided to take a monthly desk and it has been really great.
“I love the set up which is flexible and really reasonable. It gives me office space and meeting rooms so I can meet my business clients in the city centre. It also gives me flexibility as I sometimes need to work at weekends in order to meet deadlines.”