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How Allia’s Future Business Centre coworking spaces are making a mark
Its centre in the East of England provides office, coworking and meeting room space for startups and businesses based nearby – but over the years its impact has reached across the UK.
We spoke to Lucy Amos, marketing and communications officer at Allia, to find out more.
What’s Allia’s story?
Lucy Amos: The first Future Business Centre was built in Cambridge in 2015 in a purpose-built, eco-friendly building. It was built with entrepreneurs in mind; by providing flexible workspace and creating a startup community.
Allia opened up a further Future Business Centre in Peterborough in 2016, and most recently in Hackney, east London in 2017 – with a specific focus on supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses that work in or benefit the local area. Each centre acts as an entrepreneurial hub for members of the community to grow and build their businesses.
What’s driving tech in the East of England?
Cambridgeshire, where Allia Future Business Centre is headquartered, is known as ‘Silicon Fen’ by no coincidence. In Tech Nation Report 2019, Cambridge comes after London in the top cities for scale-up tech investment.
With the likes of the science park, a world-leading university and big tech institutions such as Arm within arms’ reach, there’s a huge pool of talent and innovation to come from the area. The East of England has recently seen the greatest increase in capital invested across all tech companies compared to other regions.
London leads tech investment in the UK, and Peterborough is known as the ‘environmental capital’, so our centres are well-positioned in cities that are immersed in tech talent.
What makes Allia unique?
Allia’s focus is on impact. It supports entrepreneurs making an impact on people, planet and place. Part of what makes the Future Business Centres unique are their network of unique businesses. The centres are hubs for companies with an ethical core, but our coworking spaces are open to all types of business which brings a variety of people.
“We kit our centres out with lots of breakout spaces – our London centre even has a traditional telephone box for people to make calls from!”
We have a network of like-minded businesses who frequently support each other with advice, solutions, and even use each other’s services. In addition to the workspace, Allia runs free business support programmes for startups and local businesses from the centres, with the ultimate aim to help them make positive change and create impact.
What’s the most challenging part of running a coworking space?
We really do love running a coworking space, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Our coworking spaces are open plan and with that comes dynamism. We tend to like the hustle and bustle, but we also understand that people want to get their head down, so we kit our centres out with lots of breakout spaces – our London centre even has a traditional telephone box for people to make calls from!
We also create opportunities for coworkers to meet new people in the building and hold events such as socials and coffee mornings, where they can engage with everyone else in the building.
What does your community care about?
Allia works with organisations that align their work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals; the community in our Future Business Centres, therefore, care about social and environmental issues.
We help our members by holding open events on topics that are of interest to them or their business within our centres – such as hackathons, cleantech events, workshops or meetups. Members of our centres can communicate, share news and keep up to date using our online platform.
We also have a regular newsletter that goes out to centre users and beyond – which includes organisation news, events and opportunities. We often include our community members in blogs and features that we post to our online channels – this showcases the great things that the people within our buildings are doing, and gives new businesses valuable coverage.
Do you have any members that you’d like to mention?
Current co-worker, Will Jackson, runs a start-up company called Playphysio. They stand out as a business that makes a huge impact on people and does so in a unique way.
What’s on the horizon for Allia?
The number of coworking spaces and members across the UK has almost doubled in the last two years, and the popularity of coworking is still rapidly increasing. We predict more demand as more people break away from the traditional office space, and we plan to keep up with demand by providing more space and continuing to expand our tight-knit community across our Future Business Centres.