Editor: This month, we’re delighted to welcome a new guest blogger, Eve Beattie, Owner and Founder of The Hive (Magherafelt), a new coworking space right in the centre of rural Mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland.
While it may seem like the urban centres are the obvious location for such ventures (and, yet, let’s not kid ourselves, Belfast ain’t Berlin), early interest suggests Eve may just be on to something: the provision of comfortable, well equipped space and the curation of an enthusiastic, connected business community in the bustling, traditional market town of Magherafelt.
John Donne said, “No man is an island.”. We’ve all heard this phrase. The poem that it originates from suggests that, as human beings we are not designed to be isolated from others and need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
The Need for Community Prompted the Birth of The Hive
I became a self-employed Virtual Assistant (EveVA) last year. Looking back, I can now see that I entered the freelance world quite naively. In many ways, this wasn’t a bad thing. As an over thinker, I could’ve easily found many ways to talk myself out of what I was doing. However, I knew I needed a change in my life and freelancing around family life suited me perfectly. I imagined meeting clients onsite regularly, working in coffee shops and building a network of other freelancers. Loneliness? Well that certainly didn’t feature in the vision.
The reality, however, turned out to be quite different! For a start, the clue is in the job title. Being a Virtual Assistant meant that I rarely met my clients face to face. Zoom meetings and Skype calls are what worked for most clients and so there was no need to meet them in person. Even when I did meet a client, it was generally only for the initial consultation to check that we were a good fit to work together and everything thereafter was done online.
- As for the romantic myth of working in coffee shops, that’s great occasionally for an hour here and there but they are not comfortable. And rightly so, they aren’t designed for people to sit over laptops all day, but rather for people to enjoy a break or to socialise for an hour or two. And coffee shops aren’t a place to get to know other freelancers. People go in either for a pre-arranged meet-up or to work alone.
- Opportunities to meet other freelancers and small business owners were therefore limited to networking events, of which there is certainly no shortage. Someone suggested to me recently that you could breakfast, lunch and dinner at networking events if you so wished. They are right; there are a lot. But if you attend events all week long, when do you sit down and get the work done to pay the bills?
Prior to working for myself I had worked in various busy office environments, which I always enjoyed being in. I now recognise that loads of my energy came from just being around colleagues. Working at home alone just did not have the same appeal.
Coworking Space in Mid-Ulster
Once the reality of the self-employed world hit, my naive self thought. “No problem. I’ll go and find one of these coworking spaces to work from. Easy.”. The only thing was, coworking space had not yet arrived in Mid-Ulster!
After much complaining to my husband that, “I wish someone would open a coworking space in Magherafelt”, he suggested, “Why don’t you do it?”.
The seed was planted. This conversation happened at time when I was attending the Inspire to Innovate course through Dungannon Enterprise Centre. When I mentioned it to their business advisors one day, it was the start of something incredible.
Once I started talking to people about it, researching how to set up a space and asking whether people would be interested in joining a community, things moved very quickly. The second premises that I looked at turned out to be perfect and it was more or less ready to move into.
The Hive is Open for Business
And so, it goes that a few months later I can hardly believe where I am. The Hive is open, we have a fledgling community and I am very excited about the future. We have had the most positive response so far, including many who’ve commented that we’re providing a much-needed facility in the area. That warms my heart.
“No man is an island.”
If you feel like that, I hope that you feel free to drop in and find out all about our new coworking community in Magherafelt.
Find out more on The Hive’s website