“We try to make space for anything and everything,” says Julia Feltham, co-founder and executive director of the Sackville Commons.
Having only opened its doors a year ago, The Commons has quickly become a dynamic and thriving space where local entrepreneurs, artists, artisans, non-profits and community groups are coming together to work, share ideas and resources, and build a sense of community.
“I'm impressed with how everyone at the Commons works as a team, I can't say enough about all they've done,” says Daniel Haartman of Community Machinery, just one of the more than 70 new members of the Sackville Commons.
The Commons is essentially a community co-working space and offers members access to work stations, storage, meeting rooms, phone and photocopying service, and also regularly hosts development workshops and information sessions.
“Some of what they've provided is really specialized; budgeting for cash-flow, business development opportunities, and networking with people who have really gone out of their way to earn my trust,” says Haartman. “There's also a lot of little things, like their willingness to sign for packages while I've been setting up, use of a fax machine, and having use of a meeting room.”
The conversation around creating a Commons started nearly a decade ago in Sackville. In a world where growing numbers of people work alone as entrepreneurs or in web-based businesses, there is a lot of flexibility and personal freedom, but also a feeling of isolation sometimes that comes from not working in a busy office setting.
Feltham says a co-working model offers the opportunity for those people to work among others in an informal atmosphere but one that can inspire, energize and provides a chance to share ideas and resources – “so we make sure we all thrive a little better and we don’t feel so alone.”
She says providing a supportive atmosphere, where people can share spaces and experiences, is a step towards “normalizing entrepreneurship as a career path,” which is much needed in today’s new economy.
“Because doing it by yourself can sometimes suck and it doesn’t have to.”
The Commons has also welcomed non-profits into its folds, providing them with office space and office resources, as well as the ability to collaborate with other community stakeholders on important issues.
"The Commons is a great place to network and co-work with other Sackvilliains, as well as an incredible space for community events,” says Sarah Poirier, chair of the Sackville Refugee Response Coalition and member of the Commons. “It is the perfect place to go if you need some peace and quiet to write something serious or important - a proposal or a grant application, for instance - and since there are many different members with many different backgrounds, if you need a helping hand or get stuck, there is usually someone around to help get you 'unstuck.'"
The Sackville Commons opened last fall out of the former fire hall and police station on Main Street, and since then has drawn in a wide array of new members, from Bagtown Brewing, to Daybreak, to the Art Hive, Rural Rides, the Sackville Farmers’ Market, Bay of Fungi, and so many more.
To celebrate their success, the Commons is hosting an open house and AGM event on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The event, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. at 64 Main Street, will feature a number of showcases from its members but will also serve as a “community and member mixer” and Feltham encourages everyone to come on in and see what the space has to offer.
“Once people try it out, they realize it’s great to have that space to come to.”
New members are being sought, she says, with the goal of having another 10 to 15 members to keep the Commons sustainable.
“We definitely want more people to opt in,” she says. “We want it to be full all the time.”
Feltham says the “seeds have been planted and watered” with the first year of the Commons under its belt and now it’s time to move it forward with more community involvement.
“I’m excited to see where it goes from here,” she says.