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Sink or swim? Sackville Commons on a precipice

The Sackville Commons, located on downtown Main Street, provides entrepreneurs, artists, non-profit organizations and community groups with an affordable and accessible space to co-work and network. The Commons offers members access to work stations, meeting rooms, wi-fi, phone and photocopying service, and more.
The Sackville Commons, located on downtown Main Street, provides entrepreneurs, artists, non-profit organizations and community groups with an affordable and accessible space to co-work and network. The Commons offers members access to work stations, meeting rooms, wi-fi, phone and photocopying service, and more. - Contributed

Call has been answered for new board members, but more community support needed for co-op to thrive

The Sackville Commons is on the cusp of becoming a real success story.

Envisioned to be a dynamic and thriving co-working space where local entrepreneurs, artists, non-profits and community groups can come together to network, share ideas and resources, and build a sense of community, that dream is within reach.

It’s just going to need a little more community support to make it happen.

“In some ways we’ve made the mistake of treating this like a private enterprise. But it’s not, it’s a co-op … and we have to start asking our community to help us out,” said Julia Feltham, a founder and director of the Commons.

The Sackville Commons has been a busy place since it opened its doors in the fall of 2016 out of the former fire hall and police station on Main Street, blooming with so much potential and possibilities, said Feltham.

An amazing place to network and co-work with other Sackvilliains, as well as an incredible space for community events, the Commons offers members access to work stations, meeting rooms, wi-fi, phone and photocopying service, and great coffee – all at an affordable rate. It also regularly hosts development workshops and information sessions.

More than 15,000 people have walked through their doors in the past two years and the services and facilities are being used regularly by about 100 people each week. The Commons has 78 members and has helped to incubate or build 30-plus businesses.

The space is obviously meeting a need, said Feltham, but it has yet to thrive the way she imagines it could.

There is a need for more sponsorships, more members and more meeting space rentals – in other words, a more reliable cash flow coming in each month. And she believes it’s now time to turn over some of these responsibilities to the community, instead of the same core group of volunteers who have spent the last two years donating countless hours to try and grow the non-profit co-operative.

“I feel like we’re on a precipice,” said Feltham. “We have to grow and that’s it … we’re so close.”

For example, Feltham says the Commons is only eight members away from being able to sign up for group health insurance. And only 12 patrons (supporters) away from gaining access to a tool library. And only four members away from not having to rely on grants to pay the bills.

“We want more people to opt in. We want it to be full all the time.”

She knows people want to help – she’s heard from many community members who are excited about the potential for a community hub space centered around innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. But she expects most people aren’t sure how to help or when they should jump on board.

That time is now, she said, and there are various ways people can help out; and you don’t have to necessarily be a regular user of the facilities to show support (see sidebar).

Feltham said a huge first step was taken in that regard recently when Feltham sounded the horn for new blood on the board of directors – five new members stepped up and answered the call.

“So that’s a great start,” she said.

Here's how you can help:

•Volunteer as a host. Want to be an ambassador for the Commons while also getting some perks while you’re at it? Volunteer for an hour or two, and get access to the work stations, wi-fi, meeting rooms and coffee. Your main duties would involve helping with printing, keeping an eye on the bookings, telling people about the space and making sure the coffee is on.

•Join a committee. Plenty of options are available, including membership development, facilities or fundraising.

•Become a patron. Basically, you sign on as a monthly subscriber to help show your support for the Commons, paying what you can. Check out patreon.com/coworksackville for more info.

•Sponsorship. Businesses or individuals can jump on board to sponsor rooms, events, start-ups and more. There are plenty of options at a range of prices.

•Come out and visit the Commons during Pay-What-You-Can October. All month long, there will be access to a “hot desk” where visitors can come and try out the space, send off a fax, print reports, hang out for a bit, enjoy a coffee, fill out the feedback sheet – all for a pay-what-you-can donation.

•Spread the word. Encourage people to co-work at the Commons, become paying members or book their event space there.

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