Q&A with Keep Co: Canberra’s stronghold for independent movers, makers and shakers

It’s hard to believe that a whole 12 months have flown by since Canberra’s creative coworking space opened in November 2018. To celebrate Keep Co’s first birthday, we spoke to founders Anna Trundle and Korske Ara about the business, their community and of course, innovation!

What’s the origin story of Keep Co? How did you find yourself here?

Korske: In 2018, both of us were on a journey to find a space in Canberra to build a shared, creative workplace. Canberra had plenty of existing spaces designed for customers working in the corporate or start-up worlds looking for traditional shared workspace. We were looking for something built with a community-first approach, that was more than just a place to work. We wanted a community that recognised that support for one another and interpersonal relationships are just as meaningful as having a desk to work at.

Anna: At the time, Korske was looking for more space to grow his print studio. I was looking for somewhere to focus and spread out with my illustration and design business. Thankfully Canberra is a small place (especially in creative circles!) and it didn’t take long before mutual friends connected us. We teamed up to create Keep Co with a combined vision that was way bigger than what we envisioned would be our first step!

K: We brought together a bunch of freelancers, business owners and independent creatives who wanted to be a part of the space, forming a group of founding members. They were heavily involved in the planning process and continue to be an integral part of how Keep Co is growing. We wouldn’t be here without their input and support from day 1.

A: When we knew what the shape of the thing we wanted to build was, we approached the team at Molonglo (of NewActon and Dairy Rd) to share our vision with them. They provided a tenancy in NewActon for a pop-up (supported by the City Renewal Authority) in November 2018 while we built our pilot workspace out at Dairy Road at the same time.

What does a typical day look like at Keep Co?

A: Fridays are usually pretty great so let’s walk through a typical end of week workday at Keep!

7.30am: The early morning risers of our crew go for a run together through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands. The rest of us meet up for breakfast at the local organic cafe to start the day off right.

9am: It’s heads down, into the work for the day. Our memberships are flexible, so there’s often a steady flow of folks coming and going depending on the demands of their workday.

11am: Grabbing a snack, coffee or tea from the kitchen usually creates in a nice distraction from the screens to catch up. Or resident studio puppy Lilli keeps us entertained for pats, cuddles and games of fetch.

1pm: If it’s nice out, we’ll sit in the sunshine at our picnic table with a lunch spread and some sunnies. We’re also lucky to have Capital Brewing next door to grab lunch at Brodburger.

3pm: Once a month we organise a puppy playdate so our favourite four-legged members can join us for the afternoon and keep Lilli entertained! We’ll go for a walk around Dairy Road and play tug of war out on the grass with the Blochaus doggos.

4pm: Back in the zone with sleepy pups under our desks and bashing out some more work before the end of the day hits. There’s a range of seating and desk options to spread out onto or change up the work environment, so that helps to keep everyone’s minds fresh.

5.30pm: (Ideally!) we’ll wrap up at a regular hour and cheers to the start of the weekend with a knock-off drink or two before everyone heads out the door. Some of us go next door to Blochaus for a quick climb or session at the gym. Our dedicated members have 24/7 access to the space, but we always encourage everyone to get out to enjoy as much of their Friday night as they can. Even when those deadlines are looming!

Tell us a bit about your members.

A: Our members at Keep Co are absolutely incredible. They’re making waves with the quality and variety of the work that they do for local, national and global clients – it’s an impressive team out here! The current community lineup is a range of photographers, writers, film producers, PhD candidates, illustrators, graphic designers, PR guns, social media and marketing managers, research consultants, strategists, landscape architects, interior designers, UX wizards, business advisors, animators, bookkeepers and a local tea company.

K: Most of us run our own gigs and work for ourselves, with a handful of remote employees working for larger organisations that are headquartered in other cities. Some members work part-time at other jobs, so use the space when they need. There’s a few small teams that call Keep Co home during the week and use our facilities to meet clients and run their companies within the shared space we’ve set up.

A: Everyone’s needs are unique and varied. We work hard to ensure enough boxes are being ticked for what’s required in a workspace for everyone to get stuff done.
The dedication these folks have to deliver their best work every damn day is nothing short of inspiring and makes our jobs a total dream. It’s also huge to have a community at your fingertips. It opens up possibilities for collaboration and bright new ideas. It’s a big friendly incubator for opportunities and new connections, driven by a collective passion for sharing knowledge and supporting local creatives.

How has the businesses grown and changed in your first year? Did anything surprise you?

K: When we first met, we had both worked to our strengths to strategise how we could build a creative space within our own resources. We quickly realised what we could achieve together. Keep Co started as a pop-up in NewActon 11 months ago. Today, we have 30 members in our 280sqm pilot space in Dairy Road. Now, we’re about to start building a new, 650sqm workspace, launching in July 2020. We’ve been encouraged by the support of our community and Molonglo in helping us build our vision to create a world-class creative workspace here in Canberra.

Why do you think it’s important to have a space for creatives?

A: Our local artist studios in Canberra are full up with waitlists and our coworking spaces are geared towards corporate businesses or transient workers. We knew that many creatives were floating around in the same boat as us, looking for a place to work that wasn’t their kitchen table.

K: We’d gathered about 12 of them together, sat down and talked about what they valued in a workspace: a workspace that they hadn’t been able to find yet in Canberra.
We wanted to ensure Keep Co felt like the right fit for creative professionals. Talking to those founding members helped us discover what that should look like – it needed to be bright, quirky, spacious and changeable when it needed to be. It needed life and heart and soul, to be affordable and flexible and understanding of the ebbs and flows of creative businesses.

A: Keep Co needed to be a supportive work environment, a place to be seen. A place to combat isolation, loneliness and self-doubt – something that one in four of us experience here in Australia, and that we work hard to combat personally and professionally. A community that encouraged social interaction and opportunities to build a successful business.

K: Keep Co is also about Inspiring the next generation to get out there. To start something for themselves and to take a chance on their ideas. With the right people in your corner and a lot of hard work, the possibilities are totally endless.

How do you think creativity and innovation work together?

K: Creativity is a critical skillset within businesses, driving innovation, and new ideas to solve existing and upcoming challenges. These challenges can be internally within the team and external, helping people the company intends to serve. Whether they realise it or not, modern businesses rely on creativity to drive innovation and growth, finding solutions to improve processes and to develop competitive advantages within their industry.

A: We see it every day at Keep Co in our members and the work that they do – not all of them have jobs that fit the mould of the creative industries, but they definitely utilise a creative approach in the way they solve problems and tackle their workload.

K: Without a creative response to solving problems, innovation simply doesn’t exist.

Follow Keep Co on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with the creative community, the doggos and the expansion of the space.

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