The Need for Community Inspired the Creation of The Hive
‘No man is an island’ – John Donne
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.
Isolation was certainly the catalyst that prompted the birth of The Hive, a coworking space in Magherafelt.
I became a self-employed virtual assistant last year. Looking back, I can now see that I went into the freelance world quite naively. This isn’t a bad thing in many ways, 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 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 I loads of my energy came from just being around colleagues. Working at home, alone did not have the same appeal.
Once the reality of the self-employment world hit, my naive self said ‘no problem, I’ll go and find one of these coworking spaces to work from. Easy.’ Only thing was, coworking hadn’t 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, and it wasn’t going anywhere. This conversation happened at time when I was doing the Inspire to Innovate course through Dungannon Enterprise Centre and when I mentioned it to their business advisors one day that 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.
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 that we are providing a much-needed facility in the area and that warms my heart.
No man is an island and I hope that if anyone in the area currently feels like that they will drop in and see us.