Melbourne-based co-working property CreativeCubes.Co, has cemented itself as one of the key players within the coworking sphere, already taking ownership of several prime locations in the city, including Richmond, Hawthorn, and soon to be launching in South Melbourne.
Tovi Skovron is the entrepreneur behind the brand, and is currently also CEO. Inspired by his experiences overseas on his previous entrepreneurial ventures, Tobi launched Creative Cubes two years ago to help business and community thrive.
They have expanded quickly and are on a huge growth trajectory; they have a large member base of approximately 600 businesses in Victoria already.
We spoke with Tobi about his company, why he decided to found Creative Cubes, how this co-working space is different to other offerings, the rewards his members are reaping from utilising the facilities and how he has achieved 100% capacity so quickly!
If you’re looking for entrepreneurial inspiration today, this is a great interview for you!
Why did you create Creative Cubes?
“Firstly, this was born out of personal experience. From other entrepreneurial startups, other entrepreneurial ventures.
“I had a personal need. I lived in Los Angeles and I was working out of the third bedroom in my apartment – that was my North American Headquarters. My inventory was actually in warehouse in another state. So I realised as long as I was connected to the web, my business was open and trading.
“I remember, very clearly, two things happening:
“One thing was – I actually flew to New York from LA on a regular basis. While I was in the air, I had go-go internet and I was connected to the wifi, and I was able to send and purchase orders, bill customers and more – because everything was in the cloud. That made me think, ‘Wow! I don’t need to be tied to my desk anymore!’
“The second thing that happened – was that I realised I’m living in LA with my wife, and I’m stuck in the third bedroom of my apartment, not really living. Physically I’m living, but I’m just in an apartment on Venice beach. In order to seperate life from work, I needed to create a barrier. So I checked into a co-working space, in Santa Monica, which was the old Google HQ, and there were companies there that started off with like 2 people. One of the companies there was Uber – before it was what it is today! And other amazing companies were there too.
“I fell in love with community. I thought ‘Hey, if I was in my own apartment and office I would never be exposed to people, like this startup called Uber’ – as an example – and so being in this environment opened my mind to other things and other thoughts. I said to my wife, ‘When I come home, I want to do what that they [co-working spaces] did for me but with my own spin, flair and flavour. That’s how CreativeCubes was born.”
Tobi sold his first business (in the pet industry) and worked for one of the two purchasing companies. He became CEO and worked there until that venture was then acquired by another player in the space, at which point he decided it was time to return home.
How long have you been operating? Are you just in Melbourne at the moment?
“We’ve been open two years. This space has been here for just one year, but we have other spaces that have been open longer.
“I really want to take care of my own backyard, which is Victoria. We’re on a growth trajectory right now, where we want offices all over. You know, I want to be able to travel to Sydney, use my same fob card and access the offices there. Right now we have 6 other locations under construction, one opening in December and one in February. Hopefully Sydney will be next year.”
So you feel like you definitely have to demand for that?
“We’re pretty full, so we’re operating at a nice level. It’s a really strong membership base. It’s all about serving people, it’s all about giving being a platform that they can rise from.”
What are the signals that the time is right to scale?
“One of the values that I personally abide by is ‘two ears and one mouth.’ I listen twice as much as I talk, and so we’ve already got that feedback loop with members. We’re constantly surveying and having conversations, and they are constantly asking us for stuff. So as long as our ego is checked at the door and we come in humble, feet on the ground and serve, then you’ll know, because you’ve got a relationship there.
“For us, we are at capacity, and in order to grow I need more inventory.
“What’s interesting is that the product fit is right, and the product offering and the product price. All we’re doing is putting ourselves in front of the demand, we’re not trying to educate people on this new way of work – they’re already there – we’re just basically catching the intent of the person that’s seeking this kind of stuff.”
The name – CreativeCubes – does that mean members are in the creative space only?
“It’s a space where you go and create. We’ve got a tonne of people across of all categories and sectors, that are all doing something creative – whether that is MenuLog disrupting how people get their food on order – to KFC. We have some incredibly large multinationals, big law firms… everyone is doing something creative in their own line.”
What have been the struggles and learnings on this journey?
“There are a couple of things.
“My leadership team and I – this isn’t our first rodeo – so we’ve been there and done it, some of us multiple times. So we’ve learned from previous mistakes.
“That said – we mess up all the time. The whole goal is to embrace that failure (it’s one of our values). You only fail if you stop. If you fall over, and get back up and keep going, that’s just a lesson.
“I can tell you categorically that I’m not in property. I wouldn’t have a clue. But I seem to have got two buildings up. We have done a lot of retrofitting, and clean ups retrospectively, from mistakes – but the whole goal is – it doesn’t matter what the fall over was as long as we keep going.”
What are the top benefits for small businesses using co-working spaces?
“I guess there’s a couple of stigmas to demystify with co-working spaces, right?”
“One is that only about 4% of our customer base (we serve 600 companies today) are startups. The vast majority are SMEs. We’re moving more and more towards enterprise.
“Big companies are actually coming to us saying ‘We’ve got a people problem,’ ‘We’re running out of inventory,’ ‘We’re running out of office space – can I buy memberships?’ Or ‘Hey, my staff are on the road, but I want them to have a place that they can come and dock into.’ We’re talking about that with Westpac for their mobile bankers.
“We are unique and have a unique business proposition. We have a lot of big companies that lean on us.
“Second is that, you know, there are co-working spaces out there that are just some Ikea desks and chairs in a corner – and we are the opposite.
“We help elevate brands. A lot of those big brands are saying they have cultural issues. We have our own culture here, and they become a part of that.”
How are businesses working together here?
“We have KFC – for example – and if they are thinking of a new menu item that they want to test, so they will put on lunch for whole community. Everyone eats for free. Or MenuLog will put on breakfast for everyone. There’s some really cool things happening, you get to bounce ideas, you get to test your product, you get direct feedback, so you’ve got your own public space.
“There is an instant warmth here, there’s a seamless ‘Wow!’ So there’s been small businesses in here that have won government business because people walk in here and think ‘Wow! This is how you represent yourself, you’re a legitimate business.’ So we’ve had the opposite of what the perception is. We’ve helped businesses just by giving them a first-class space.”
How do you attract new members and market yourself?
“We are not transaction focussed. Of course there are millions of dollars worth of overhead that has to be accounted for, but we’re under no financial pressure to do deals just for the sake of doing deals. We want the right people in here, we want to do good in the world.
“Personally I have a big audience which is why I vlog, and we tell awesome stories from the communities. We use social, as we have so many great stories to share.
“And then there is demand. The goal is just to be in front of that. There’s a whole strategy on how we achieve that. Not just “buy” – but “be part of something that’s really game-changing.”