May 01, 2019
Vandeross consulting (Ella Vanderburg and Katie Ross) is a new consulting company with a focus on helping small businesses in Kingston and Frontenac County.
They were approached recently by an organisation called Rural by Purpose to see if they wanted to participate in a pilot project that is focused on something that is normally associated with urban environments, freelance workers needing office space.
“We thought this idea was interesting, and approached Richard Allen to see if Frontenac County would like to participate in this, and when he said yes, we decided to give it a go,” said Katie Ross in a phone interview this week.
The local version of the project is called Coworking in Frontenac, and the week of May 6-10 is the target week for the project. During that week, participating Frontenac County businesses will be opening their doors and providing space for freelancers to work out of some unused space within their offices.
Vanderburg and Ross brought the coworking challenge concept to the April meeting of Frontenac County Council and have been helping find suitable locations over the last couple of weeks.
“So far we have found there are more people looking for places to set up than there are locations, and it looks like the main thing that freelancers in Frontenac County are looking for is reliable Internet service which many don’t have at home.”
An important aspect of coworking week, and one of the major goals of Rural on Purpose, which was co-founded by Belleville based Mary Doyle, is to retain and attract younger workers to rural communities. In blogs posted on the Rural on Purpose site, Doyle makes it clear that she believes it is only through retention and in-migration of youth that rural communities will survive. In one case, at the end of an entry, she talks directly to millennials, saying, “Do you want to create new ways of doing business? What support do you need from us?”
According to a media release from Frontenac County, the majority of the workforce is predicted to be freelance within a decade, and seventy-four percent of millennials are currently freelancing. Global coworking spaces are projected to grow from 14,411 in 2017 to just over 30,000 in 2022.
"More and more we find that people are working from their homes, so it has become important to let remote workers and entrepreneurs know they have places to connect in our communities. The Coworking Takeover Challenge is a great way to start thinking about how we can be freelance friendly," said Richard Allen, Manager of Economic Development at the County of Frontenac.
So far, a number of locations have committed to having space available for the coworking week, including the township office in Frontenac Islands, the Frontenac County office, Rural Frontenac Community Services offices in Sydenham and both of their Sharbot Lake locations, and Holiday Country Manor in Battersea.
Information about locations is available at coworkfrontenac.com by clicking on participating vendors. Further down the page, there is an option for both freelancers and potential hosts to register. The site also includes a voluntary survey.
“A major goal of the pilot is to identify the need for coworking within the four municipalities. Our goal is to bring together existing business with those working in isolation and providing access to resources such as reliable internet services, networking opportunities and business support,” said Ella Vanderburg.
“As we have gotten into it, we are seeing that we might need to extend the week to a couple of weeks to get the word out and get a true sense of the potential in Frontenac County. That will also give us time to locate more vendors throughout the county,” said Katie Ross. “We think the demand is there.”
Ross and Vanderburg will be monitoring the pilot to see how it is progressing, just as they are establishing their own permanent headquarters on Sydenham Road.