Our monthly Immigrant Entrepreneurship Newsletter features some of the incredible immigrant entrepreneurs in Alberta that we support, like Mark Eaton, Owner of The Corner Coworking. We spoke with Mark about his journey and experience as an immigrant entrepreneur in Alberta.
1. What is your background?
Originally from the ‘World’s Most Liveable City’, I moved to Canada in 2000 for winter sport and have made Cochrane my home for almost 10 years. I went looking for a coworking space in Cochrane, as I’d experienced the benefits of coworking on a few occasions previously. To my dismay, we didn’t have one! In July 2016, I started the Cochrane Coworking Community Meetup group. At our first event, I met five local coworkers, some of whom are still active members. The group grew rapidly. Somewhere around 50 members, I knew we’d reached the tipping point and set about determining the feasibility of creating our own space. Working with some very smart people both locally and within the greater coworking community, we developed a business plan and found a location for local entrepreneurs and contractors to be inspired and to inspire others. Two years after our very first Meetup, and approaching 170 members, we had an incredibly strong local community of business professionals seeking a place to connect and collaborate and now we have a space in which they can do just that, The Corner Coworking.
2. Tell us about your business and what it does.
The Corner Coworking offers shared & private office space as well as warehouse space, for new and growing local businesses. We’re here for startups and individuals, established companies and teams looking to work in a professional environment around other motivated businesses and business owners.
3. What motivated you to start your own business?
As a remote worker back in 2016, I had a yearning to interact and connect with like-minded peers. Getting out of my home office from time to time was necessary, but the local cafes were just not that conducive to high levels of productivity. Of course, they have good coffee. Wi-Fi, privacy and security were another matter.
4. What are you most proud of? What is your biggest success?
I am very happy with the interest we were able to generate before we opened the space, via networking events and word of mouth. We launched with several members joining us immediately. Our move into offering shared warehouse space to businesses, after starting with office space only, a largely untested offering in Canada has been a big achievement. Our warehouse space has largely lead to our recovery after suffering a big loss of members in early to mid-2020. As we move closer to a post-pandemic world, we continue to have some of our biggest successes to date.
5. What has been your biggest challenge as an immigrant entrepreneur in Alberta?
Two challenges come to mind, one is the entrenched work experiences of living in Australia for almost 30 years. Secondly, has been the challenge of building a business network from scratch. Making connections, learning the minor differences in expectations and customs as well as getting promotional messages clearly communicated.
6. What has been your biggest challenge in light of COVID-19? How have you had to pivot your business?
At the start of Q2 2020, the vast majority of our members were directed to work from home unless absolutely necessary. This resulted in a revenue drop of more than 60% and a need to examine ways to meet the ‘new’ needs of our members and how we could ‘pivot’ to provide products that were in demand. We moved to more flexible membership options, commitment times are now much shorter, we also started to offer services that would be in demand for home/garage/basement-based businesses. Our warehouse offers logistics services to small e-commerce companies, so they can focus on growth and sales. We offer a virtual mail & address service for companies that don’t want to use their home address for business. Lastly, we have seen a lot of leads come from becoming the UPS shipping location for Cochrane.
7. What has the pandemic taught you about you and/or your business?
Diversify, don’t just tweak what you do. You need it to bring in a whole new type of customer, plus it helps to protect your revenue and cash flow.