‘Tis the season to be merry! And Hector Kolonas, a well-known figure among coworking spaces in London had a great idea to bring the magic of December inside several coworking communities.

Hi Hector, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hey! I’m a 30-year-old ‘problem solver’ who was born in South Africa, launched my first 2 businesses from the little island of Cyprus, and now run included.co to enrich coworking communities worldwide from ‘sunny’ London.

When did your path cross with coworking?

Initially, my first touch of ‘coworking’ was an awful experience falling for, and struggling to escape from, a serviced office provider who sold me on the idea of a supportive entrepreneurial community, which just didn’t actually exist.

At the end of March 2013 all banks across Cyprus were frozen for 2 weeks, and in the ensuing chaos, almost all companies including many of our clients either went bust or had to let go of up to 90% of their staff.

The situation left our company in tatters, but when I saw that all these beautiful offices with fast internet and delicious coffee were now sitting empty, I took action. Empty desks were made available to the ultra-talented but now unemployed people of Cyprus for a token ‘rent’ of around €100 per month.

It was in these communities that I saw the real ‘coworking’ take hold. Seeing people who had great jobs on Friday, that were made redundant on Tuesday, but by Friday were starting new businesses and actually helping out others within the spaces blew my mind.

I finally ‘got’ coworking and the impact it could have. And it’s what lead me to build included.co to enable and enrich communities like this all around the world.

You are the initiator of the coworking secret Santa, how did you come up with this?

Secret Santa is a common idea in the US and UK, and a few other places, and is usually done in large organizations to make sure everyone get something for Christmas without everyone having to buy a gift for every other person in their team. Which would be nuts and crazy expensive.

For a long time, both before and after launching included, I worked for myself and almost always by myself. This meant that when bigger teams were giving gifts to each other, or throwing Christmas parties, I couldn’t exactly party on my own.

Spaces do a great job of throwing parties, lunches or dinners that are inclusive and make people feel part of something bigger, but there are so many founders, freelancers, and other solo-workers who won’t get the joy of receiving something small from another person (who’s not trying to sell them something).

And so the idea was to bring 100s of these individuals, and teams who don’t want the headache of running their own internal exchange, across the coworking world to send and get a small gift this December.

The coworking world is built on collaboration, support, and community, this is just a silly way we can give another member somewhere one more reason to smile before the end of 2017.

And how do the secret Santa works?

The idea is to match up every person who joins the exchange with 1 other person across the network.

Anyone who works for or in any coworking space can join the programme from included.co/secretsanta, and this means they’re willing to send a small gift to someone else.

We recommend that the gift costs at max €7, £7 or $7, so that people can get creative without burning their wallets.

Everyone who signs up will be given (in secret) the name and workspace address of someone else who joined in. This is who they’re ‘Secret Santa’ for.

Right now we allow the members and operators of 224 communities to join in, but any coworking space can join in the fun by registering as an included partner community for free here.

How can people participate?

If you’re in a coworking community that’s already part of the included network, pop over to included.co/secretsanta and ‘Unlock’ the offer.

If you’re unsure, check the list of communities on that page, and/or ask your community managers by pinging them the included.co/secretsanta link 🙂

If your coworking community isn’t on the list, you can invite them by sharing the link or register as part of the included network here.

You already did it once last year, how did it go?

Even though it was launched last minute at the end of November 2016, it actually went really well!

We saw gifts sent between members in 6 countries and are hoping that collectively we can spread even more smiles across the coworking world this year!

And last but not least, what is your favorite thing about Christmas?

For me, I grew up with Christmas being outside by the swimming pool having a braai (or BBQ as it’s known everywhere else in the world), so the whole snowy Christmas thing isn’t what I associate with the end of the year.

As I’ve traveled since those early days, what I’ve actually grown to love about the festive season is that this holiday has become a chance for people to spread some love and happiness with the people around them, regardless of their personal beliefs or differences.

Well, that… and cozy fireplaces, hot chocolate, and little marshmallows. Obviously.

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