Article by Valeria Tavares
Opening a new co-working venture was an exciting but somewhat overwhelming challenge; deciding how to lay it out, what to include and pinpointing exactly what people would want. However, the one thing which was easy to decide on was how we were going to bring the local community together in the first place: chair painting.
What better way to meet new people than to embrace the ever-increasing trend of up-cycling? We partnered with two local companies to offer their professional expertise and advice to all the painters; bought some old wooden chairs, some Annie Sloan paint, and that was it. The most important thing to us is championing local businesses, encouraging more people into our area and working in-line with the Council re-development scheme to boost our local community. We especially like to support those in the craft and therapy sectors; so we designed some of our meeting rooms to specifically cater for those individuals, with wipe clean floors, sinks and space to put up a massage table in a relaxing and aptly decorated environment. We decided that we would start as we mean to go on, by encouraging people to come and meet others they may never have encountered before, try something new and maybe learn a thing or two.
Chairs were decorated in our signature color scheme, but each one was different, reflecting the style, values, and personality of the individual’s business. We had a variety of creative ideas, from an Osteopath painting an image of the correct way to sit in a chair, to detailed patterns and designs, showing us and the people who made them just how innovative they can be. It enabled us to get to know people before our official opening and from that day collaborations were made, which proved to us that chatting in an informal and relaxed environment, was indeed the best way to grow a small business.
The chairs were not just left by the way-side or indeed, just left to be sat on, we wanted to make a feature out of them. We wanted people to return to Signal and feel proud of ‘their chair,’ start a talking point about why their design was the way it was and allow relationships to build. So, each chair has an engraved plaque, with the artists’ name and URL of their business, ensuring the networking and collaborative nature of our co-working space is always in action. Each maker’s picture was also taken with their chair, explaining a little about the painter with their business details on; these have now been displayed in our own mini art gallery.
Making it easier for small businesses to develop, connect and grow in an informal environment is a philosophy which we intend to rely upon throughout the development of the UK’s first Seats2Meet partner.