Modupe Macaulay always knew she wanted to work for herself.
After gaining a Bachelors degree in Computer Science, Macaulay continued along the set trajectory of gaining both work and volunteer experience, employed as a copywriter at an advertising agency for a year before returning to school. She earned a Masters in Management at Warwick, and it was during this time that the benefits of co-working became increasingly apparent. “As students we would always meet and discuss things, bouncing ideas off each other, and I thought that this was a valuable way to learn that didn't need to be restricted to just school,” she says.
Although initially Macaulay was unaware of the existence of formal co-working spaces, she learned of these facilities elsewhere in the world after reading about them on Brainpickings.org. This planted the seed for CapitalSquare, a co-working space that has now been in operation in Lagos since November 2013. Through working as a graduate trainee at Nestle while the idea began to take shape, Macaulay quickly concluded that to realise the vision, she would need to leave her job to focus on the start-up full time. “I just thought to myself, I’m young, “I’m educated, and if it doesn't work out, I will still have earned some experience to use on my CV if I have to go back and look for work,” she says. This isn’t a career move that will seem likely though, as Capital Square has grown from strength to strength since opening last year.
What is co-working?
Co-working is a way of working that brings together freelancers, entrepreneurs and small start-ups in one space.
These businesses can be completely independent of one another, yet share the office space and facilities. There are many benefits of this type of work arrangement, especially for people looking cost-effective solutions to finding office space. “Office space is so expensive in Lagos, and CapitalSquare offers entrepreneurs an affordable way to share office space, resources, everything. Because the costs are shared too, you’re not paying as much as you would if you were trying to do this all yourself,” explains Macaulay, adding that she personally supervised the construction of the building to ensure it’s sound development. “In a civilized society, having a properly constructed building with everything in working order probably wouldn't be a big deal, but for entrepreneurs here, having this at CapitalSquare is a huge advantage.”
Another primary benefit is the aspect of community. Workers can share knowledge and ideas, network and even find opportunities for joint ventures or business. An individual working in CapitalSquare recently wanted to move to Lekki (where the offices are located), but expressed concern over not having an estate agent. “There was an estate agent working in Capital Square, so I made the introduction. Now that estate agent has won new business, simply by showing up to work,” says Macaulay.
While today CapitalSquare offers entrepreneurs the ability to find new customers, business partners and opportunities, getting the venture off the ground wasn't without its challenges.
Taking a hands-on approach
Macaulay’s primary investor is her father, and she was keen to take a hands-on approach managing the finances when setting up CapitalSquare from the beginning.
The high price tag of Nigerian office space aside, one of the primary challenges was ensuring the money was spent wisely on sourcing high quality materials, and finding trustworthy tradesmen to put everything together.
“Making sure things like the electrical wiring and other building aspects worked correctly was a challenge,” says Macaulay. Getting the space ready safely and on budget ultimately contributed to her decision to leave Nestle and oversee the construction. After getting it up and running, the next hurdle was getting the word out about CapitalSquare, and educating people about the perks of co-working. “Co-working is not something that people are familiar with, so just getting people to understand what we’re doing was a bit of a challenge,” she says. Thus far, the response has been positive, and the next phase of development will focus on the marketing and outreach to spread the word about Capital Square. After the recent success of a recent open day, there will be another free event held on July 18th, at which individuals can meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and learn more about the benefits of co-working. CapitalSquare is offering 10% off new monthly subscriptions, and also a chance to work out of the facility for free. You can find out more here.
Looking back on the success of CapitalSquare, Macaulay advises other entrepreneurs to not be afraid to ask for help when launching a new business. “One thing I’ve learnt is that ideas are common – it’s execution that matters. No one is going to do something exactly the same way you do it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Starting a business may not be the easiest thing to do, and be aware that you might fail, but embrace that challenge. Don’t let it hold you back.”
This article originally appeared on My Metro