Building a stand-alone business from an ancillary service
The Hoxton has long since been synonymous with coworking, thanks to its informal lobbies that act as a honeypot for local entrepreneurs, freelancers and business travellers. But this autumn, Ennismore, the owner and developer behind The Hoxton, is launching a dedicated coworking concept, Working From, in London and Chicago. How will it work in parallel with the hotel offering, and how has the brand built a stand-alone business while drawing on the success of its flagship hotels? Click. spoke to Martina Luger, CMO at Ennismore, to get the inside story.
Click.: Hotels have been integrating coworking spaces in their properties for some time now, and The Hoxton has always been a bit of an unofficial coworking spot. Why develop an arm of the business that caters specifically to this market?
Luger: We’d had people coworking, as a free service, from day one in the Shoreditch lobby. As coworking has become more prevalent, the demands [for this kind of service] are actually a lot more. It felt quite natural to evolve into a more fully enhanced service - the lobby being the entry-level coworking, with guests using it informally, quickly or sporadically, and then moving on to Working From when they need more service and more experience.
Creating a coworking environment was something we were quite conscious of from the beginning; it’s great for bringing the locals in and enhancing the vibe. It’s partly down to the design, partly culture and also our message: we actively say this is a space you can use. People feel comfortable, like it's their own home - they practically have their shoes off. We see people who've actually set their companies up from our lobbies. I definitely see those kind of repeat visitors as a key part of this process.
Click.: How do you see the service working in parallel with the hotel?
Luger: We didn’t create this to grow our corporate or group business offering, we believe there is more of a new business opportunity to be had, but there is a crossover and that’s why we have created things like the day passes so our hotel guests can make use of the space if they need to as an additional service. There's quite a lot of fluidity between the two - hotel guests needing space and locals already using the lobbies and restaurants.
We’re making sure that we leverage the hotel, building lots of connections so that we can offer enhanced service to members or an additional access point if people have guests travelling in or they are working late themselves. There's so much synergy across the space.
For members who are there more permanently, the product offering that we can give them is based a lot on our hotels - things like desk service rather than room service. We offer duvet days so that members who are in a studio or office get two days a year where they can work from a hotel room - those days where you feel a bit rough but well enough to work or you just want a different experience. We do deadline days where if anyone rings the hotline after 9pm when they are working late, we give them a room for US$50 if there is availability.
Click.: Do you have a distinct audience in mind, or will the concept be more broad-reaching?
Luger: We're very democratic and inclusive as a brand, and one of the things I think sets us apart is that we don't say we're for a particular target market, it’s more around mindset and shared values. We are open for all and want a diverse atmosphere. [Working From] is going to be more small to medium-sized businesses, by the nature of the product, but we’re definitely looking for diversity across a number of fields, which creates more of a natural mix. We have guests from all variety of ages and backgrounds, but they're all really of the same values - design-conscious, culturally curious, unpretentious, informal. If you’ve got those values you’ll likely gravitate towards our space.
Click.: Working From echoes some of the initiatives The Hoxton has integrated into the hotels, reflecting more of a lifestyle than a corporate brand concept. Is this intentional?
Luger: Absolutely. We do see Working From as its own brand but it's also part of The Hoxton family. The distinction between work and home is not quite so distinct anymore. You are not a different person when you're working - you still have the same things that you value in life. We definitely felt that was what people are looking for, this residential lifestyle feel. Everyone likes that feeling of working from home - the comfort, the ease, the relaxation - so we're trying to blend those two.
When you walk into someone's home you don't walk into a space that's been developed by brand guidelines, it’s been developed as a reflection of the people who are in it. Our hotels and coworking spaces will be the same. We create a framework but it’s the people that make it real, and so it’s been critical for us to partner with the right businesses in the local community. You want a space that organically changes, as your own home does, and that will be true of our coworking.
- Ennismore opened its first Working From coworking space this autumn in Chicago, US, with a second coming in January 2020 in London, UK
- Working From will be a stand-alone business but act as an extension of The Hoxton’s approach and values, leveraging the hotel’s services to create an enhanced coworking offering
- While Working From will provide an additional ancillary service for hotel guests, it was not developed to increase corporate bookings but to fulfil an ambition to create a new business
- The group hopes to grow the business organically, partnering with synergistic local businesses and creating an environment that reflects the people that use it - design-conscious, culturally curious, unpretentious, informal