A couple of weeks back, I was invited share in the beginning of a new community initiative in the outskirts of Melbourne. A group of locals from Point Cook had come together with a shared vision of being able to work in their own postcode. Seems like a simple enough request, however, Point Cook is typical of many outer suburbs of Australia's cities. Suburbs built on large tracts of land, usually with one developer driving the project, with a focus on maximising residential properties, and often little thought to the lived experience of the community, which now stands at around 40,000 residents. There is one road in and out of Point Cook
(new one under construction) now which is backed up each work day with commuters hitting the highway to Melbourne, taking up to two hours each way. I really feel for the commuters stuck in traffic each day.
BizBuddyHub is a community of small business owners in Point Cook who, in the absence of any coworking or shared office spaces in the area, pretty much all work from home, which we know is a very isolating experience, and the home is often full of distractions like pets, kids, tv and general opportunities for procrastination. The social element of the office environment is what most small business people miss the most, which is why coworking spaces are a great solution. BizBuddyHub wants to bring the local small business owners together to work, run events, and support each other to be more successful in business. Stronger small businesses mean more employment opportunities for locals and for young people growing up in Point Cook too.
I'm super excited to be involved as one of the BizBuddyHub champions, on the back of my work with The Village. Sara Mitchell, the founder, and I connected over the need for people to do what they love, in the community they love. BizBuddyHub tagline is "Live Local, Work Local, Love Local". I like the idea that working local is a way of supporting the community around you, being a part of it, rather than work being somewhere else you go to do it away from the community you are a part of.
Upon arriving in Point Cook for the pre-launch event, I was greeted by a small army of "Point Cookies" proudly wearing new BBH shirts, welcoming everyone like old friends. It was a real sense of belonging, which I feel is what we all want in our workplaces. Joanne Ryan, Federal MP for Lalor shared about how proud she was of locals standing up for what they wanted and making it happen, and that the Australian Government are watching (out of curiosity rather than anything onmious!). In fact, there are a growing number of state and local government initiatives around Australia trying to achieve exactly the ambitions of BBH: to drive employment and economic development opportunities through business hubs and coworking spaces.
I think what makes BizBuddyHub different is the strong sense of local identity and the grass-roots nature of this group. They are passionate, determined, smart, and creative around how to make it work. Whilst they are looking for a permanent home, and currently in talks with Victoria University who live nearby, they have a series of pop-up coworking days planned across different spaces in Point Cook; cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, libraries, even considering retirement villages! Just the other day they even had a cowalking netwalking event, which I think is brilliant. Another event was in the local hardware store working off of the outdoor furniture section. Check out their other events here. Importantly, what they are doing is creating a presence to the locals, forming an identity that says "We are here", "We are committed" and "We are taking action". I think this is rare in a world where we tend to talk a lot, but then leave the doing to someone else. God knows our leaders tend to be known for this. Walking the talk is needed in the world, and I love that the BBH team are taking their own future into their hands. Go team!
I'm involved with BBH because I believe that it represents the future of work. Technology already enables us to work from anywhere, but we haven't been liberated from the long commutes and activity still focused on cities. We know that coworking is a growing trend in Australia and across the world (roughly doubling every year) but many here are still concentrated in capital cities. People in regional cities, towns and outer suburban areas are hungry for places to connect, to have conversations that matter, to create opportunities for job creation, to follow their own ambitions and business ideas. To re-imagine their future, their identity, and their legacy to their children. BBH can be an inspiration to other communities around Australia to take things into their own hands, and a model to learn from. I have no doubt that Sara and the BBH team will be sharing their progress far and wide. I encourage you to follow their story, and reach out to connect with them, especially if you are living in Point Cook yourself!
Find out more at www.bizbuddyhub.com.au