Francesca – founder of Co.lab, a co-working space which offers a professional working environment with all the amenities of a regular office, and some good vibes to boot.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
It’s difficult to say. There are a lot of organizations here that are strong in terms of funding or pitching and we are happy to support them. But I’m still waiting for the big success story. For Co.lab the biggest success is that we are still around.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Going through the entrepreneurial path. I’m last remaining from the founding team. There were a lot of ups and downs and every year somebody said: or I earn that much or I don’t stay. I was not able to find a team until now which is… just as committed. A lot of people find social entrepreneurship sexy, they may think it’s a great idea but they don’t realize how difficult it is. And when that sexy factor goes away, it’s where the real work begins… and a lot of people give up. I’ve seen that a lot over the last 5 years. I‘m sure they have their own struggle also but then at same point I don’t know how interested they were in actual social impact and how much they just wanted to join the trend.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
I would like to see more spaces outside the city. We are creating relationships with communities outside of Metro Manila. We hope for more knowledge sharing activities outside. Maybe we can bring some kind of expertise and start to share it with the communities and more grassroots areas. I think long term plans will begin there and I really seek how we can start do more bridging kind of activities. At the beginning we thought co.lab would be a place for Filipinos coming back to Philippines but now it’s just a place which aims in general better brain circulation in the Philippines. You don’t have to be Filipino, you can be foreigner, you can be anybody if you have talents, skills and expertise which you want to contribute with in the Philippines.
Would you like to add something more?
Co.lab was found in 2011. Initially started out as another revenue generating department of a company that was specializing in supporting small and medium size enterprises. Later on we decided to start this co-working space, because it became clear that we need our own company to grow in different directions. We started operating in April 2011. It was not long after I came back from abroad. My friend asked me to join her to run the space and market it. We started to discuss about different places which are not your home and not your office, third places where you spend most of your time. And those are different places all over the world. It can be a library, a cafeteria, a community center, different kind of places where communities gather. At that time people with entrepreneurial ideas didn’t have any space in the Philippines to find a community, like-minded people who are on their own way to start the business. The more we learn about different third places around the world, the more we got to know about co-working. And we thought that it was fantastic, what a wonderful place to have, where we can accommodate other people who are on a similar journey, regardless the industry. We got sort of diverse people who work here. From social sector to commercial tech design, the idea behind co.lab was that here is the space where they can influence each other, learn from each other, even if it’s not intentional. We keep the space very open. We impose some kind of radical openness. This whole thing started out of necessity. On personal level, for me, I was back to the Philippines, I was trying to figure out what I want to do. It was great to create the space but I guess more important was to build a community around it so other people like me can feel that they are not alone. I think a lot of entrepreneur struggle with that sense of loneliness. We’ve got a number of people who showed their appreciation and it makes me keep going.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Manila, Philippines, 24th February 2016