Like all good ideas, the concept of Craftspace is extremely simple. On the one hand, there are young entrepreneurs, freelancers and artists who are not always able or willing to have workspaces of their own. On the other, there are many craft enterprises, restaurants, workshops and studios that are unused for hours or even days at a time. The Craftspace online platform brings the two together to their mutual benefit: the owner of the space gains some extra income, while creatives gain a professional workspace without any of the usual complications.
The idea of Craftspace was born out of necessity. Til Rochow, a business consultant from Hamburg with a doctorate in economics, wanted to set up an independent food truck business with a couple of friends – which ultimately became Holy Dogs, Hamburg’s supplier of premium hot dogs. Although they were quickly able to acquire and equip a vehicle, he and his colleagues struggled when it came to finding somewhere to prepare the food. Rochow only needed a kitchen for 5-8 hours a week, yet a professional kitchen meeting food regulatory standards would have been far too expensive for the few hours it would be in use. So he began looking for a kitchen to rent, but it took many lengthy phone calls and a great deal of painstaking online research before he found one. “Surely this could be done much more quickly and easily,” he thought – and Craftspace was born. With the help of two friends from his student days, Christoph Lange and Robert Frisinger from Bremen, he began to make his idea a reality.
Craftspace was created in February 2016, and in the two months that followed, more than 100 production sites had signed up to the online platform. Initially, the service was only available in Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, yet it immediately proved to be a considerable success. The range of properties is vast: in Bremen alone they include everything from recording and photography studios to kitchens and carpentry workshops. A chocolatier, a jeweller and a screen printing workshop have also put forward their spaces. “There’s plenty of demand,” says Lange, the second member of the trio. “With this platform, we’ve hit on three important future trends. The first is the sharing economy, sharing instead of buying. You’ve also got the DIY scene and maker culture, which is flourishing everywhere – technology enthusiasts who love to tinker about with new concepts such as 3D printing. Finally, our platform captures the zeitgeist of the modern working world, enabling self-employed professionals and freelancers to work on an order-by-order basis, without being bound to a specific location and without having to invest in machines and equipment.”
For Lange and his co-founders, the fundamental meaning of a start-up is freedom. And with Craftspace, they want to make possible as much as possible. “Many people no longer like the idea of being attached to a particular company their whole lives,” explains Lange. “But they do have a great deal of respect for those who are self-employed. With this platform, we can make the initial hurdles easier to overcome.” Need to hire a professional kitchen to test out whether you can mass produce the marmalade that grandma used to make? With Craftspace, it’s not a problem.
You can create a profile on the platform free of charge – Craftspace only receives a commission when a lease agreement is actually signed. “We want to be for workspaces what Airbnb is to the hospitality industry: a simple way of bringing people together,” says Lange. The company is in the process of establishing its structure and developing its professional image, and ultimately hopes to expand its concept to other cities. Fast growth has been key to preventing others from imitating their idea, helping them hold on to the claim of being the only workspace provider of this kind in the world. To make all this happen, the team – which has grown beyond the original three – has pulled out all the stops, calling on trade associations, chambers of commerce, agencies and networks in order to reach as many production site owners as possible. “The feedback has been very positive – we’ve been able to convince a lot of people to work with us,” remarks Lange.
The owners of these spaces are the ones who often need the most reassurance. “What happens if my machines are damaged?” “What if I suddenly need to use my kitchen after all?” “What if a stranger messes everything up?” Lange is convinced that contact between the owner and the user is key: “The platform serves to facilitate communication. And that’s the most important thing – that space providers and those interested in hiring them talk to one another, get to know one another and come to an agreement. Anyone who is prepared to pay several hundred euros to hire a workshop knows to use the space responsibly, as well.” And in the event that something does break, this is also covered – if private or business liability insurance does not fully cover the damage, Craftspace’s insurance offers an additional level of security.
Craftspace is likely to build up its own community over time. The three entrepreneurs are convinced that shared spaces where people work alongside one another, and meet and talk to each other, will also bring about collaborative projects and new ideas. This is also the idea behind Kalle Co-Werkstatt in Bremen, one of the production sites listed on Craftspace. Saskia Behrens is the workshop manager there. She’s happy to have stumbled on a platform with such a wide variety of creative offerings. “I’m convinced that, with the help of Craftspace, many creative entrepreneurs have managed to quickly and easily find the right place to lay the foundations for their business, their ideas and their dreams. The Kalle Co-Werkstatt benefits in that we gain some additional publicity and reach a wider audience without the added cost,” explains the freelance designer. The sign-up process was incredibly simple: “I sent through details of our workspace, these were entered into Craftspace’s interface and formulated appropriately, I approved it – done.” True to Craftspace’s motto, ‘Machen einfach machen’ – making, made easy.
You can find Kalle Co-Werkstatt’s profile on Craftspace here: http://craftspace.de/space/kalle-co-werkstatt/