Start small, share space and save

GuavaLabs and Mox offer co-working spaces for those in dynamic industries such as fitness or fashion design

As rents skyrocket year-on-year in land-scarce Singapore, it is no surprise that co-working spaces can now be found here by the dozen.

The concept is simple - individuals or companies can rent office or desk space by the year, month, day or even hour. As a result, they avoid shouldering astronomical rents on entire offices, while also often finding themselves in a shared ecosystem of like-minded entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Till very recently though, this sharing-is-caring mantra did not seem to extend to professionals who require more than just a desk and an electrical socket to power their businesses - think individuals in dynamic industries such as fitness or fashion design.

If you needed special spaces such as a yoga studio or expensive equipment such as industrial sewing machines, you were often left high and dry when it came to finding costeffective ways to run your business.

Not anymore - thanks to co-wellness space GuavaLabs at OUE Downtown and co-making space Mox at Katong Point, which have stepped in to fill the void.

Using the same idea as co-working spaces, these niche offshoots offer specialised facilities that can be rented by people in the fitness or creative industries so they, too, can be empowered to run or grow their businesses at a pocket-friendly price.

Started in July, GuavaLabs has various studios that can be rented out by businesses or freelance instructors for a flat rate or through a profit-sharing model.

Similarly, at Mox, launched on Oct 14, creative professionals pay a monthly membership for access to specialised workshop rooms - including a 3D-printing studio and a sewing room. All the facilities can also be rented by the public at nominal rates.

It is no surprise, then, that both co-sharing spaces are experiencing healthy take-up rates despite being relatively new to the market.

Freelance yoga instructor Liz Tan is keen to rent the yoga studio at GuavaLabs.

The 29-year-old says: "Unless you are an experienced teacher, the rates offered by yoga schools can be quite low - more so if you're a part-timer like me. It therefore makes more sense for me to rent a space - at least that way I am in charge of my schedule and am also able to keep all the proceeds from each class I teach.

"It's a win-win."


Teach yoga, barre and more here

For most entrepreneurs looking to take the plunge and set up shop in the city, there is little choice but to look high and low for a venue, invest heavily and hope for the best.

But Ms Deb Loveridge, owner of boutique fitness studio Speed Fitness at Turf City, got a chance to test the waters in a much less risky way, through co-wellness space GuavaLabs in Shenton Way.

The 3,200 sq ft space that opened in July was started by the two American co-founders behind GuavaPass, a Singapore-based fitness app that lets users book a variety of classes at boutique studios for a fixed monthly rate. The unlimited class package costs $179 a month.

Located in the basement of the swanky OUE Downtown building, the offline offshoot of the business is outfitted with a yoga studio, a barre and dance studio, a mixed-use room with a variety of equipment, a juice bar, retail space and luxurious locker room amenities. All the rooms are available for rent by freelance instructors or boutique studios, starting at $60 an hour.

Also on site is Still, Singapore's first aqua bag boxing studio, which is owned by GuavaPass.

For Ms Loveridge, 56, using GuavaLabs as a test bed for the past three months has made complete sense.

"We had been considering the idea of opening a second outlet in the city, but wanted to test whether our business model was scalable and how we would schedule trainers should we open another branch."

She got a chance to do just that at GuavaLabs, where Speed instructors now teach high intensity interval training every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Others who have benefited are freelance instructors, who often just want a small space so they can build up their client base or work with clients one-on-one. Even experienced instructors seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, given that booking a studio through GuavaLabs means their classes are promoted through the GuavaLabs concierge and they are able to keep all the revenue from each class.

Freelance pilates instructor Nura Tan, 43, is keen to start teaching classes there as she has a loyal base of regular clients she sees weekly. "Instead of getting paid by a studio, this arrangement makes more sense to me. The studio is centrally located and I've been teaching long enough that I can comfortably fill a class," she says. "Plus, I might even be able to get new students on board and that's a big plus for a freelancer like me."


Rent 3D-printing, leather-crafting and sewing workspaces

When baker and cake-decorator Heidi Tay, 24, started thinking about starting her own business, she was stumped by the amount it would cost to rent and renovate a decent-sized baking studio.

"I wanted to create a space that would feel homey and friendly, not rigid and intimidating. But to do that would require a big space and rental I could not afford," she says.

Thankfully, she landed the opportunity to set up her dream baking studio and retail space at new independent design workspace Mox in Katong, which officially launched on Oct 14.

On the first floor of Mox, Ms Tay has a bright and cheery open-plan baking studio, a lounge with a sofa and a television and ample space to display her wares for sale. Her neighbours are floral studio Hello Flowers and coffee shop Choice Cuts, which also sells vinyl records.

"I've been able to design the space I want and the cheaper rental means I can pass those savings to my customers by offering cakes and baking workshops at much more affordable prices," Ms Tay says.

The 40,000 sq ft, three-storey co-making space is a $1-million joint venture between real estate investment firm Buxani, which owns the building, and retail space booking platform Invade, which organised the recent Artbox Asia tour and i Light Marina Bay last year.

Invade founder Kent Teo, 32, says: "As organisers of flea markets and pop-up markets, we noticed the concerns of creative entrepreneurs, who often struggle with high rents or the cost of expensive equipment. Those are the issues we wanted to help address with Mox."

Mox - whose name comes from the word "moxie", meaning daring to be different - is designed with creatives in mind. It offers not only unique experiential retailing businesses, but also has photography, 3D-printing, sewing, woodworking and leather-crafting studios and a full co-working space, where individuals or start-ups can rent offices or flexible desks.

Monthly rentals for spaces start at $295 and are on flexible terms of one, three, six or 12 months. The workshop rooms can also be rented by the public at nominal hourly rates of between $15 and $40.

Mr Ah Foo, 30, chief executive of powerbank-sharing service Nomo, rents a 180 sq ft private office here.

His company operates a business similar to bike-sharing services, except powerbanks are leased out instead. Users sign up for an account, pay a $19.90 refundable deposit and scan a QR code to unlock a powerbank at $1 for 24 hours.

He says of his decision to work out of Mox: "Not only is this an affordable option for us, but we also like being in such a vibrant environment, where we can exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs and creatives in the building."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Start small, share space and save'. Print Edition | Subscribe