The arrival of a coworking space on Vanier’s Montreal Road is being welcomed by entrepreneurs and freelancers from as far away as Stittsville, many of whom say a tech-centric coworking community was exactly what they needed.
Coworkly, founded by Maher Arar in 2018, is a small coworking space geared toward people in tech and software. Maher, who has a background in engineering, created the space in part because he saw a lack of workspace in Vanier and the surrounding area aimed at early stage businesses and organizations.
Victoria Landreville, Coworkly’s director of community engagement, joined the organization in its beginning stages. She was no stranger to the world of small business, having worked as a consultant for entrepreneurs for several years. She saw that same lack of workspace, with many freelancers and entrepreneurs filling up nearby cafes, and helped Maher build a space for self-employed people to get away from their home offices and meet others in similar fields.
“They’re all in the same boat,” she says of Coworkly’s members, many of whom are from the surrounding neighbourhood. Coworkly focuses on community and collaboration, hosting weekly lunch-and-learns every Thursday so members can get to know each other’s work.
Jevin Maltais, a software and artificial intelligence consultant as well as the founder of a legal tech startup, gave the first lunch-and-learn presentation. As one of Coworkly’s first members, he says the networking and collaboration opportunities are among the features that make the space so valuable to his venture.
He’s been working from home since 2010, and previously tried a couple of different coworking spaces in Ottawa and Montreal. But when Coworkly opened just a 15-minute bike ride from his Gloucester home, he says the decision was easy.
“Part of it is the community aspect and getting to talk to people,” he says. “It’s nice to have people that are a bit more tech-centric … I can share ideas with them.”
For software engineers Scott McNamara and Bruno Godbout, that tech-centric community aspect is also what drew them to Coworkly. In fact, Bruno has commuted almost five days a week from his home in Stittsville since joining Coworkly in July. He stumbled upon the space by accident while looking for an inexpensive place to park and work before a downtown meeting, and says he knew the moment he walked in that it was what he needed.
Bruno says he spent eight years working from home before he joined Coworkly.
“You end up being isolated,” Bruno says. “(Joining Coworkly) was a good opportunity to meet new people and to get some new ideas.”
Bruno says getting out of the house and into a well-designed workspace has improved the way he works.
“My productivity shot up,” he says. “I have no distractions, and the environment is very conducive to work.”
Scott and Jevin both highlighted the need for such a space east of downtown, and Victoria says the relatively high number of Vanier residents using the space shows the clear demand for it in the area. Housing costs in Vanier are low, she says, which means many self-employed entrepreneurs choose to make their home there.
Victoria says she sees Coworkly as more than a business – it’s helping to build community and foster entrepreneurship in Vanier, so that people don’t need to leave to succeed.
“We’re happy and proud to be able to represent Vanier,” she says.