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Kelowna's Ant Hill Collective crawling with interest

Founding members of Ant Hill Collective are meeting weekly at the Streaming Café with an eye to opening the new collaborative office space for small businesses by the end of the year (2012). (Below) Lindsay Eason, Emmanuel Lavoie, Darrell Eason and Suzanne Wood open the doors on their new idea—the group hosted a party at the Laurel Packinghouse last fall (2011) to generate interest.  - Jennifer Smith
Founding members of Ant Hill Collective are meeting weekly at the Streaming Café with an eye to opening the new collaborative office space for small businesses by the end of the year (2012). (Below) Lindsay Eason, Emmanuel Lavoie, Darrell Eason and Suzanne Wood open the doors on their new idea—the group hosted a party at the Laurel Packinghouse last fall (2011) to generate interest.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

It appears there will be 40 or more people joining the Ant Hill Collective founders in their quest to build a sustainable business hub.

After creating a buzz last fall with the collaborative office concept, the group conducted a survey to confirm interest this month. It elicited over 40 responses from interested business owners, freelancers, artists and independent workers who connected with the call for like-minded operators intent on "making the world a better place."

Angela Reid"We've got a lot more people than I expected," said Angela Reid, owner of GreenStep Sustainability Coaching and one of the first collective members.

"I think having that many like-minded people in the same room could create some real sparks," Reid added.

The concept builds on similar office spaces in Vancouver (The HiVE), Victoria and Toronto, which offer business cost savings, such as shared reception services, and an office scene where collective members can work and intermingle. In so doing, the environment is designed to help cross-pollinate ideas, in the vein of what incubators have done for the tech sector, with businesses functioning separately, though with the ability to collaborate on everything from clients to ideas.

"It's like working from a coffee shop. You expect that there might be a little bit of distraction and background noise, but you also get a place to call work," Reid said.

Designed to address some of the work/life balance issues small business owners face living and working in the same physical space, it also gives single-person business operators the option to have co-workers.

"Having my own company, I walk out my front door and no one's there. This way I could feel more connected to other like-minded people," Suzanne Wood, owner of Keen Energy Solutions, told the Capital News last fall as the initial meetings got underway.

Wood is one of the founding members, along with Reid and her GreenStep business partners, Lindsay and Darrell Eason. Mechanical consulting engineer Emmanuel Lavoie, principal for Rocky Point Engineering, is also part of the group, as is entrepreneur Fraser Wilson, of Axiom News, who is helping set up business development services the collective hopes to offer members.

Ant Hill Collective founders Lindsay Eason, Emmanuel Lavoie, Darrell Eason and Suzanne WoodAt this point, the founders are looking at owning the actual workspace and targeting the end of the year to have the doors open; but the business model is still up for discussion.

Those hoping to have a permanent space in the building will likely be offered the option to purchase shares, with other interested parties able to rent  "hot desks" periodically without a major upfront investment.

A plan is in the works to use community bonds as part of the initial financing as the project moves forward, either with a new construction model or by retrofitting an older building.

Ant Hill Collective will likely include 1500-1700 square feet of office space, in the downtown core, though at this point an eye to future growth is being worked into the plans.

"Once the place is built, and people can feel it and touch it, I think we'll get a lot of interest and we want to able to accommodate that as well," Reid said.

Their website includes a copy of the survey and, the group is still accepting surveys or queries from those interested in being a part of the project.

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