Do The Hustle - with Melissa Bowen
I had the immense privilege of spending the afternoon with experienced Perth marketer Melissa Bowen, who's just launched her co-working space with a difference My Hustle, in her South Freo bar, Percy Flint.
Melissa is no stranger to marketing, or business for that matter - being the owner of Picabar, Percy Flint and now My Hustle.
Backtrack a while and Melissa's pedigree leaves nothing wanting. She's had an impressive career in media in Perth as journalist and at the helm of The West Australian among others. I can attest to that fact that she's a bit of a Perth media darling. But don't let that fool you marketers, she's no slouch.
With 3 small children, 2 bars and a new co-working initiative she's a busy lady - and I was lucky that she made time to take me on a behind the scenes tour of her new venture, My Hustle, and let me pick her brains about the marketing strategy behind turning her South Freo bar (that's only open nights) into a growing co-working space for flexible workers not looking to be locked into a long term lease.
Flexibility Is Key
Because that's the main difference here - you can book a day, or a meeting space for an hour and not be locked in to a monthly contract.
One of the other differences is that it's not a haven for tech startups. Not that there's anything wrong with those that are - but it can be intimidating for some. If you're working a day a week on your side hustle, you don't need to feel inferior to the coolness that sometimes exudes from the co-working space scene.
Here there's consultants of all kinds; and lawyers, mortgage brokers, sales reps and everything in between! Even a vet working on a side hustle and some hairdressers who host their monthly meetings.
It's as diverse as South Freo itself, and I guess that's the key.
The marketing plan for My Hustle is a phased approach, and the first port (hehe, Freo pun) of call is the local South Fremantle community.
Fremantle, and South Fremantle especially, have community in spades. It's a subculture where craft beer rubs shoulders with soulful businesses and coffee aficionados, right next door to old school pizzerias and op shops.
It's got everything, and the locals love it. But what they don't love is that in this day and age they're stuck commuting to the city. Enter 'co-working'.
"Working from home" isn't necessarily an accurate term. Remote working means you save yourself a sometimes lengthy and stressful commute. In 2019 this shouldn't be a necessity, and with the rise of flexible working situations more people are taking up the option.
But home isn't necessarily the answer either. Especially for women as Melissa explained to me. The domestic guilt many women feel, such as that basket of washing giving them the eye as they try to work from home, often means an interrupted work day. There's no visible washing baskets to distract you at My Hustle.
I guess that's why it's not surprising that a lot of the first people to trial the new space are business women. They need a work sanctuary, and often feel more isolated working remotely - missing the bonds of colleagues to share ideas with. Not that this is in any way a girlie or women only space. In fact it's decked out like a den, or library of old complete with library ladder behind the bar (want!)
But let's get onto the marketing.
Marketing My Hustle
My Hustle is offering a free trial of the space. Which is important for you to be able to test the viability of the offering for you as a punter, but more than that - it allows the business to fine tune their offering. A smart marketing move.
This business didn't spring up and demand an immediate return - it's an offshoot in a way. An opportunity to diversify the offering of the small bar in existence there, that's closed during the day. So they have time to get it right, and give the community (and the wider Perth small business community) what they actually want in a flexible co-working venue.
But Melissa is the first to admit that it won't work for everyone. Some people will want a more structured option, and that's totally ok - My Hustle is offering a solution to those whose businesses are more fluid and don't fit naturally into a normal co-working payment structure.
Anyway, they're starting with the locals. The one's they've been talking to and serving drinks to in Percy Flint for some time. The South Freo alumn.
They did some work on this (other than the word of mouth over the bar, which let's face it doesn't go astray) but with letter drops, and some local Facebook group posting.
Interestingly Melissa can marry up Facebook group posting to actual spikes in her Google Analytics - so people were keen to find out more.
That's been coupled with some PR from publishers like Urban List and the Community News, which Melissa is keen to point out, still has a place in a wider PR strategy, and some hyper-local Facebook Ads to encourage local residents to come and see the space.
Add into the mix their accessibility to F&B sales reps who often work from the car between meetings, they were able to survey their target audience before bringing My Hustle to life - pretty handy, and a lesson a lot of business owners either don't have the luxury or simply don't think of doing.
The next phase will include the wider Perth business community - especially those looking for a SOR base on an ad hoc basis. This includes sales reps and freelancers and more who commute for meetings in the area that will no longer need to stay on the road once they're there. They can have a viable base camp, cutting down precious time commuting.
The final phase is to target interstate travellers who are sick of working on their laps or out of hotel business centres. The difference? You ACTUALLY get looked after here. The staff are accustomed to a level of service way above what most corporate spaces are capable (or willing) to provide.
Melissa believes in a phased approach, including soft launch, a period of testing, refining the offer, and then a hard launch, some more refining and ultimately expansion to other venues.
As this is all rolling out there'll also to be an official launch party, a series of special guest events to add value for local business owners, and some "artist in residence" style arrangements so that your co-working space never gets stale AND has some great business resources for you to draw on.
Interestingly, there's something a bit more to the marketing story. Great marketing doesn't just help your brand - it helps the community around it, and the My Hustle story does exactly that with their membership benefits. Their discounts program is a key to both the service and marketing.
All My Hustle co-workers receive a My Hustle keyring tapping them into a local discounts program designed to help “you and your business thrive" because the My Hustle crew fully understand what motivates their ideal client, and they also know that anything good for the local community is good for them and vice versa.
This program is tracked so they can determine the most popular services to help them mould their offering.
Offering real world benefits and turning your neighbouring businesses into advocates to help spread the word about a new player on the scene - a perfect storm.
My personal thoughts? The space is excellent - it's not going to suit every application, but where does if we're honest?
The staff are hospitality trained so they're actually hospitable and can't do enough for you. The coffee and the wifi is strong (I got 85 download and 35 upload before their upgraded router was installed - video people I'm feeling you!) which is super important to me when looking for spaces to work from.
Add to that the sunny courtyard and the close proximity to a fully stocked bar and I'm convinced.
So if you're a marketer on the go, check out the free trial - and if you're reading this from interstate, there's a flexible non-CBD option you'll be happy to meet clients in.
You'll see me there whenever I can justify the commute, which I hope is often.