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Originally published on Shared Space –

We caught up with Debra Chantry, business coach and founder of The Common Entrepreneurial Playground.

Located in a funky historical warehouse in the heart of bustling Parnell – The Common is an Entrepreneurial Club and collective community of disruptors, leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors, healers and hackers.

This month, we caught up with Debra Chantry, business coach and founder of The Common to chat about what inspired her to set up a coworking space. Debra is not only a successful business owner who has been a business coach for several years, she has been recognised by NEXT Magazine as one of the top 6 businesswomen in New Zealand. 

The beautiful and unique heritage space has high ceilings and oozes an abundance of character – an ideal space to surround yourself with people who challenge and support you to excel.

Check out the full feature below!

What inspired you to set up The Common?

Being an Entrepreneur can be a lonely game. Having worked as a business coach for over 7 years & with more than 200 businesses, I hear this all the time. Who do you get to talk to? 

Your wife, husband or partner gets fed up with your obsession with business (and they’re possible running their own business too), you can’t talk to your team about certain issues, your wage slave friends just don’t get it… So who else is there that understands what you are going through? The good & the bad.

I had this vision to create a community where Entrepreneurs meet, engage, relate, develop, enhance, grow, co-create & support each other in a trusted, fun environment where they can work on themselves & their business rather than working in their business. 

By 2022, there will be ‘The Common’ spaces around NZ & Australia and we’ll be helping 10,000 Entrepreneurs each year to achieve success.  

What is your favourite part of the space and why?

We have a flexible space that has many different areas, designed for different ways of thinking & working based around the needs of business owners & people in our community…

There’s a library, several lounges, a family style dining room area, a bar & cafe zone as well as all the traditional quiet spaces & meeting rooms plus an amazing workshop space. All of this means that members get to choose where they want to be, based on what they want to achieve… From meeting clients to running a strategy session or workshop, to having a quiet space to escape from the madness of day to day business to focus. 

No-one ‘lives’ with us & there’s no permanent desks… Our members come when they need to work on the business or on themselves. This means that you’re always bumping into someone new around the dining room table or in the cafe to share energy & exchange ideas with. Or you can situate yourself to a quiet zone. You get to choose!

“I knew we’d nailed it the other day when I saw 3 Entrepreneurs gathered around a whiteboard, drinking a beer & getting excited about the strategy that they were developing. This is what The Common is all about!”

My personal favourite space is the play area with the Scalextric slot car racing, the dart board & the board games. It’s great to see people playing a game of darts, playing strategy games or racing the Porsches… You can see that creativity starts to flow when they release themselves from the day to day business activities. 

Why do you think working from a coworking space helps people thrive?

It’s an interesting term ‘coworking’… Many of the coworking spaces don’t encourage coworking!

We’re not an office of shared desks, we’re an Entrepreneurial Community.

Unlike a traditional coworking space, our ‘members’ choose to come to the space when they want to work on their business & themselves rather than in it.

The Common is always full of surprises… Because the members create the environment, it’s the serendipitous moments that happen to make people thrive. 

Please tell us a bit about what other ventures you are also involved with.

Ventell is our Business Coaching arm. We have a team of Business Coaches who can help you take your passion for business & develop it into excellent business practices. Under my own brand, I offer Leadership Coaching, Workshop Facilitation and Keynote Speaking around Leadership, Business Growth & Entrepreneurship.

ZeroPoint Ventures is NZ’s first virtual incubator for Tech Start-ups & I am one of the Senior Coaching team.

I also work as a Business Coach for The Icehouse, Lightning Lab & Business Mentors.

Who has been the most interesting resident in your space? 

We don’t have residents… All of our businesses have their own office & team… They are ‘members’ of an Entrepreneurial Community. 

Every one of our members is fascinating! We know this because we have a ‘stocktake’ process where we take the time right at the beginning & regularly throughout their membership to review their business needs and to maintain momentum. 

The value of the Community is all of us knowing the business intimately. Through taking the time to understand every member’s business, we get to connect them to the right people, tailor the support that they need & share in their successes. 

Can you describe the community and types of businesses within The Common?

Our members are:

  • Passionate
  • Successful
  • Have made mistakes and learnt from them
  • Share great ideas
  • Help others
  • Open-minded
  • Broad thinkers
  • The NZ success stories of the future

And the Community is a safe & trusted environment where you can be challenged without being offended. Come to one of our dinners & you will meet people who have run businesses & are now in the stage of giving back as well as keen, early stage business owners passionate about engaging new ideas. This Community is sometimes challenging, but always rewarding. 

Can you tell us a bit about the educational workshops and events you run?

We are really passionate about helping Entrepreneurs to achieve both their professional & personal goals, so the workshops we run are very much tailored around this.

Imagine taking a boxing or yoga class followed by a workshop around digital transformation, followed by a sit down dinner with inspirational speakers of up to 70 people.

The content of the workshops are driven by the demand of our members & continues to evolve.

We loved seeing your space feature on Married at First Sight – what other interesting events has your space been used for?

MAFS was a bit of a coup – I had no idea so many serious business people watched reality TV… I was surprised by the emails I received from members, clients & friends / family who saw it.

However we’ve also had some pretty amazing business speakers – John Spence, one of the top 50 business presenters in the world who came over for a 2 day workshop in conjunction with the Entrepreneurs Organisation. We have Steve Lowell coming from Canada in March & Mike Handcock & Landi Jac from Rock your life, are hosting a series next year with us.

We’ve also had a Keihls Christmas Themed product launch with Christmas trees, a giant advent calendar & live carol singers. Plus there’s been a Nordik salmon leather handbag launch & we’ve been on the front cover of the Harvey Norman bedroom catalogue!

If you could pick any three people in the world to work in your space, who would it be and why?

Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg & Verne Harnish. 

I’ve always admired Richard as not only a businessman but someone who truly understand being passionate & having fun with business. I can’t wait to race the Porsches with him!

I hugely admire Sheryl as a business woman & would love to pick her brains on her career & the successes she has achieved. And on a personal level, having recently lost my brother, I’d love to talk to her also about how she coped with her grief of losing her husband.

Scaling Up is my all-time favourite business book, so I’d love to have Verne in The Common so that everyone could pick his brains on the knowledge that he has around scaling up a business.

We want The Common to continue to reflect & celebrate the rich diversity that exists across the NZ business ecosystem. We interview each potential member before we accept their application, to ensure that they all share our community values. 

*All content and images used in this article are owned by Shared Space Limited. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

Want to become a member of this space? Get in touch via their listing.

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