Case Studies / Space profiles
- Society Mission: “To support and amplify the social impact sector by providing the social cohesion, human capital, and resources that enable our members and partners to thrive."
- Owner - Land: Private Sector
- Owner - Building / Improvements: Private Sector; with some Tenant Improvements by the HiVE Vancouver Society
- Tenant: HiVE Vancouver Society
- Rent/Lease/Own: Leased Address: 210 - 128 West Hastings St., Vancouver BC, V6B 1G8
- Square Footage: 12,000 sq/ft (9,000 in original space, 3,000 in expansion)
- Year Opened: 2011 Original/Legacy space; 2017 West Expansion space
- Space/Facility Type: Co-work/Shared Space, Office, Multi-Functional
- Organizational Type: Registered Not-For Profit
- Space/Facility Use: Space Provider/Developer
- Programs/Services Delivered: Coworking space for member and partner non-profits, social enterprises and small businesses with supports such as the Social Impact Support Group, event space, meeting room rentals, mail and other services.
- Website: https://www.hivevancouver.com/
concept & Need
Partnerships & People
TIMeline & steps to realization
Operations & tenanting
impact & lessons learned
The HiVE is a 12,000 sq/ft coworking social impact space located on West Hastings St in Gastown, Vancouver. Much more than just coworking, the HiVE offers community events, workshops and a variety programs that align with its vision of building networks of knowledge, connection and innovative action. The HiVE opened its original 9,000 sq/ft space in 2011, after a year and a half of community input and visioning sessions that created the support needed to launch the space. Located in a private sector property, the HiVE used a mix of funding and financing options to secure its first lease and renovate the space. In 2017, the HiVE expanded across the hallway, signing a new lease to create HiVE West with an additional 3,000 sq/ft. As a space provider, the HiVE hosts 98 permanent desks, 4 private offices, 30 ‘hot desks', 5 meeting rooms and 3 lounges.
The initial idea of the HiVE started in 2005 at a visioning session where Eesmyal Santos-Brault was doing work to establish his company Recollective Consulting. The facilitator asked participants to imagine their respective projects and companies five years into the future and the kind of tangible / intangibles that would reflect their work environment. For Eesmyal the vision was, "we go to the office, it's a big space, there's a lot of hustle bustle, lots of different disciplines, heritage, brick, it's a funky space, a lot of collaboration but not everyone is our employee – we are sharing space, there's some research going on, partnerships with academia, maybe even a makerspace, some creatives...”.
“We did a proof [of] concept at a… space in Chinatown and that's how I met Jeremy. We shared space together and as [we] shared ideas, I learned about Jeremy's experience at a coworking space in Halifax. We wanted to scale up at the original space, so we tried it, and it failed. [We] were try[ing] to do it just by ourselves. I think that's the reason why it failed”. Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Co-Founder, HiVE
While Eesmyal formed his early idea of a coworking space, Jeremy Murphy was involved in starting Hub Halifax in 2007, after following a similar line of thinking in what it would take to create a diverse coworking space for his own company and others. Jeremy, brought these new experiences and ideas with him to Vancouver. When he met Eesmyal, the two discovered that they shared many of the same ideas around the vision of a coworking space.
With HiVE Co-founder Jeremy Murphy, the pair realized that a community-founded space with more credibility and support would have greater success at achieving the fledgling vision of a coworking social impact space in Vancouver. The first HiVE session brought 70 people together to discuss a vision, which was quickly followed by a second session delving into questions such as “What are the details of that space? What does it feel like? Who's going to work there? What part of town will be in?” Two years of building a vision, sometimes meeting twice a week, established the foundational coworking ethos, as well as base design specifications for what type of space was needed and desired.
“In 2008, coworking was a new idea starting to take root around the world, although its inception was happening largely independently." Jeremy Murphy, Co-Founder, the HiVE
HiVE Kitchen and Lounge
Photo Credit: Ronalds Lee
After the first visioning sessions, the founding Steering Committee was formed and comprised of: Erica Crawford, Nicole Jasinski, Remy Kovacs, Martin Knowles, Matthew Lahey, Jeff Rotin, Jeff Malmgren, Jeremy Murphy, Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Michel Labrie, Tom Wynn, Claudie Bierth, and Maia Love. Eventually, the Steering Committee evolved into the Board which was/is responsible for the direction and governance of the HiVE.
Vancity Credit Union came in early to support the initial work of the Steering Committee, including funding for a feasibility study to outline financial options for creating the HiVE, completed by consultant, Scott Hughes of CapacityBuild Consulting.
From that, the Steering Committee collaborated with a related non-profit, Vancouver Design Nerds, to leverage their successful non-profit financial history to sign the initial lease—the building owner being somewhat wary of a non-profit without a financial history. For the 2017 expansion, HiVE worked with their tenant Concerto to secure the expansion lease. Recollective also played a role in supporting HiVE through its start-up phases, in addition to financial contributions by members of the Board and the Co-Founders.
The steps to realizing the HiVE coworking space required (in Jeremy and Eesymal’s words) a ‘bootstrap’ approach—that is—bare bones financial with lots of volunteer effort. With limited funds and a desire to create buy-in from a supportive community, a crowdfunding campaign (before crowdfunding was commonplace) was set up using a Paypal link and a counter widget to track the number of donors. The goal: to raise $18,000 in 6 days. If the campaign was successful, donations would go towards the first month’s rent of space at the HiVE. The PayPal campaign exceeded its goal, and the lease was signed by Vancouver Design Nerds with Recollective Consulting as a co-signer. Through the crowdfunding campaign, sufficient donors were identified as having interest in space at the HiVE, allowing the co-work space to open in 2011 at 60% capacity.
With the lease signed, the urgency to properly outfit the co-work space required a concerted effort by many people volunteering their time. Board member Tom Wynn had access to organizations and companies that were downsizing and getting rid of furniture, office equipment, partitions, etc. A series of work parties enabled volunteers to do everything from installing IT wiring and cabling, to decorating the space. Additionally, a Tenant Improvement Allowance provided by the landlord covered costs such as hiring of a contractor to complete some of the base building (plumbing, electrical, and kitchen) and design work.
After the first year of operation, a clause in the lease agreement permitted Recollective to transfer the lease to the HiVE Vancouver Society pending stable financials for the HiVE. The original deposit was converted to a loan and some of the original founding members put in personal money to assist with cash flow. Because Recollective Consulting’s name was also on the lease with the Vancouver Design Nerds, Eesmyal admits a personal motivation to see the HiVE succeed—any failure of the HiVE would have had adverse effects on his company Recollective.
In 2016, the HiVE renewed their lease and Vancity Community Foundation (VCF) provided technical assistance to establish an operating pro forma to assess HiVE’s operating budget. At the time, the HiVE was considering an expansion of the space and VCF assisted the HiVE in understanding whether or not the coworking space could financially take on the additional 3,000 sq/ft.
“The Vancouver Design Nerds Society and their non-profit status was used for the first few years (before HiVE was incorporated) when we received the first grant from Vancity [Credit Union]. But once we did a crowd-fund and signed the lease, that was all done through Recollective.” Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Co-Founder, HiVE
The HiVE - Timeline
Community Engagement: 2009
Business Plan: 2010
Expansion Feasibility: 2016
Secure Lease: 2017
- $18,000 – Crowdfunding Campaign
- $10,000 – Vancity Credit Union (feasability plan)
- $100,000 – Tenant Improvement Allowance
- $100,000 – In-Kind Furnishings and Labour (estimate)
- $50,000 – Private Loans
- $278,000 – Total Revenue (estimate)
When the HiVE completed its debt consolidation with Vancity Credit Union in the fall of 2016, the aim was to create a stronger financial position that would enable the HiVE to build a financial cushion so reserve funds did not need be used on an ongoing basis. Navigating day-to-day operations of the HiVE to ensure financial sustainability, remains a priority for the organization.
A core idea of the HiVE is providing a space to non-profits and social enterprises and handling the administrative responsibilities of operating a space so that the people using the HiVE do not have to worry about such tasks and can focus on their work. This operating model can have its challenges.
In 2016, a new lease was signed for the existing space with an increase in expenses by 18%. The decision to stay in with the existing space was not made lightly. The Board and Co-founders researched six other similar spaces in Vancouver and ultimately realized that the costs of relocation and potential loss of memberships would be more disruptive than staying with the more expensive existing space.
Today, there are two properties which make up the HiVE. The East (Legacy or original) space and the West (Expansion). The East property bears the majority of financial overhead while West is mostly profitable with little additional financial overhead. Prior to signing the new lease for the East (Legacy) space, the HiVE had been building a financial cushion but the rise in rental rates eliminated that. This created a financial condition that strongly supported expansion to the WEST and acquisition of more ‘profitable’ space. The VCF operating pro forma provided a tool to observe the revenue evolutions of the HiVE, and to understand how increased expenses could be managed/absorbed.
The HiVE holds the Head Lease in the East (Legacy) space while one of the HiVE member groups, Concerto, holds the Head Lease on the West (Expansion) space. Essentially, HiVE subleases from Concerto with Concerto retaining 3 of the 4 private offices in West (Expansion) space.
In total, the HiVE has approximately 98 permanent desks, 30 hot desk spaces, 5 meeting rooms, 4 private offices and 3 lounges.
"[The underlying motivation for creating the HiVE was] creating community. We are always fighting isolation and supporting social impact."
Melissa Hope - Director of Operations, the HiVE.
Photo Credit: Vancouver Design Nerds
Security of tenure for the HiVE remains top of mind, spurring thinking about ideal scenarios to achieving longevity for not only the HiVE but other similar non-profits and social enterprises spaces in Vancouver. Co-location and creating a larger hub is increasingly considered by the HiVE. However, a real barrier to purchasing or co-purchasing a building is having the time and leadership to make it happen. The HiVE is a unique organization in that they have demonstrated it is possible to create an amazing community based coworking space in a real estate market like Vancouver’s. With assistance towards co-purchasing a space—in particular guidance on how to finance through innovative measures, the HiVE believes that groups like theirs, with their vision and entrepreneurial spirit, could make it all happen.
Co-founders, Jeremy and Eesmyal acknowledge that the HiVE’s creation has played into in the gentrification of Hastings Street, which has been transformed since they first arrived in 2011. As a social impact organization, HiVE believes it is important to give back to the surrounding community. The HiVE offers a desk bee exchange program and discounted community memberships for non-profits and Downtown Eastside organizations. The HiVE tries to balance its role in gentrification with the resources it has. With a representative from Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association on the Board, the HiVE continues to consider the issues and needs of the Downtown Eastside.
"A sweet success [for realizing the HiVE] has been community engagement. One thing we discovered for the ongoing engagement of community is [that] it's difficult to sustain. You can have events, and lunchtime [events] and parties but you need dedicated people who are in charge of that. It is a coworking space: people come here to do their work, and there [are] deadlines and people are busy and you just get focussed on your computer screen and it takes a lot to draw you out of that and get you to come back to your workspace for a party at the end of the day. You need people that are being the dedicated activators of the community in order to do it well."
Jeremy Murphy - Co-Founder, the HiVE
© 2018 Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative. Portions of this Case Study may be reproduced for research and educational purposes. Please credit: “Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative www.socialpurposerealestate.net”
SPRE Case Study Interviewees:
- Eesmyal Santos-Brault - Co-Founder. Interviewed: August 9, 2017
- Jeremy Murphy - Co-Founder. Interviewed: August 9, 2017
- Melissa Hope - Director of Operations. Interviewed: July 10, 2017
- Bill Aube – former Development Advisor, Vancity Community Foundation. Interviewed: August 24, 2017
- About the HiVE (2017). Hive Vancouver. http://www.hivevancouver.com/about/#board
- Desk Bee Exchange Program (2017). HiVE Vancouver. https://www.hivevancouver.com/programs/desk-bee/
2. Hub Halifax is an expansion of the international hub network. http://thehubhalifax.ca/
3. Original funders: Vancity Credit Union, Recollective, Vancouver Design Nerds, Brenda Martens, Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Jeremy Murphy, and Martin Knowles. http://www.hivevancouver.com/about/#board
4. HiVE East (2017). https://www.hivevancouver.com/
5. HiVE West (2017). https://www.hivevancouver.com/hive-west/
6. The Desk Bee Exchange Program is a barter program that gives an opportunity to trade a HiVE Unlimited Hot Desk membership in exhange for approximately 30 hours of HiVE front desk reception time per month. https://hivevancouver.com/programs/desk-bee/