Kristen Wonch left the corporate world in Canada, and travelled all the way to New Zealand to start a new life. Learn all about what makes her tick and how she founded Auckland’s co-working space The Workshop.
Good: After being laid off from your ‘dream job’, what made you decide to come all the way to Auckland? Where is home?
Kristen: Home is London, Ontario, which always gets confusing for people when they hear my Canadian accent. It’s not in England but a few hours from Toronto, Canada. The summers boast 32 degree heat with beaches for days and the winters are, well, closer to minus 23 as of last week! My childhood was full of snowball fights, tobogganing and swimming.
Auckland was a new adventure for me. After leaving a corporate life in the oil and gas industry where everything revolved around money and status, I knew I needed a complete change. That version of me wasn’t who I wanted to be (or even someone I really liked), but I also wasn’t clear on what was next.
I was lucky enough to meet heaps of Kiwis travelling (yes, I say heaps now) who raved about New Zealand. The nature, beaches and culture sounded unreal. So I took a leap. Now I see what all the fuss was about.
Once you’d made it to Auckland can you tell us what inspired you to kick-start The Workshop?
The Workshop began from a desire to build a community and spend more time working with entrepreneurs in person. When I first moved here I was working on a digital business where my only real contact with the entrepreneurs we were helping was my follow-up calls. It left me feeling like something was missing. Getting to know their stories, learning about their businesses and hearing their challenges was really energising for me. I needed more of that.
This realisation combined with an opportunity and a few creative ideas were the spark that began it all. And honestly, it started as a side project. Note to self: building a community of like-minded people, helping them grow their businesses, connecting them through weekly activities and events (and all the while keeping the lights on) is not a side project.
Can you describe the concept of The Workshop and how it all works?
Co-working is still a fairly new industry. When you’re running a business or working remotely from home it quickly becomes lonely or distracting (or both!). We connect you to an epic community of like-minded people to share ideas, create collabs or just have some friendly banter over a coffee. Our community is mainly individuals and small teams. For small teams it’s great because we offer a done-for-you culture and creative environment for the team, which gives a leader more freedom to focus on managing the business.
Monthly membership offers residents a desk to work from on a full-time or part-time basis and includes access to all of our weekly events. Yoga, meditations, community lunches and social events, printing, WiFi and meeting rooms are all part of the package.
How would you describe the values that The Workshop aligns with? Do all the people who work in the space also align with these values?
What really sets us apart are the people and the vibe here. Our community is exceptionally connected, friendly and supportive of one another. I’m grateful every day for them. We’re all about consciousness, openness, sustainability, fostering genuine connections and having fun! Wellness is a big focus for us, which is where the yoga, meditations and community activities come in.
Everything we do aligns with those values. We have a sustainability strategy that includes natural cleaning products, vegan lunches and commercial compost. We even started offering free carpool parking to encourage residents to reduce their footprint. People who don’t resonate with our values tend not to sign up. When you come through for a tour, you either love the vibe or you don’t. It’s not corporate. It’s bright, white, light and friendly.
How long do people/businesses co-work at The Workshop? Are there a lot of long-term people?
We have a broad mix of businesses, freelancers and entrepreneurs. Some people just pop in for the day while others have been with us nearly since we opened in 2017.
Many of our members are keen travellers. I love when our residents return to Auckland from travelling and stay with us. It’s a big compliment when people who have experienced co-working spaces around the globe come back to us again and again. It’s really special.
We recently hosted and attended the Understanding Energy event. Do you often hold events at your venue? What do you think makes The Workshop such a wonderful environment to hold events in?
Our space creates an awesome atmosphere for events. The open layout, gorgeous high ceilings and natural light make it a great event venue. It’s cosy enough for 20 and also open enough to seat 100. We love hosting events that align with our values. Anything that fosters connection and community, educates on sustainability or supports women in business is a big yes from me.
Our line-up usually offers a mix of business, wellness and social events. Some feature inspirational speakers while others are intimate workshops. Each event host brings their own energy to the space. Conscious Action is one of our favourite event partners. Their gatherings focus on sustainability, environmental awareness and connection. They’ve built an incredibly engaged community and we’re grateful to be a part of it.
What about you? Can you tell us a bit about what makes you tick? What are you interested in? What do you do when you’re not at The Workshop?
I love a good challenge and am insanely curious! I give my parents props for patiently answering hundreds of thousands of ‘whys’ as I was growing up. I’m still always asking questions constantly. I’m also a real nerd who loves a good brain teaser. I get excited by tackling a new problem and figuring out how to make it work. It’s likely why I love business strategy so much.
When I’m not at The Workshop (which isn’t that often!) my partner, Chris, and I spend time where we can traveling around, surfing and rock climbing. I’m an adventure junkie but also a fan of a good, juicy yoga class.
For a notorious Type A perfectionist, the older I get (at the ripe old age of 33), the more time I spend learning to be present, meditating and quieting my mind. Family is a big part of my life these days. We’ve become closer than ever before and I’m loving it. My little bro is 16 and he’s becoming such a rad little human. I knew we were in trouble when he started outsmarting me at the age of 6.
My purpose in life, what really lights me up, is empowering and supporting women. I would do that all day every day without pay (which is pretty much what the first few years in business is, right?). My mission is to help more women have the confidence, skills and resilience to be absolutely epic. I’m exploring ideas around transformational experiences and retreats. I’ll spend more time this year around this. I’m always keen to connect with more people who share this passion. Watch this space!
You’re currently looking for a Community Manager for The Workshop. Can you explain what this role entails and what would be required of people who apply? When would people need to apply by?
Our Community Managers are the epic humans who connect our members, help the space run smoothly and generally make the community an awesome place to be. They’re the glue that holds everything together.
If you’re bubbly, social and love connecting people, this could be a great fit for you. You’d spend two days per week, 9-5:30pm, working from the space. On those days you’ll open and close the space, tidy up, be around to answer questions, make connections and give our newbies orientations.
It’s generally less than two hours of work per day so you have plenty of time to work on your own business. You get a free hot desk membership in return, which gives you access to all of our community events, awesome like-minded people and one on one support from me for your business.
It’s great for someone who wants to be a part of the community and might be early on in business. If that sounds like a bit of you, definitely reach out! We’re recruiting now and the deadline is 8 February 2019.
If you’re keen to express your interest in being The Workshop’s new Community Manager, you can find more information on their website here.