The Other Side of the Coin.
Here at The Caribbean Tech, we know how exciting it can be to start your own project, or to run your own business. But it often means that you are working from home and spending a lot of time by yourself. Panamanian Harold Maduro felt very lonely when he quit his marketing and web design job to work on a legal advisement project with a friend who was still employed.
“You start going crazy, it’s too much time alone; you post on social media but it is not the same as going to an office space and having some co-workers” says the former web-designer.
The freelancers that he knew were also getting tired of being by themselves. Along with the loneliness, they had other issues because of not having their own place: they did not have a place to meet with clients which led to a lack of credibility. Some freelancers even felt like they were just having a side-job! And even if they would’ve liked to have their own office, the real estate prices were too high in Panama City for them.
The Click : a coworking in Panama
Harold got the idea one night, in 2010, while browsing the internet. He was going from one blog to another, when he fell on this article about Tony Bacigalupo, the founder of The New Work City, the first coworking space in New York. Harold could see himself in Bacigalupo because just like him, the New Yorker used to be a web designer, working from home, with little money, lots of web design friends, living in a city with high real estate prices.
It suddenly clicked.
Harold had already taught about sharing an office with a few friends, but they were only thinking on the business they were planning at that time. When Harold saw the article on Bacigalupo, he decided to reproduce the concept in Panama. The New Work City is a large space dedicated to co-working between people who do not necessarily know each other. Harold was already inside a community of web designers and freelancers and he wanted to change the working conditions of this community. It was a mission for him. That is why Harold and his partner put in place the CascoStation coworking space in 2011 in Casco Viejo, the historical center of Panama City.
How is it funded?
During the two first years of CascoStation, they used the money they gained from their job to sustain the coworking space.
At the time, what helped Harold when he quit his job was that the clients who worked with him through the web design agency decided to follow him in his new place. At first, he did not want to continue web designing but he agreed to follow the demand of the market. Then, they got funded which allowed them to fully dedicate themselves to CascoStation.
Moreover, the users pay their membership depending on the plan that they have chosen (one-day visit, permanent use, and others).
Unlike many coworking space in Europe or in the United States, the CascoStation was first created to give an office-like infrastructure for freelancers who already had their business, and not for people beginning their startup (startupers only make 20% of the members). But some freelancers have side projects they are also working on. One of the advantages of coming to the CascoStation, along with not feeling lonely all day long, is that the members benefit from a healthy environment where they help and stimulate one another. Harold believes that this is possible because the entrepreneurship ecosystem is changing, there are more and more independent initiatives compared to five years ago, where everything was mostly state-funded.
The next step(s): improving CascoStation
Harold wants to improve the services that are provided at the CascoStation. It may pass through moving to a bigger place to have a conference room, or individual spaces for instance. But for Harold, there are top-of-the-co-working-place services that they could offer, like a secretary, a phone number, an accountant service, or web design keys.