When traveling the world of coworking, we often visit cities that have more than 100,000 inhabitants, which also means that there are many workspaces available for people. But, how does that work in smaller cities? Is there a need for coworking spaces? While in France, we visited Opalo Coworking – a coworking space from Le Touquet (the city of the French President) which is done by… the city hall.
Opalo Coworking, the story.
One thing is sure, the word coworking has traveled outside capital cities. The new way of working has seduced many companies, from SMEs to startups, to change their work environment for something more open, flexible and where you get to meet others.
While cities like Le Touquet might not have a lot of startups (5,000 inhabitants live there during the year), it does have a lot of businesses and service providers who need a place to work from. In such a small city, the options for offices are quite limited and rather expensive when you work alone or in a small team. Opalo Coworking came out as the solution for independent workers and small enterprises to find a flexible work environment to settle down and do their work.
Located in the airport of Le Touquet (which still functions but does not have many regular flights), the space is divided into several areas:
- The coworking area, which welcomes coworkers who want to work from an open work environment.
- The networking area, which hosts events on a regular basis for professionals as well as for kids.
- The closed offices area, which suits the needs of bigger companies in the need for privacy.
Starting a coworking space in a smaller city is not easy. Most of the people are not aware of this new work environment and it requires a lot of effort and dedication to educate them to more collaboration and openness between each other. Thus to educate people to the concept, the city of Le Touquet went even further in their concept.
Some Key Facts about Opalo Coworking
4 spaces in 2 cities – 1 airport – 1 beach
Opalo Coworking, the growth.
Opalo coworking on the beach
For those of you who don’t know Le Touquet, it is located in the north of France, by the sea. As said before, the city has about 5,000 inhabitants all year round with a peak at 50,000 in the summer. During that time of the year, the city totally transforms itself and see families coming to spend a few weeks of holidays on the beach, enjoying some kitesurfing sessions as well as other activities the city provides. Having such a big wave of people at once causes a few issues with internet and the network in the city. Hence, during the summer, it becomes quite hectic to find a proper place to check your emails and do some work when needed.
The city hall decided to build a second Opalo coworking on the beach, to allow people who need to check urgent emails or make a phone call in the quieter environment to have a space to do that. The best part? It is accessible free of charge.
Opalo Coworking in the university
Another thing Le Touquet is famous for is its School for Hotellerie, which is one of the best in France. Every year, more than 500 students come and settle in the city to learn about Culinary Arts, Service and Table and Reception. One thing that the High School realized was that most of the students are building extraordinary dishes BUT most of the time they do not document it or use it as a reference for future work opportunities.
This is where Opalo coworking comes into play. Since September 2017, they have partnered up with the High School in order to build a food incubator inside the school where students can come and use new technologies such as 3D Printer / Cameras / Photo studio to capture their art and build strong portfolios for their future. As it can be overwhelming for students to use such machines, the city has hired experts who can guide them in the process and teach them how to use the different devices.
The purpose of the incubator is also to attract food startups from outside Le Touquet to come and settle in the city to get access to a strong network of professionals from the food and hotel industry. Hence, aside from providing tech devices, the space also offers open workspaces and closed offices for companies to settle.
Opalo Coworking close to the highway
After the airport, the beach and school there was one last thing left for Opalo Coworking to “conquer”: the entrance of the highway. As a matter of fact, the region is quite famous for its high number of Artisan, ranging from Plumbers to Electrician or Painters. Highly skilled and highly demanded, those companies use to own an office where they were actually never going because… they were constantly on construction sites! Thus Opalo Coworking decided to open a branch next to the highway allowing those companies to save costs on renting offices they don’t need and use a flexible space that is on their way to their clients and it works! The space is almost fully booked with many Artisans coming to do their accounting or checking their emails and scheduling their upcoming work.
It is quite impressive to see what a small city as Le Touquet has been able to put together in order to suit the needs of its population. From students to Artisans, they have identified their core targets and built work products that answer their very specific needs. As said before, the term coworking as such is still very new to the coworkers and Opalo Coworking is working hard towards making it a common term for everyone to know and… use!
SELFIE AUTOMAT WITH…
Maud, who oversees the different spaces between Etaples and Le Touquet.