Is it true that clients won’t deal with you except you have an office? What are the other misconceptions around office space, rent, and startup options? In this serialized (I don’t know how many parts) article I will draw attention to some of the misconceptions about office space and cheap alternatives startup founders can explore. We’d also see if we can get you some deals (hands crossed).
When I hear people these days talk about wanting to start a business and they’re looking for ‘Capital’ – to pay rent – I’d be like ‘how many machineries have you bought or how many clients are you servicing already?’ Most times the answer is none. And some of them actually don’t truly need an office. My question usually is – what do you need an office for?
Several years ago, I inherited the outstanding rent from my Church’s former Admin office after we moved to a new site. I used the space for my office after I had squatted, shared spaces with friends while running my Print Service business until Amaechi’s men under Urban Renewal initiative demolished substantial part of the space. It was a 2.5Rooms Space on Emekuku Street.
That setback saw us relocate back to my 1Room house (then on Wogu Street). At this time we already raised money and installed our first Digital Signage Screens – SpotVue and was in talks with Kilimanjaro Restaurants to roll out more screens across their outlets – so I felt we’d need a big office space.
We rented an entire wing on the first floor of an old two-storeyed structure – previously used by a School as their music studio – furnished and converted it to our office. It was a 3Rooms space with a store, a kitchen, and a bathroom.
We paid 600k for 2Years – not much considering what similar and modern spaces in that era within the same location cost. However, considering how much we raised (3Million Naira which up till now, we still didn’t get a part of it) it was much for us and with benefit of hindsight, I would have acted differently. Add to that, the cost of renovating and furnishing the space and you’d understand where I’m headed.
Shortly after we moved in, reality dawned on us. First, SpotVue hadn’t been as impressive as we thought – which is also down to some faulty assumptions bothering around finance – a story for another day. We soon realized that our printing service – which provided us resources was already being decimated by folks who had money to buy machinery and was trying to disrupt the industry by investing heavily in marketing campaigns in a bid to cut off the designers (read -middle guys).
They made designs look dirt-cheap – like it didn’t count and because a lot of people didn’t understand there was more to good design than good pictures and shouting/attractive colors – they were winning. We gradually stopped working for individuals and concentrated on companies who understood the value we brought and that meant fewer projects that paid well when they came but were never frequent.
We knew we had to reduce our overhead (including our rent) but I lacked the liver back then to act decisively – I wished there were a lot of options like we have now. Well fast forward 2017 – things look brighter and it’s a good time to Startup in Port Harcourt or anywhere else in the South-South and South-East.
I know you kept reading to find out what happened or what advice I wanted to give – right? I’d continue that in Part 2 – subscribe to the email or Push notification to get the details including the options available now that wasn’t back then.