In the heart of Nelson is a café-cum-incubator, set up by the founder of Lucid Design in a bid to combat Long Driveway Syndrome.
Running a café is difficult enough, but when Galen King takes on a challenge, he likes to go at it full-tilt. As a result, King’s Bridge Street Collective is a co-working space, a café, and now a budding incubator in the heart of Nelson.
King is the founder of design agency Lucid Design and mobile payments startup Kiwipay. He moved into a century-old building on Bridge Street two and a half years ago, needing space to house his growing businesses.
He got a lot more space than he bargained for, enough for several other small companies and sole-traders to move in. King says he jumped at the chance to provide creatives and startups in his hometown a place to bounce ideas and work outside their bedrooms.
“Nelson has long driveway syndrome,” King says. “These amazingly talented, creative people all work here but they live up these long driveways and you never see them.”
It hasn’t been a cake walk for King, who admits he’s been stretched both physically and financially trying to run all the aspects of Bridge Street.
“I have a tendency to come up with ideas and run with them quickly. I’m fairly stretched, but I’m lucky to have good staff to help me. I’m also lucky to have a good relationship with my bank.”
Apart from the deliciously invigorating properties of coffee, King says the addition of a café at the front of the co-working area last year boosted Bridge Street’s presence in the local community.
“There’s something very unique about working behind the hum of a working cafe – and it gives the entire space a very unique feeling,” he says.
Still, the café isn’t profitable yet. King says it’s paying its dues and keeping one full-time staff and one part-time barista employed, no mean feat in itself.
“It doesn’t have to be a runaway success,” he points out. “As long as it’s covering all of its overheads and keeps bringing people into the building, it’s doing what we need it to do.”
King says it’s also been great for productivity.
“I’ve noticed a definite increase in caffeine consumption by our designers. A lot of them weren’t drinking the stuff before. Not sure if that’s a great thing, but hey.”
He’s apprehensive about calling what he’s working on next an incubator as such. It’s much more hands-off than the likes of Creative HQ or the Icehouse, he says.
“We want to help incubate companies in the purest sense of the word. We want to help them get exposure and develop connections. We’re not intending to take a stake of equity. Nelson is a small space and we don’t want to get into that at Bridge Street.”
The business has received funding from the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency for the small pilot programme providing startups with scholarships to work out of the co-space.
It’s pocket change compared to the millions being handed out by the likes of Callaghan Innovation, but King says these small steps often mean the difference between a business sinking or floating.
“Many small startups outside of Auckland never leave their homes because they think they can’t afford to pay the rent. Anything that helps a startup with these business pains is a good thing.”
King says the next step is to work on refurbishing Bridge Street further, focusing on providing more hotdesking room.