In today’s episode, Sheree sits down with Candice Olivier from Karma Collab Hub (https://www.karmacollabhub.com.au/) as part of our mini-series ‘Share Your Small Business Story’. In this episode, we discuss the collective space of co-working, why Candice is a strong believer in collaboration over competition and some of the challenges she has faced as a business owner.
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About Candice Olivier: Candice is an activating international positive changemaker providing an inspiring voice on how to maximize positive outcomes for business, people, and the environment. Candice is an experienced operational pioneer and leader, having overseen multiple large-scale business start-ups with a passion for social impact. Action-focused efficiency is the driving force behind her momentum; supported by a wealth of knowledge in creating business value & proven mechanisms for executing expansive strategic agendas. Candice’s career to date has seen the change from corporate to purposeful lead business. Today Candice is the Co-Founder & Managing Director of the Gold Coast’s most sustainable coworking & event space, Karma Collab Hub, supporting local entrepreneurs, artists, charities & change-makers in all pursuits. Candice attributes her cross-industry success to conscious connections; sustainable practices translate to care & commitment, serving as a foundation for longevity across all aspects of a business from staff interaction to client/consumer relations to the simplest of daily practices.
Candice is also the founding leader of Gold Coast Passport Rotary and now the Foundation Chair and District Assistance for International Service. The club’s main dedication is to raise community awareness and to see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change through 3 main focuses homelessness, youth and environment. Candice has often been admired for being such a young Rotary leader.
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Host: Sheree Cusack
Everything Small Business is a podcast by sixty:forty
00:00 The following podcast is part of the sixty:forty network.
00:03 [Sheree Cusack] Hello and welcome to Everything Small Business, your shortcut to start, build, manage and grow your small business. I’m Sheree, and in today’s episode, I sit down with Candice Olivier from Karma Collab Hub as part of our new mini-series called ‘Share Your Small Business Story’. In this episode, we discuss the collective space of co-working, why Candice is a strong believer of collaboration over competition, and some of the challenges she’s faced as a small business owner.
00:33 [Candice Olivier] Thank you very much for the introduction. So, my name is Candice, and I’m the co-founder of Karma Collab Hub. We’ve been operating for almost three years now. We’ll be celebrating our third birthday this month, which is very exciting, especially as a small business. And taking into consideration the recent adversity that a lot of businesses have had to build a resilience to. Karma was started in a very organic manner. It wasn’t actually a business I intended to create to the scale that it is now. I had a previous business working in commercial or debt recovery and worked for liquidators mostly. So, it wasn’t actually my job to close businesses down. And you know, sort of work in that the negative element of business, and whilst I was building that business, I was working from home. I recently just moved to the Gold Coast from Adelaide. And I built the business to a stage where it was definitely inappropriate to have several agents walking up and down to my apartment building every day to come and collect paperwork for jobs, that I decided to have a look at a shared office space. But I was quite particular about what I what I wanted. I knew that I wanted an industrial space. I knew that I wanted it to be in a warehouse, and I wanted to have space that I could invite other friends who were working at home to join me. It wasn’t necessarily for the shared rent concept, it was definitely based on the collaboration and having like-minded people surrounding me, because I know that I thrive best when I’m being challenged by other individuals. And especially when there was lots of problem solving, it was really great to be able to talk it out with other with other people. And having a look at the business and what I wanted to create, that sort of space of collaboration, I was really invested into creating a space for me. And that’s why Karma has taken on very similar morals and values to myself. And a lot of people don’t know, but I grew up in Zimbabwe. And so, it’s a third world country. I grew up in a family that experienced poverty. I left school when I was 14, because my mom thought I was smart enough, and she couldn’t finance the rest of my education. So, I had this really strong pull of being in a financial position to help disadvantaged youth with education. And in the early stages of Karma, and me realising that I could actually have this crossover between doing good and business, I took approach of – what is now our motto – is good is sown, good is collected. A little pun of my debt collection world as well but, you know, having a look at what I what I could do, and for us being purpose led has been the most amazing thing for our success and the journey that we’ve been on, because knowing that I could have many individuals under the one roof, and that they would help contribute to the overheads and the impact, because being a collective of individuals that are all supporting the same mission, because I was so vocal about, you know, if we’re all running businesses, and we’re on this path to be successful, imagine if we could help other people get into this position who are, you know, severely disadvantaged, and from my upbringing focused on countries that were abroad. So, Karma quickly turned into a social enterprise. So, here we support an organisation called Onja, which is a charity in Madagascar. And they teach underprivileged youth to become world class software developers. They’re React developers. And for us, that’s been a really beautiful ecosystem because realising that we, you know, as we continue to grow, and that business sort of the concept of it grew, we were able to support entrepreneurs and startup business owners, and from them supporting us and us supporting them, we were then being able to support the kids going through the programme at Onja. And we’re really proud that, I mean, it’s taken three years, so me being me, and being a little bit impatient, I have to reflect this year that the ecosystem is now working, because we actually have two of our members that employ two of those kids. So, you know, the morals and the value that we stand by to be purpose led, you know, allows us to make an income, allows us to generate profits, and allows us to create, you know, this rippled effect, and still support our local community at the same time. So, for me being able to house, you know, so many different areas of impact, but being able to bring everybody together to create that has just been, yeah, it’s been wonderful.
06:15 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah, that’s really cool. I mean, the social enterprise aspect, I think, sometimes, I mean, I’d like to hear your take on it, but sometimes I think it’s viewed that it’s not there to make money. Whereas my view actually is, it is there to make money, because it’s in the production of that money that you can actually achieve the social aims that you’re wanting to make.
06:32 [Candice Olivier] Yeah 100%. So, a lot of people will say to me, like, what you mean by a social enterprise, and, you know, I reflect back on when we started the journey. It was very, very early on that, you know, we adapted that mindset, that we existed to help others. It wasn’t a case of even we’re going to do business, and then we’re going to make money, and then we’re going to donate it. The actual core reason for starting Karma was to help other people. And it was just in those early sort of stages, finding our feet, that we, you know, were looking for an opportunity of how exactly and who exactly, are we going to help. I always knew what I wanted to do, but it was looking for the right business model that would allow us to, you know, generate profit and not have to, I suppose, you know, go under this title of not for profit, because obviously, if you, you know, for people out there that understand the difference, obviously, not for profits make money, but it’s almost like a glass ceiling, you know, for whereas for us in the startup world, it was, you know, the more money we make, the more people we can help, but I’m also not having to compromise on what I personally want to achieve in my life. And, you know, without income, the impact can be quite limited. And my long-term goal is to be an impact investor. And, you know, I’m not doing that without, you know, a bank account that’s got, you know, reasonable amount of wealth in it. It’s how you get there, and what you want to do, and, you know, the social enterprise world is very grey, especially in Australia, but it’s, you know, it’s creating a concept of business, that is there to impact the lives of others or impact the environment, depending on obviously which way you go, and having a look at the communities that will be positively impacted by that business itself.
08:44 [Sheree Cusack] And that’s so true. I mean, there’s a couple of things to take away from that. I think the first is the fact that you’ve created this ecosystem of self-reliance. So, you’ve used the profits to fund this organisation. And now the people who are the beneficiaries of the organisation, those skills that they have developed are now being used by people that you have in your space here, to actually help them then achieve their own aims at the same time, and it creates this circular loop of ecosystem where it can continue to grow.
09:09 [Candice Olivier] Well, I think the circular economy at the moment is something that I wish more businesses would have a look at, because, you know, having a look at the longevity and the lifespan of a lot of businesses these days, I personally believe they’re being shortened because most of them aren’t adapting to how fast the world is actually moving. And for us, you know, it doesn’t matter how fast the world is moving, as long as we’re creating that impact all the time. It would actually benefit us, the faster it moves because we support individuals in that tech space. And just a disclaimer, I am not tech savvy at all. I met the founder actually, of this organisation at a conference that I was invited to speak at in Christchurch and I’m a visionary. I’m a creative. I love seeing the fire in individuals, and sort of being able to, like, influence them to see that within themselves. And you know, I’ve been through lots of different phases, having been through corporate, having been through burnout, having come from the environment I did. So, I’ve experienced a lot of the emotions that I see in startup entrepreneurs, where it’s a lack of confidence. And I saw this with this gentleman. And I’m also quite forward and I can be blunt at times. So, when he got offstage, I said to him, let’s go and have a drink, I want to have a chat to you about your speech. And I said to him, what you do was absolutely amazing. But you’re never going to get funding if you keep pitching like that. And I offered to sort of just spend a bit of time with him. And as I got to know him a little bit better, he said to me, would you like to be our very first ambassador? And I said to him, “Mate, I don’t even actually know what you guys do. But the concept is amazing. And I can see how it would work. And I could see how my business would be able to help, you know, do what you guys do.” And I know that we’re not the only co working space out there. And I know that we’re not the only, sort of, only collaborative environment that has to have finger on the pulse when it comes to tech. So, we just decided to sponsor those kids, we sponsor six kids from there, but it’s, I think, you know, it’s coming back to the fact that you need to, you know, you need to follow your heart, and you need to really focus on what you want to achieve in the world. And don’t be discouraged. Because you don’t know, you know, that world. Like, you know, for us, I’ve volunteered, I mean, I do a lot of humanitarian projects, and I volunteer across, you know, 12 different charities here on the coast. But there’s lots of things that I do, and I don’t know that world have that. Well, you know, I’m not going out there claiming that, you know, I’m a mental health advocate, and I know the stats. I just know that I’m very passionate about mental health with entrepreneurs, and I’m going to do what I can do to help them. And in Karma, we have definitely, you know, been able to witness a lot of entrepreneurs and startups who have a burning fire inside of them to create change, positive change in the world through what they do in business. And they haven’t quite grasped the concept that you know, what they do, and what they’re good at, is actually changing the lives of other people. Even if it’s just the case that they, you know, they work really hard on a brand concept, and they bring to life, you know, what their client has envisioned, because they might not know that that client’s had that dream since they were 10 years old. And now they have been this contributor to making it happen, you know, and being really invested to understand that if they embody the change that they are actually making through those transactions, how much happier they would be, because it’s not just another client, another job, another invoice. It’s like you definitely are, you’re changing lives of other individuals, because, you know, especially in that startup world, the trajectory, for some individuals, those businesses might only last 12 months. But you encouraged in whatever way you were providing a service to that individual to take a risk. And you’re part of that journey, it’s so beautiful.
13:44 [Sheree Cusack] It is, it’s a ripple effect. It’s taking I guess, I’ve written a couple of notes here, it’s the startup approach, really, from a commercial space and building it into a social enterprise or a co-working space, which then opens up the opportunities for individuals to come to a collaborative place, and then have these opportunities for collision events where they, you know, brush past and it just opens up this whole world of opportunity, that that leverage then helps all of these other people throughout the community.
14:10 [Candice Olivier] Oh, 100%. And I’m so surprised sometimes. I will be, you know, where we’re based in Miami on the Gold Coast, and I might be just the next suburb over and I’ll see two people that I know utilise our space, that I’ve never seen them have a conversation before. You know, later down the track, I’ll find out that they weren’t they weren’t friends before, and that they had sort of, you know, had one of these collision events, as you say, like whether it’d be at the water cooler, or the coffee machine, which seems to be like, obviously the most typical place for them to meet. But it could just be, you know, we buy everybody pizza for lunch on Friday and we have done so since we opened. We support another local business that’s down the road, just a husband-and-wife team. And the husband’s actually a creative but he’s sort of stuck in this loop of, you know, wanting to support his wife’s dream of having this restaurant, which is a takeaway shop, but we don’t tell him that. And you know, he’s a photographer and he loves coming in and being a part of it for the 10 minutes when he, you know, drops off the pizza. So, we’ve been supporting them for ages. But, you know, it might be the case that they, you know, have just been standing next to each other and overheard a conversation that’s happened, or there might be chasing the sun outside, you know, especially in this time of the year, when most people will go outside and have lunch in the sun. And they, you know, sort of just, might even be the case, I see it all the time, like, they’ll comment on someone’s t shirt, you know, like, “Nice shirt.” And then all of a sudden, it’s like, this fire is happening between them. And you know, it’s, they’re taking turns of who’s putting the kindling on, and then there’s a log on, then they’re going for coffee, and then there’s, you know, a job that’s happening. It’s just so beautiful to see, you know, people form these types of friendships where I really get to witness, you know, quite a vulnerable side of entrepreneurs and startup business owners, because it’s not easy for individuals to have that mask off, and go, okay, well, one, I am struggling. Two, this is what I do and how I got here and this is my past. And, you know, especially here on the coast of being super multicultural, as well. We have a lot of individuals that will be, you know, forming these collaborations, and they’re from different cultural backgrounds. And, you know, we have to sometimes navigate that a little bit more. Their collision events are really, it’s really beautiful.
16:24 [Sheree Cusack] It’s something that we sort of encouraged. One of, like Everything Small Business is powered by sixty:forty, which is our commercial enterprise that sort of gets out to try to open and change the world as well. And just speaking on that, one of our core messages is collaboration, not competition, because there’s so much opportunity in the world that you can open better doors with a collaborative approach, then what you can have seen people just directly as competition.
16:53 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, it’s quite funny actually. I never really, I’ve never had the mindset of competition at Karma. I would say in my previous business, I may have had to take that into consideration, especially when having a look at fee structures and things like that. But Karma has been a really interesting journey. I actually tried to get all the co-working spaces to band together because I wanted to create this concept of the co-working passport where you could go between the spaces, leverage the network at 10 different workshops, under one sort of like set fee, and I realised that collaboration wasn’t something that everybody was so keen on. It’s really interesting and, you know, my approach on collaboration is that it doesn’t always come down to the industry and what you do, it comes down to personality types. Like I’ve met lots of, say, for example, accountants, and that they’re all fantastic. But, you know, there might only be two that I think that I can go and have a beer with, and, you know, be friends with and feel comfortable, you know, opening up my life to in terms of, you know, this is where I spent money. And these are my evening activities. And, you know, this is what I like to drink, you know. Like, you’ve got to feel comfortable with people that you work with. And I think that if you have this sort of competitive mindset, that the only thing you’re doing is hurting yourself, because you’re not allowing your personality to be out there to be open to receive the best type of clients for yourself. At Karma, I say no, quite often to a lot of people because I created this business for people like me. And, you know, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, you know, we’re a bit weird and wonderful in here. And it doesn’t mean to say that individuals that have come into this space, you know, are going to love it as much as I do. And, you know, if they have a different type of approach to life, or they have a different type of approach to business, that is really different in terms of how we view the long term mission, I’m not talking about, like everyday sort of transactions, and you know, how they structure their emails, and that’s different to me, I’m talking about the long term vision, that maybe it’s best that they’re not in here, because I can’t add value to them. And that’s really what I have a look at when people walk through our doors is, can I add value? Or can this business add value? Can our community add value to you? And if you are, you know, in a stage of business that far exceeds where most of our members are, or you’re chasing a different type of hustle, then you know, I’d happily, I do it all time, I’d happily recommend other places and do introductions, saying, you know, I think this space would be better suited for you and for your industry, for where you’re at. And yeah, I’ve probably found like over the last 12 months that it makes me even more weird and wonderful that I do that because a lot of people are like, “Yeah, I went there, and then this happened. But at the end of the day, those people that you recommended, yeah, they are better suited for my profession and for my career or for the business for where I am.” But what I was actually chasing was a community, like I want to be seen, I want to be heard, and I want to have a sense of belonging. And for us, those are very core factors that we have a look at the space, you know. We make sure that we’re across when people have something to celebrate – birthdays, you know, family affairs, or wins in business. I work, we’re quite invested into people’s lives here, because I feel like in business, they could go to lots of different environments to get the coaching and the expertise. And most of them to be honest, like, most of the individuals in our space are part of group coaching programmes or accelerators, incubators. And they still come to Karma because they just want to be surrounded by a family. They want to be surrounded by people that understand them. And for us, you know, that’s, it’s been really important. I suppose we also have a level of accountability. It’s not all sort of, you know, Kumbaya, and kombucha in here. There is still a level, and you know, I can almost feel it in people. I walk into a room, and I can, you know, see them immediately, back straight, yep, ready to go. Candice is going to ask me, you know, what’s the frog for the day? What am I working on? Did I get it done?
21:41 [Sheree Cusack] You do that eat the frog thing too?
21:43 [Candice Olivier] We do eat the frog, yeah. Most people, they’ve come to become used to it now. But there have been a lot of people that are like, what? And I’m like, right? You skip that part. Anyway, what’s the most difficult thing that you’re supposed to be doing today that you’re procrastinating about? And I suppose because we are a family here, we’re very, you know, open and friendly. I will call people out when they’re like lingering around the snack box. And I think, I say to them, “Right, what are you supposed to be doing that you’re not? Let’s walk back to your desk. No amount of treats is going to make it go away.”
22:16 [Sheree Cusack] Chocolate doesn’t fix everything.
22:17 [Candice Olivier] No, it doesn’t. Yeah, it doesn’t. And it probably doesn’t help that our business is right next door to a gin distillery, and there’s a brewery around the corner. But they’re pretty good at staying away from those places. I think it’s just the procrastination that gets them to the snack box.
22:32 [Sheree Cusack] So, I mean, obviously, it’s very personal connections here. So how did you go with COVID and lock downs and changes in that nature?
22:42 [Candice Olivier] Um, we were actually very lucky. So obviously, with a lot of the COVID restrictions in Queensland essential workers were allowed to be at work. So, a number of our full-time members, were still coming into work. I suppose as well, you know, due to the demographics that we have in here, a lot of people have really young families. So, one thing was going to, you know, suffer. It was either going to be their business or their home life. And I’m very proud that a lot of the individuals sort of were able to navigate that balance. So, we didn’t stop them from coming in. I mean, there was, you know, the essential worker description changed a couple of times. So, we, you know, there was different lock downs, we had different groups of people in the space. But we’re really grateful to our membership base who just stuck with us, you know, I was the one that was going, alright, well, you know, we’re going to have to, you know, have a chat about, you know, discounted rate and what we can do for you, and they were like, we’re good. Like, just don’t give my desk away. You know, we’re staying. We had a lot of support from our network, we did a couple of online sessions. But we, you know, we definitely found that we had a lot of, you know, one on one interactions with our members, sort of just checking in on them. And, you know, just given them a call and saying, like, you know, “How’s everything going?” We didn’t revert to, I suppose, like a lot of co-spaces did, to taking a membership online, or, you know, creating that virtual market space, because we understand that individuals pick our space because they are after the in-person connection, and that they have enough, or they had enough, virtual connections with either their teams abroad, or as I said, you know, group coaching programmes that they were in or incubators. So, for us, it was really just about the, we’re checking in on you as a mate, how’s everything going? If you’re having a really tough week, let us know and we can make margaritas on Friday at 3pm, or do it by zoom. You know, it was just a more so friendly approach. And I think, for us, you know, having navigated through that COVID space, we were also not funded throughout that time, so, we’re independently funded here. We didn’t receive any funding, our community manager is actually sponsored by the business and he’s Brazilian, so we didn’t get a lot of relief. So definitely, for us, was difficult financially. Although we had a number of our members, you know, obviously still paying their memberships, we weren’t open for events, which is a big financial avenue for us. We weren’t able to do, obviously, the casual co-working. So, we definitely felt it a little bit, but I think when, you know, you’re purpose driven, and you’re just going out there to the community saying to them, like, you know, this might not last forever, but it’s happening now, what can we do? How can we support you? What do you want from us? Basically. You know, we definitely did, I remember writing an email, or newsletter out basically saying, right, so these are all the options that we can do, right? This is how we could pivot the business. What way do you guys want, you know, instead of us taking…?
26:07 [Sheree Cusack] Like telling them, your seeking feedback.
26:13 [Candice Olivier] Exactly, because, you know, we needed to get an indication of what they wanted from us, not what we assumed they needed. And it was very quick that we realised that, you know, they didn’t want the virtual co-working, everyone sort of on Zoom, but still working. They definitely wanted to do margaritas at three o’clock on a Friday. They just definitely just wanted to hang out. You know, they just really wanted to have that marketplace of friends, and you know, sort of, we did some speed networking, and, but they didn’t want us to change the business model at all. They sort of were just holding on, like, you know, it’ll go back to normal, we promise, it’ll go back to normal. And, you know, like, you know, what is normally anymore? But you know, day by day, it was sort of just holding on to the essence of what they fell in love with. And, you know, if we needed to pivot, we would, but we’ve always been, you know, driven by the community for the community. It’s that, it’s been pretty prominent for us as a business to scale and grow, that we have done so by the community. You know, I had this anticipation when we started, that we’d be a fairly small operation. It only took us about six months before we took on – there was two spaces, there was two warehouses connected, we only took on the front space when we first opened – and within six months, we took on the rear because people were saying to me, “Well, you know, can you do workshops in here? Can you do events?” And I was like, “No, but if we take on the other space we probably could.” “Alright, cool, well, we’ll lock in once a month.” “Okay, I’ll just need a few more of you.” And it continued to grow, and we’re still continuously, people will, you know, come to me and say, “Candice, we have this idea, do you think we can do X?” And I sort of just, you know, being the visionary, I can sort of see things happen as they are. And I might ask them a couple of questions. And I think, yeah alright, we’ll make it work, or something I don’t think is absolutely perfect, but let’s give it a go. You’ve got to start somewhere. And I think, you know, being in that nurturing space of business, and this business allows us to be, I understand not a lot of environments, you know, have the ability to do so, or that that is their mission, but for us, it’s about believing in the people. So, you know, if they ask us about doing a workshop, and they think they’re going to get 50 people, you know, I’ve learned throughout the three years now, sort of just sit them down and go, “Okay, well, you know, what database to have? What marketing strategy are you putting in place? You know, how much are you charging people? And sort of navigate them through that process, and they really appreciate it, because instead of feeling, you know, let down or that they haven’t achieved what they wanted to, they’re working with our immediate community, and, you know, myself as co-founder, to navigate that process where I’m still believing in them – Karma is still a place for them to make their dreams come true – but we’re just bringing the reality element into it a little bit saying, “Hey, instead of using this space that’s for, you know, 50 people, why don’t use the space for 20? And when we get closer, we can have a look at moving it if we need to. You know, and, you know, if you’re doing your marketing strategy, why don’t you include using maybe one of the other people in our space that specialises in events? Like just go and have a coffee with them and have a chat. We both work in the same space. I’m sure they’re going to give you, you know, a free checklist or something.” And, you know, just sort of working with them. And what I have realised, and you know, maybe – this is actually a perfect time to do this type of podcast and bring this up – is, you know, it’s Queensland Mental Health Week, from the ninth to the 17th this month and I have witnessed a lot of anxiety in entrepreneurs and start-ups. And I feel like I’ve had it, but because I’ve had to be so independent, I kind of feel that emotion and go, “Okay, cool, well, that’s not needed here, let’s move on.” Like, I’m going to have to push through it. But I’ve really seen it cripple a lot of people. And because of the type of environment that we have, sometimes those entrepreneurs and start-up business owners actually just come in to read a book. And we don’t judge them for that. You know, we’ll ask them questions and make sure they’re all good. And it’s being able to take that step back and, you know, not see these individuals as just a client or just the customer, it’s seeing them for who they are and what they’re doing. And sometimes, you know, people might walk in here and they’re illuminated with energy, you know, they’re on fire. And then there’s other days where, you know, they don’t want anyone talk to them. And you just, you know, you’ve got to appreciate that, because we all have ups and downs. And, you know, we’ve been able to navigate that process, I think quite well, where, I have members that like, you know, I had one yesterday, who is now living in New Zealand, but has had a little life hiccup, and, you know, sent me a message saying, “Can we jump on a call?” Not scheduled in or anything, just a very friendly, like, kind of need your advice, you know, and got on a call and, you know, spoke about, you know, these business hurdles that they’ve got to overcome at the moment. And, you know, this is a real family. It’s about being able to feel comfortable, to be who you are.
31:38 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah, I think that’s important. It’s treating people as people, as humans, as individuals, and recognising that everybody’s got their own journey that they’re on. And there’s always a point in time that they’re at, and you don’t see everybody’s, you know, you don’t see their every day and see what they’re going through. You only see it from your specific view, or how they’re trying to present it, like you said before, you know, with a mask.
31:56 [Candice Olivier] Yeah. And I think, you know, I used to be that person many years ago, and then I got to a stage where I had really bad burnout from a previous career and, you know, coming into this space and creating it, because I created something I didn’t have, I very quickly, you know, was able to become self-aware through my own healing processes. And, you know, just being able to be a more grounded individual, that, you know, I took that approach, like, I’m not always illuminated and ready to go and fired up and you know, want to change the world. Some days, I just want to stay in bed, and, you know, see how long I can stay in my pyjamas for before someone recognises. You know, like, I’m human, and we have different emotions, and we have different lives behind this business, you know, and I worked in environments, especially in, you know, in the commercial space, where it was like, leave your problems at the door. Well, those problems become layers and layers and layers within us as individuals that never get addressed. And that doesn’t create wholesome humans. Whereas I think here, you know, if you’re having a shit day, you say, you walk in and say, I’m having a shit day, please leave me alone. Great. Next day, you’re on fire. Cool, nice to see you back. You know, what’s the frog for the day? You know, we’re not, we’re not harping on we’re not, you know, putting people in a position where they, they feel like they have let themselves down, or that they have failed. You know, I think, in the business space, that sort of failure element is one thing as a whole, you know, when the business is no longer viable. But having a look at the individual behind that, you know, what that creates within them? You know, I never really thought about it until one of my really close friends said to me, you know, don’t use self-hate when this when you don’t get your to-do list done. Don’t use self-sabotage, don’t use… and I thought, I don’t have time for any of that. I’m just going to move on. Right? Don’t get it done, tomorrow, going to work a little bit harder, you know. And it wasn’t until I’ve had you know, a couple of these really open conversations where I’ve realised that there are these elements within people in the start-up space that you really have to take into consideration because when we are looking at how we can be purpose led, sometimes it’s not about supporting organisations. Sometimes it’s not about the financial donations. Sometimes it’s simply just being present for somebody. And you know, giving them some advice or looking over some work that they’ve created before they send it out to a client because, you know, they’re worried about how good it is. And, you know, I’m quite cheeky, so I say to them, “No worries, I’ll validate you for five minutes and then you can send it out.” You know, and they’ve become quite used to it now. And you know, it’s that kind of environment where it’s like, you know, I’m a human as well, I love to be validated once I’ve done, you know, “Have a look at this brochure I just created, like, can you see if there’s any spelling mistakes? No. Can you tell me it looks nice, please?” You know, it’s just kind of being quite open of like, “Oh, look at how creative I got, you know, and check this out”, you know, and this is what the, you know, collaboration spaces should be about, and it should be a little bit more transparent, you know?
35:37 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah, I really like, I like that word a lot. And, I mean, I guess, too, you’re a co-founder here, and like, it’s not been all beer and skittles, for you, in that capacity, either for this space?
35:44 [Candice Olivier] No, definitely not. So, it’s been a really challenging time lately. And I suppose, you know, being able to reflect on all these good times is definitely a beautiful part of the business. But the reality is, sometimes business can be harsh, and sometimes circumstances are out of your control. And, you know, 12 months ago, we received a notice from the Gold Coast City Council to advise that we were operating in the incorrect zone, and that we would need to make an application to continue to trade or we would need to relocate or to close. And I was quite confused because when we took over this premises, we got a town planner, we did all the right things. And, you know, there was a couple of elements where we had a look at, OK, it says we’re allowed to do food and drink, it says we’re allowed to be an internet cafe, it says we’re allowed to have offices. We’re sweet. Like, we’re in the right place with, you know, let’s just get rolling, and let’s start creating everything. And a couple of months later, we received an enforcement notice to say that we had 30 days to vacate, and that we were going to be shut down. And we’ve been fighting that for 12 months. And it’s cost a lot of money. And you know, as a space that operates for community – not saying that we don’t, you know, generate an income – but our you know, our intention is to be this go-to location that’s to help people within the local community, that is not being made available by the local council. Like there’s no, you know, council operated, or government operated co-working spaces on the Gold Coast that allow individuals to come in and feel a certain way and be who they are. You know, we’ve created that. And, you know, throughout those 12 months, we’ve been back and forth, we’ve had issues with regards to the area in which we operate, because there’s a lack of parking. But then, you know, further investigating into what type of business we operate and what we were, you know, actually allowed to be doing – because the application of what you do, and what it says you can do are two different things. And these are learning curves, but I think there’s too much, there’s too much of a grey area. And I just like to say that, you know, I appreciate this red tape, because otherwise everyone would be doing the wrong thing. But it’s just pulled too tight. And I think for individuals, like ourselves, you know, having got a slap on the wrist, say you’re doing the wrong thing. That’s okay. But tell us, what is the right thing? You know, because we’re now having to, you know, go through a whole process that, you know, for me, is quite unnecessary. It’s costly considering the current circumstances. The added value that we have for individuals, like you can’t put a number on that, you know. And it got to the stage a couple of months ago, where just all of the pressures of trying to operate this space to be viable and sustainable, became too difficult for my business partner and I, so the other co-founder, and we decided that, you know, it’s not that it’s not worth pursuing this, but it’s, how much money do we throw at keeping this business alive? That, the reality is, we might not make it back. You know, we’ve, we’re really on the back pedal considering we weren’t, you know, we didn’t have any sort of pressure release through the beginning of COVID from our landlord or received funding. You know, we’ve really been dipping into our own pockets quite a lot. And we just sort of had to get to that stage where we decided that you know, as much as we absolutely love this space and what we create, it’s just not viable because we couldn’t see the end of the road with the council. It was, you know, we submitted an application, okay, well now you’ve got to do X. And every time we had to resubmit something, it usually involved us having to engage a third party, whether that be the lawyer or the town planner, or the traffic controller, or, you know, getting an acoustics report. It was just, it was always something. It wasn’t something that we could just do internally. It, you know, basically said that you need to get someone who’s a professional in this field, and they need to do a determination. And then, you know, they have to submit a report, and it was like, well, that’s $3000, that’s $4000, that’s $5000. And, you know, I appreciate they wanted all of these things, but at the end of the day, you know, for a business that wasn’t really causing any harm to the outside, you know, outside community, we weren’t, you know, selling alcohol, we weren’t having, you know, big band gigs, or, you know, creating a whole lot of noise. Yeah, we had some events, but we, you know, we were done by nine.
41:12 [Sheree Cusack] And it’s a commercial space in this area, too. It’s not like this as a residential zoning.
41:17 [Candice Olivier] It’s, well, that’s the thing. So, we’re under like commercial. So anyway, it just got to the stage where we just had to decide to pull the pin, and it was really hard. And then life threw us a spanner. So it was, throughout the process, we got legal advice with regards to it, we issued a press release, we put it out to the community, you know, just saying, first the members, and then to the wider community saying, you know, “We’re going to be pulling it ,where, you know, it’s really sad.” But we are also giving a runway of three months, allowing us to be able to support the businesses to move into their next space, and like hold their hand through the transition, and be able to do as much as we possibly could. And then we just were flooded, like, flooded with community support, which is really beautiful. And I’m talking like, hundreds of emails, hundreds of comments through social media, we were approached by TV stations, radio station, the Gold Coast bulletin, and at that time, I hadn’t yet been able to speak to our local councillor who I know quite well, about having made that decision. She was aware that we were going through this process, because in the early stages, I think for the initial application, it was going to cost us like $15,000, plus a couple of hundred dollars per square metre, because that’s how they base their applications for impact assessment. And I remember going to her and saying, listen, like, you know, “I’m a young entrepreneur. I’ve been saving all this money to buy a house, now I’m going to be, you know, putting it towards the business. What’s the likelihood that this is going to happen?” And I’d approached her because I’d worked with her son for a couple of months, and he was looking at creating a co-workspace himself. So, I’d been very transparent about all the issues that we’d come across. And I didn’t expect that she was going to just wipe it. That wasn’t my approach. I was sort of like, well, tell me what I need to do so I can do it, because one, we’re wasting time, we’re wasting money. I’ve got, you know, I’ve got all these people counting on us. And I just need to know, you know, I don’t mind spending the money on it because for me to be able to create that impact, and having to hold off on you know, having a home of my own for the next two or three years, like that’s okay, I’ve come to terms with that. So, I hadn’t had a chance to have a chat to her. So, I declined all interviews. And the very next day, it was taken through the Gold Coast Bulletin. Which is just what the press does at times. And now I’m very, I’m very thankful because it got us, you know, in the spotlight. But it got us in the spotlight, without the correct information. And it really was highlighting the fact that, you know, COVID got us. It wasn’t COVID that got us. We got through COVID, you know, through the main elements of it. I mean, obviously, we’re still feeling the aftershocks of things. We got through that, you know, there was a lot of other hurdles that came to be in, in small business, sometimes it’s just not one thing. It’s a ripple effect of one thing goes wrong, that leads to another, that leads to another. So, as I was saying, so I declined everything. It went through to the paper. And I thought, “No, I’m going to have to go and see the local councillor for our area, and I’m going to let her know what’s going on because now I sort of feel bad that she’s being taken through the paper”, which it had mentioned that the journalist had reached out to the local councillor for their feedback. And I just thought, “Well, I wish I had actually gone and have a chat to her first because, you know, I’m that kind of person.” Whereas, you know, I’ll call on people for their help and their advice, but I’m also very transparent. So, you know, I hadn’t yet had that opportunity. So, I had to be a bit more reactive now, and go and have a chat to her. And it was at that stage where, you know, my business partner and I had mediated what was going to happen and within the business, who was getting the IP, who was then going to take responsibility for X and sort of came to a deed of settlement. And, you know, we had to, because, you know, we’ve got content in the space, and we’ve got a lot of IP and the database and all the, you know, fun business things. And went to speak to the local councillor, and at that stage, he sent me through an email saying, “If you want to take it on, if you want to fight, fight for it, but it’s no longer going to be a part of my journey, I’m quite exhausted from it.” So, I didn’t really know what to do, because I, you know, I’m at the office going okay, I just want to tell her, like, “You know, we are closing, but this is what I’m doing.” And if they approach you, please just let them know that we are taking responsibility for, you know, the 30 plus businesses that we have in the space, and that we haven’t point pointed the finger at you. We’ve actually just said that it’s a lot of different pressures that are not allowing us to move forward and have the projection that this business is going to be financially viable, moving forward. And also, please make a checklist for other small businesses, when you give them a slap on the wrist to say you’re doing the wrong thing. Please tell them what the right thing is. Because it’s exhausting.”
46:42 [Sheree Cusack] And it’s expensive, and it’s taxing, personally taxing.
46:45 [Candice Olivier] Well, it’s emotionally draining, you don’t know, you know, I’ve spent countless nights trying to, you know, navigate through information that I don’t know, even half the things that they’re talking about, right? Because it’s building code, and it has to be this and has to be that. So, you know, I don’t have that information. It’s not my area of expertise, and I appreciate that we need to get professionals in but every time we need to get a professional in, that’s going to cost us more money. And it becomes this vicious cycle of, don’t breathe, because you’ll be invoiced, you know. It’s really hard as a start-up business because most people like us, you know, we, you know, we’re in the stage of like bootstrapping, when we first started, you know, and the money that we make is our livelihood. We put it back in or we you know, we’re putting it aside for, you know, the other purpose driven projects that we’re passionate about. You know, we’re never sort of gung-ho, we’re going to be millionaires. And you know, this is going to get us on the Forbes list. That was never our approach. So, I went to see the local councillor and I explained to her, you know, at that time I had received this mail to say, “Hey, if you want to do the fight, go for it.” So, it was very lucky, I had a conversation with her, and, you know, spoke to her about our different options. And she was very supportive, but said, “You need to continue with the application, you know. I’m in support of what you do. I absolutely love this space.” She’s been here numerous times. And you know, for us, that’s sort of the person that we need the, you know, green tick from is like, we love what you do, but you need to go through the process. So, it took me probably about two weeks, just to sort of wrap my head around the idea of, can I make this work? You know, and it wasn’t really a self-doubt, it was, if we go into another lockdown, is it financially viable? You know, now, it’s just me, you know, and, you know, what happens if X, you know. I was coming up with all of these strategies to, you know, if something bad goes wrong, what can I do to make it work? Okay, if it does work, which is great, how can I make it better? You know, and I sort of just got stuck in this loop and came to the decision that, okay, I’m going to fight the council. And if they say, “Yes, we can operate”, I will buy my business partner out, and will continue to operate, and I will mature the brand. And I will move it from only being this space that’s known for its community, but it’s known for believing in the community members to grow and scale their business. Because we’ve mastered that community building factor now. We’ve done the fluff, we’ve nurtured them, we’ve loved on them. They know that we believe in them. But now let’s give them the extra tools and resources to make it happen. We know that they look for those tools and resources externally. And you know, we have some of them in here. But I wouldn’t say that we’re all gung-ho on it. But let’s bring it in. So yesterday actually, we went to community submission with the council. So, they’ve got our application, I believe they’ve got everything they need, except the community to come forth and really express to them how much the space means to them. And how important it is that you know, especially down here on the southern end of the coast, that there is an environment that they feel welcome.
50:10 [Sheree Cusack] So how would people listening actually be able to do that in a meaningful way that does support you?
50:14 [Candice Olivier] So, for us at the moment, it, as I said, it’s open for submission. So, Gold Coast City website, there is a section to have your say, or simply search in the search bar for Karma Collab Hub. And from there, submit the vote of you know, we love what you do, we love the sound of what you’re doing and want it to continue, or, you know, we’re not in support because of X. And for us, you know, that sort of support at the moment would be absolutely beautiful. I do know, I was a little confused yesterday when we went to submission, because we were having difficulty finding it. So, if anyone does, the address as an alternative to search for is a 47 Lemana Lane in Miami. And, you know, we’re at this stage till the 26th of October. So, you know, the more votes for yes, that we get the better for us, because we want to continue to have the impact. We want to continue to make dreams happen and you know, the beauty of this space is that we continue to progress, we see members progress, and who knows what’s going to happen? You know, and I think when you surrender to the opportunities, especially in this time of adversity, and stop trying to control everything, that what will be, will be. You know, I’ve, you know, got to that stage where I’ve had business strategists in, I’ve had the accountants and all the people, all the professionals, I brought them all in to go, you know, “How am I going to make it work?” Well, it’s a space for the people. And right now, it’s actually the people that we, that we’re counting on. We’re counting on them to say that, you know, we now see you, we now see what you wanted to create, and we’ve felt that. And you’ve brought this sense of belonging to the community, because if we don’t work there, we’ve heard about it through friends or family, and they have been positively impacted by the mission and the values.
52:25 [Sheree Cusack] That’s awesome. And is there a time frame after the submissions closed, that you might get your decision?
52:30 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, so as soon as the submissions close on the 26th of October, the council will have 20 days to make a determination of whether we are to continue to trade or not. And it’s, it’s kind of a funny place to be in, because I’m kind of, I’m still in limbo, but we’re operating as if nothing’s happening, but we’re having conversations as if we’re closing. So, you know, I’m still making agreements with other co-spaces and venues, if the worst case happens. I had originally started looking for other locations to move the business to, but unfortunately, because of what application I now know that we need, there isn’t a commercial venue that’s available at the moment, that would suit the needs of us. So, that’s made it quite difficult. But, you know, also, I think, being in that start-up space, I’ve also come to terms with the fact of, we’ve had it for three years, maybe it was just supposed to last for three years. And you know, there’s no other venue for us. And if I was able to find another venue, it would probably – and I’ve seen a couple – I’m still open to it, but I’m not searching for it anymore. Whereas they’re a lot larger than what we are. And it’s not financially viable for me to be the only person operating that. So, if we were to be approached by a partner who I felt could add value to our community, and, you know, was willing to, you know, operate in a very similar way to how we are now and is not going to, you know, be financially driven, but understands as I do, that that’s a huge part of what we do. And you know, that makes sustainable and solvent business – very important. That it just isn’t going to change those values based on the fact that we need to make more money because sometimes you need to, you do need to listen to the people, especially through this sort of adversity. You know, I’m open to that. I’m open to partnering with, you know, somebody else or another business that, you know, loves what we do and is going to allow us to move into a bigger space, but it’s just, you know, I want to keep it on the southern end of the coast because this is the community here that I’ve made that promise to, and there just isn’t anything at the moment.
55:07 [Sheree Cusack] It’s, I mean, obviously some of the later things are going to be, well what do you do next? But obviously you’re in limbo, but you’ve basically done everything that you can now and now it’s completely out of your control. And then once you get this decision, you’ll be able to know with clarity whether you move forward. I like the fact that you’ve taken still the contingency line approach. And obviously, you gave your members that three months plus worth of ramps, like I think your cut-off date was the first of January?
55:32 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, so first of January is our cut-off date. You know, there are these, it’s really beautiful to see the community because sometimes we’ll be in the kitchen, and I will come across, you know, a couple of the members going, “Alright, well, you know, what are you going to be doing? And what are you going to be doing? And maybe we could just…” You know, like, there’s even, they want to rent a house and have 10 of them in there. And they’re all going to be working from there. And, you know, I’m going to say to him, listen, it’s not that I haven’t thought about that idea. Because that would be amazing. We could have a swimming pool, and we could have a pool table, and we could have all the things and make it all work again. But again, it’s not allowed. So, you know, I want to do things the right way. Because I think that moving forward, that’s really important for us. The plan is that if the council is not supportive of the business, that I will move the community on to a virtual co-work platform, and we will continue to create magic. And I will create regular events in other venues, bringing the people together for both the social and educational element. And, you know, sort of see it through for a couple of months with that lingering, you know, idea that we just need to find a space that’s going to work for us. And I feel at that stage, it will be even more so driven by community because I think more people go well, you know, I found a space that it’s, you know, $10,000 a month. And if we have 20 people in there, you pay X, you pay X, you pay X and it’s really this shared environment. And I’m open to that. I think for us right now. It’s just about keeping the people together so that the magic can continue to happen.
57:17 [Sheree Cusack] And I think when you were talking about that before you said the shared environment is not shared office space, where there’s the walls. It’s an open plan environment.
57:26 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s important for us to be able to have some private space. So, you know, obviously, here, we’ve got the podcast studio, we’ve got the boardroom, but we also have phone booths, so that people can take personal calls. So, it’s important that we have some private space. But in terms of its general operation, I really love the idea that, you know, we’re not separated by walls or dividers, because, I don’t know, I don’t like living in a box. You know, my personality wasn’t built for that. And, you know, people in the space are not, and there’s a real beauty in listening in on other people’s phone calls, you learn so much about people. And, you know, we’ve kind of got an open policy here, like, if you don’t want someone listening to the phone call, you know, take it in private, because it’s going to happen. You know, it’s, you’ll be on a train or a bus or wherever, and, you know, cafe, you’re listening to other people’s conversations and calls. I mean, we’re just honest about it here. And, you know, some industries aren’t able to work from this type of environment, because they’ve got privacy policies in place. So, you know, we’ve made arrangements for them, where we do have some separate offices that we allow them to work from on a couple of days a week, if that’s what they need. So, they still get to have, you know, they’re still meeting the requirements of their clients or their company and their policy, but they still get to be in the environment. You know, for example, we’ve got a family lawyer that worked for us for a long time, and then his business grew. And he, you know, partnered with another company that was quite strict on, you know, how and where he operated. But he still comes in on a Friday afternoon for pizza and a couple of beers. You know, and we love that, because we still get to have him within our community and he still gets to sign any, you know, stat decs that we need or he’s still there to witness documents. And he loves that, you know, so it’s a beautiful exchange and some days he’ll bring in, you know, his young daughter who’s four now. And, you know, she was only a baby when he first started with us, and we’ve become really good friends.
59:37 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah, which is awesome. You know, it’s part of that life journey really, isn’t it? You see, relationships start, they grow, children.
59:44 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, we’ve got a really serious cupid couple in here, which, of course, I knew they would, I knew they would hit it off. And I put them side by side and they’re on holiday at the moment, and I am not surprised that they come back engaged. It’s got to that stage now. So
1:00:02 [Sheree Cusack] Oh that’s exciting. It’s good, though. Like, I mean, what a great environment that you’ve built.
1:00:06 [Candice Olivier] Yeah, thank you. It’s yeah, it’s beautiful to see people that have even outgrown our space into their own, you know, full offices or, you know, full workshops, depending on what industry they do, or they’ve moved interstate or they’ve, you know, now working with business coaches that they’re paying, you know, 50 to 100 grand a year for because they can afford to. And those individuals are scaling their business. They’re always still lingering, and lingering around here for social activities, table tennis once a month, or whatever the case is, but, you know, it’s beautiful to be able to witness the growth within individuals from that professional level, and also from personal level.
1:00:41 [Sheree Cusack] Cool. So, is there anything you’d like to wrap it up with today?
1:00:46 [Candice Olivier] I would actually just like to thank you, because I love being able to share this story of, you know, how we have come to be, and, you know, brushing over, you know, the good and the bad – the adversity in businesses, and then you know, being able to celebrate wins at the same time and just being able to normalise, you know, the stuff that happens, you know. There’s days in business where, you know, you’re taking over the world, and it doesn’t matter what you do, like, you could be a photographer or an accountant, it’s just you as the individual taking the reins and taking control of what you want to achieve. And then other days, knowing that it’s okay not to feel like that, and being grounded and surrendering to the fact that, you know, I’m just human, and I think in small business, you know, and in flavour of the month, being mental health, just acknowledge that and, you know, it’s okay, and, you know, if possible, build yourself to a space to be transparent, you know. Try and lean on somebody to let them know, like, I’m not having a great day, and be able to have a laugh and a joke about it.
1:02:02 [Sheree Cusack] Yeah, that’s very true. Well, all right, thank you so much for even taking the time to have a chat with me too. That’s been, it’s been wonderful. And it’s nice to come down to the Miami end.
1:02:10 [Candice Olivier] Yeah. My absolute pleasure having you in today.
1:02:14 [Sheree Cusack] It’s awesome. Thank you so much.
1:01:16 [Candice Olivier] Thank you.
1:02:19 [Sheree Cusack] Well, that’s everything small business for today. Thank you for listening. If you’d like to stay up to date with our show, please subscribe or follow in your favourite podcast app so that you never miss an episode. If you know someone who might enjoy this podcast, please share it with them or share it on your socials and tag us. Until next time, this is Everything Small Business.