MONCTON – Mylène Després, the founder of La Station Support, has teamed up with Dan Gillis, co-founder of Porpoise and owner of the Botsford Station, to gather community-minded entrepreneurs and organizations in a co-working space.
La Station is renting space on the second floor of the former hat factory on 232 Botsford St. This is a new offering by the company, which was launched last year to support entrepreneurs with administrative and operational services.
“There’s going to be the support piece but also the work space piece because I find it goes hand in hand,” Després said. “It’s not just for me to support and get clients, but it’s for everybody to support each other and create a community.”
La Station is looking for non-profit organizations, solo entrepreneurs, artists, and small business owners that want to make a positive impact in the community to be its members.
“I realize that there’s so many people in Moncton doing good things and everybody’s just kind of siloed. This new adventure for me is just a way to get all these people together, helping each other, collaborating and growing together,” Després said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing and in which capacity they’re bettering our comunnity. I think that’s what differentiates us.”
Currently, there are about 10 members working in the space, including Branch Graphic Design, The Garden Cities Project, and an art collective.
Després has rooms available for workshops. Bigger classrooms will be added as the building’s renovation moves forward and the third floor opens up in the second and third phases of the project.
The space has a kitchen, call rooms, meeting rooms with Smart TVs, high speed internet, coffee and an espresso machine for use by members, community tables, and standing desks. It’s also available for event rentals on weekends.
Després wants the space to feel like a restaurant or coffee shop, and for people to move around and interact. But she also plans to have some dedicated desks in the future in response to market demand.
“And we are going as eco-friendly as we can, repurposing the space but also the furniture. Everything is recycled,” she said.
Currently, the second floor is being shared with the staff of Porpoise and Alongside. The La Station portion of the space can accommodate 45 seats and has standing space for 90 people.
Després plans to host networking events that allow deeper conversations to happen.
“I really feel like a community that learns together stays together,” she said.
A Building Grounded In Community
Gillis, who has owned the building for 10 years, is helping Després get the project up and running. He said the idea resonates with how the building, constructed between 1910 and 1913, was preserved with the help of community volunteers when he bought it in 2009.
“When we first moved in, it was a community project and we wanted to transform this building with the power of community and this volunteer-driven initiative,” he said. “Our original vision was that it would be a place for people and ideas to come to life. So through that whole process, we actually hosted a number of different businesses.”
Després and Gillis had known each other through their involvement in the community. But a Huddle article about La Station sparked an idea for Gillis to collaborate with Després. The move finally happened when Amanda Hachey, co-director of social innovation lab NouLAB, heard about Després’ plan and told her to connect with Gillis.
“We have the start of something. We have essentially 6,600 square feet that we can grow into and a whole third floor above us for the expansion of this idea and the project. But what we didn’t have was really the capacity to lead this project,” Gillis said.
Having visited various co-working spaces around the world through Porpoise, Gillis noticed that those that are run well have good community managers.
“What I saw in Mylène was she’s really entrenched herself in community for these past several years and has really established the network that I think is going to make a project like this possible.”
Co-working spaces also generally have a theme and a focus area, he said. La Station focuses on creativity, innovation and a community spirit. Després hopes it will be a complementary addition to the larger co-working community.
“Collaboration over competition, that’s always been my motto,” she said.
For now, members have access to the building only during working hours and would have to contact Després for access outside of those times. But La Station plans to use an app-based security system in the future.
Once signed up, members also have access to an online community on Slack.
Memberships cost between $125 and $250 a month. The daily rate for a desk is $20 and meeting room rentals range between $25 and $150. Community members can also sign up for a $200/year membership to get discounted access to events, workshops, meeting rooms, and online community.
An launch event is planned on November 13, from 5-7 p.m.