How to co-work in Edmonton: A tale of two very different creative spaces

By Michelle Ferguson October 29, 2018

Co-working spaces are cropping up like crazy around the world, and Edmonton is no exception. With more and more people working remotely, these new, office arrangements allow for all the flexibility of working at home, without sacrificing human connection. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that co-working is less about the space and more about the community. Members turn to each other for advice, refer their co-tenants for gigs, and hang out outside of work hours. Here’s a look at two unique co-working spaces in Edmonton. As different as they are, both focus on community-building.

The Creative Hive

The Creative Hive

After decades in the newsroom, Mike Tighe and Desiree Vienneau decided to branch out and start their own production company. 

They found a space on the west side of Edmonton, and just as they were about to start work on it — transforming it from a heavy machinery garage into a photographer’s textural dream — a random thought popped into Tighe’s head: co-working.

Instead of building their own studio, what if they created a space targeted at other creatives? One that would function as both a photography and videography studio, as well as a co-working space — complete with hot desks, board rooms and offices? As far as he knew, there was nothing in the world like it.

Vienneau thought “Ok yeah, but where?” The space they had leased was far too small to accommodate more than their studio, Storyteller Productions.

As luck would have it, the adjacent garage was no longer being used to refinish front end loaders, so the pair approached the building owner with their idea. He wished them luck, and that was that. The Creative Hive was born.

To keep costs down, Tighe and Vienneau decided to refinish the space themselves. Along with friends and family, they put up drywall, built a courtyard, installed a clear garage door (to create a natural light studio), and added accent walls and retro décor throughout.

The result is a colourful, eccentric space meant to stimulate the mind and the senses. Every nook and cranny serves as a potential background for video or photo, explains Tighe.

But as interesting as the space is, the real goal is to create a creative collective.

“I’ve been part of a newsroom for 23 years and that’s what we want to foster — a newsroom type environment, where everyone works together […] and builds each other up,” he says.

With just three tenants the sense of community is already paying off. Tighe recently recommended photographer Teresa Bolinski for a big gig, and the expansion of Todayville (a community-focused, subscription-based online news platform) into Edmonton next month will give Tighe and Vienneau a platform to tell their stories. Not to mention Todayville gets access to great video content from these seasoned pros.

The Creative Hive plans to open its doors to the public on Nov. 5. There are many ways to access its amenities — from renting out the green screen room to purchasing a month pass to hosting an event in the warehouse space.

Honest Dumplings

The food incubator

When it came time for Chris Lerohl and Ray Ma to expand their dumpling business from farmer market stalls to grocery store shelves, the couple struggled to find affordable food processing space in the region.

“There’s no purpose-built, small-scale food manufacturing facilities — everything is either a restaurant or gigantic,” says Lerohl.

While the kitchen space they leased from the Expo Centre had allowed them to grow their team, it wasn’t quite meeting their needs — they were still cooking out of pots, and with no access to a flash freezer their dumplings were drying out and cracking.

So Lerohl and Ma set out to build their own space — complete with a double rack oven, 200-gallon kettle, a giant mixer, and of course, a flash freezer. Rather than build a facility they would quickly outgrow, the couple decided to create Alberta’s first food business incubator.

The yet-to-be-named incubation space will target local, innovative food companies that, like Honest Dumplings, are looking to scale.

Unlike a traditional commissary kitchen, members would access the same equipment, albeit at different times. Based on a similar concept in Texas, Lerohl says there could be up to 30 companies operating out of the space one day. But the processing facility is only the half of it. As an incubator, the goal is to help companies get into their first 50 grocery stores.

“The infrastructure is a necessity; the bigger piece that we’re bringing is that commercialization angle,” says Lerohl, who previously worked as a business development manager at TEC Edmonton.

Not only will Lerohl and his business partner Jamie Scott, of South Island Pie Co., share their own learnings — everything from where to get your bar codes to how to develop federally-approved packaging — but they will partner with organizations, like Campus Innovation Consulting Group and NAIT, to help businesses plan for their growth.

Once the incubator is up and running (in approximately three months) and both companies have met their Western Canadian expansion goals, Lerohl and Scott plan on opening a second, bigger facility at the Edmonton International Airport.

The 18,000-square-foot building will serve as a federally licensed co-packing facility that incubator members can contract once they’ve proven themselves in their first 50 stores. 

In addition to production and co-work space, the Oliver-based incubator will also feature a retail lab space, where companies can test the market and consumers can connect with their food. “I think that’s what is missing from grocery right now,” says Lerohl.

The Creative Hive
Honest Dumpling
Creative Hive
Creative Hive
South Island Pie

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