Co-working spaces – where different small businesses, creatives and freelancers have separate offices under one roof – have mushroomed across Australia’s big cities over the past five years.
Jewellery maker Kristy-Lee Agresta believed the concept could work in a small town too, and has added some unique touches to make Rooms of Requirement (aka RoR Space) a success on Griffith’s Yambil Street.
“I found this empty building randomly during COVID [in 2021] and got it for a good price,” she said. “It was pretty much gutted, so we put different rooms in. It had the front and hallway structurally, but it wasn’t physically like an office but it had the structure of one.
“We did the renovations in just six months. The first year was quiet, I had two permanent tenants and me, but now it’s starting to pick up.”
Ms Agresta’s RoR space now has artwork and a design library out the front; her own kitsch furniture, lamps, pictures and pot plants in the communal foyer and bathroom; five long-term offices currently rented out; and an outdoor area at the back that hosts functions and workshops.
“We also have a shared kitchen and printing and scanning facilities,” she said.
Born and raised in Griffith, Ms Agresta first had the idea for the concept when she moved to Sydney after graduating from her arts degree.
“I worked in a co-working jewellery space in Newtown, where there were 10 different jewellers,” she said. ”You have your own little section and all the tooling and everything was shared … working alongside people who are on a similar path to me, I liked that idea of shared workplaces.
“When I travelled to Europe, I came across more of them. There was one in Lisbon, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever visited. I thought, the concept works, but I didn’t know if there were enough people here in Griffith. But I was moving full time into my business, and I didn’t want to be a shop owner because I wanted to focus on making my product rather than serving customers all day.
”I wanted a space where I could take my business to the next level, I could do different things and collaborate with different people. I thought I need a space anyway, so I might as well trial this, and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work.”
Her own business, Kristy-Lee, in which she makes ”permanent jewellery” that’s welded to body parts using a laser, is at the front of the RoR Space. She said the co-working concept benefits her.
“I’ve been able to work with others here on campaigns, and I’ve had a photographer here who has done shoots for me.”
Ms Agresta has also collaborated with Western Riverina Arts, which is sponsoring a six-week residency at RoR. This office is currently occupied by young writer Darby Ingram, who is producing a new podcast titled Future Ancestors, which will chronicle Wiradjuri histories.
“We have a diverse bunch here,” she said.
”There are the creatives and there’s also small businesses and people working remotely. They don’t want to be sitting at home in their lounge room. One space is kept vacant to be rented by the day. There are also a few desks out front that can be rented for those who want to be in a shared office space.
“There is an outdoor space out the back that is hired by people who want to do workshops or business networking. It’s not really a place for an 18th birthday party, but there are a lot of work-type functions. Griffith Women in Business had their Christmas Party here.
“I also wanted to have a few more art exhibitions here. I’m doing one a season.”
The next exhibition, Anthills to Artistry: Where Sustainability Ignites Creativity, takes place from 5:30 pm on 1 September.
For further information on upcoming events and to enquire about renting a space, visit the RoR Space website.