A year where Startups rose to the occasion
The Upstairs Startup Hub is a not-for-profit co-working space for new and innovative startup businesses based in Bathurst, NSW. Where entrepreneurs come to ‘step up their startup’ and bring their ideas to reality; it boasts a community of like-minded entrepreneurs working across a variety of innovative and forward-thinking businesses.
Opened in April 2018, Upstairs is the first regional startup hub in the Central West, NSW and has supported just over 100 startups/founders since its inception. It was brought together by four founding partners in the local community:
● Reliance Bank
● Bathurst Regional Council
● Charles Sturt University
● Department of Premier and Cabinet
The Founding Partners, notably Reliance Bank and Bathurst Council, are to be celebrated for their ongoing contribution and support to the local entrepreneurial community, helping to fund and support much-needed projects for the Upstairs Startup Hub.
Abbey Bell, Upstairs Community Manager, said “Without the support from these pillars in our local community, Upstairs would not exist… Its staff, Members and the wider regional entrepreneur network is grateful for their continuous dedication and support to the Upstairs vision.”
This year, as most would agree, has brought a great deal of hardship and uncertainty for almost every business. The Upstairs is home to a number of small startup businesses in the local community who have had to adapt to the new normal and Upstairs itself also had to adapt quickly to the new working environment.
They did this by promptly offering a pause of Memberships to Members who wished to do so but remained open throughout the entire lockdown period and was able to provide a safe refuge to those who still wanted to continue to work from the space. Sue Bowden, Upstairs Member and founder of Moon River Turkey, said that although working from home became the new norm, she was appreciative that Upstairs stayed open during this time. “With so much instability and unknown in the world, it was nice to remain in my routine of coming into work which allowed me to continue to develop my business”.
Upstairs at this point went primarily virtual, connecting with their community via video, streaming Member lunches, support resources and hosting events. As life started to resume, Upstairs ended up with an overall 80% member retention rate, with most members returning to the office by September. This retention rate is commendable as while Upstairs continued to see growth and stability, other incubator hubs did not regain momentum, where some were even forced to close.
Upstairs also saw growth with an increase in the demand and usage of Hot Desking due to COVID-19. Many individuals moved to the Central West from the city and did not have suitable working from home arrangements. Upstairs was able to provide these individuals with a workspace to fulfil their short-term needs whilst meeting all COVIDSafe hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
However, most notably, the startup founders and community have inspired Upstairs with their adaptability and resilience to not only having to adjust their business models but some Members pivoting entirely, and the need to react quickly to the challenges that were brought on by COVID-19.
A fantastic success story to come from Upstairs during such a turbulent year was the partnership that was formed between two Members of Upstairs. Tom Griffiths and Ashley Bland quickly noticed their complementary skillsets and launched into a joint partnership, taking Constructive Energy to new heights this year.
Upstairs looks forward to 2021, seeing its startups grow, learn and continue to demonstrate the true grit and determination it takes to be a startup founder. Upstairs also looks forward to seeing the regional startup ecosystem continue to connect, collaborate and grow to support local entrepreneurs regionally.