60. The changing landscape of co-working and the Future of Work | Gabriela Hersham, founder of Huckletree


Gabriela Hersham | Founder of Huckletree


This week, our conversation centers around coworking, and our guest has been credited as an original pioneer of coworking in the UK, having founded coworking business Huckletree in 2014, Gabriela Hersham. Huckletree is now one of the UK’s most exciting coworking brands, bringing together the UK and Ireland’s most innovative startups, entrepreneurs and businesses. 
In episode 60 we focus on the 100s Club, a program that aims to give back to the employees and not just the founders.


Gabriela Hersham web


A champion of women in business, Gabriela has been actively campaigning for greater diversity and representation within the innovation ecosystem, and passionately supports female entrepreneurs both in Huckletree’s community and beyond.



[00:00:00] - Gabriela Hersham
Everybody searching for what they really want to do and where they really feel valued. If we're not investing in learning and development, and both professional but also personal, then I think we risk losing employees across the board. I think that now is the time, more than ever, when we really need to be investing in our people.

[00:00:24] - Doug Foulkes
Welcome to episode 60 of Chaos & Rocketfuel, The Future of Work podcast. I'm Doug Foulkes. And I'm with my cohost, Claire Haidar, the CEO of WNDYR and Pattyrn. Claire, this is the second time that we're talking to Gabriela Hersham. She's from Huckletree. She's the cofounder and CEO. They're a coworking company. What are we talking about today,

[00:00:48] - Claire Haidar
Doug, in this part of the conversation, we are diving into how commercial real estate has completely been changed by the pandemic, and what were the needs that companies had prior to the pandemic and how have those shifted because of how work has just completely changed, individuals work differently to the way they did before. So talking to somebody who's genuinely on the inside, who's on the inside of receiving the request of how offices need to change, we took a deep dive into that, and Gabby laid out that landscape for us.

[00:01:21] - Doug Foulkes
She also spoke about a particular initiative that they run at Huckletree. What's that about?

[00:01:27] - Claire Haidar
In preparation for this call with her, you and I agreed that we really wanted to dive into the Hundreds Club. And that's actually something that Huckletree as a coworking company as a whole run as initiative. It's a digital initiative.

[00:01:43] - Doug Foulkes
I'm going to stop you there. Let's hear Gabby explain exactly what the Honduras Club is all about.

[00:01:49] - Claire Haidar
Got it, Doug. I'll zip it. Over to Gabby. Gabby, this next section, I personally feel that this is one of Huckletree's biggest competitive advantages, and I think it's one of the really honestly one of the defining characteristics of you guys. Tell us about the Hundreds Club. And I know we've got a lot of questions, but let's start there. What's the Hundreds Club? Why did you start it?

[00:02:14] - Gabriela Hersham
So we have an educational arm to the business, just as a brief overview. And we have three educational products under that arm of the business. The first is an accelerator program for underrepresented founders. The second is a future founder boot camp academy. And then the third is the Hundreds Club.

[00:02:34] - Gabriela Hersham
The first two are very focused on founders, and that's great. We always want to support entrepreneurship. We want to teach people what it took us five years to learn in a few weeks. We want to support diversity within the ecosystem, et cetera. But also what we realized was that, hey, we're not actually doing anything for the employees within the businesses, and maybe there's something that we can do to bring them together and to really support them in their careers.

[00:02:56] - Gabriela Hersham
And this also came from lockdown because obviously through lockdown, we couldn't have our communities in one physical place anymore. So we gravitated to online groups a lot. We really thought through what can we put on to bring people together in a structured way that brings value?

[00:03:10] - Gabriela Hersham
So we landed on this sort of, okay, we're not doing anything to support the non-founders within our community. How can we group them together and put them on tracks that can really support them? The Hundreds Club is a program that we run once a quarter for 25 people each quarter. So 100 people over the year, which is where the name came from. Each track is focused on a specific domain.

[00:03:32] - Gabriela Hersham
We've done, People in Culture was our last one. We've done sales and commercial. We've done marketing. Our next one upcoming is Digital Product. Then we'll be doing Impact, and we'll be doing kind of PR and social media marketing, et cetera. It brings together 25 people within each of those domains.

[00:03:51] - Gabriela Hersham
So for our digital product one, we'll have 25 product managers or people within the product fields from entry level to junior managers. So very specific experience range. It gives them eight weeks of, well, first of all, peer groups that they get to know. Second of all, mentoring. So each track has two mentors that are really successful in that field that come together to support them. Then the third is workshops where they can actually go back and take something back to their businesses at the end.

[00:04:19] - Gabriela Hersham
What we're seeing is that a lot of the businesses are using it as the professional development for those individuals and saying, I have these people that are in these areas and I don't know how to support them and offsetting that to us, which we love. But also then it enables them to really upskill and then to take that knowledge back to their businesses.

[00:04:40] - Gabriela Hersham
So that's the Hundreds Club, and we love it. It's worked really, really well sometimes with the products, and this has definitely happened with us with one of our three products, which is actually the Future Founder Academy, where we haven't quite landed on it.

[00:04:53] - Gabriela Hersham
We know there's something there. We know that there's a demand for it, but we haven't quite landed on the exact formula. But with the Hundreds Club, it just worked from the first one.

[00:05:03] - Gabriela Hersham
I think that just speaks to the fact that there aren't that many things out there. There are lots of short courses you can do. But if you want to upskill within your specific domain and you want a peer group around you, there's not that much. So it's working.

[00:05:19] - Doug Foulkes
Is this something specifically for your members? Is it something that came out of grew out of what people were asking for? Or was this your own idea that you've cultivated and you thought they'll love this?

[00:05:31] - Gabriela Hersham
It actually was our own idea. Normally, we test things. We asked a few people a couple of questions, and we got really good feedback. I think from there we actually had enough meat to say, let's try this, we think that we're on something.

[00:05:41] - Gabriela Hersham
It started off just being for our members, and it was a pro bono product that we included in membership. It was first come, first serve. Then during lockdown, we really rethought a lot of the things that we were included in our membership because we were always offering our business support services and our passion for everyone's businesses for the passion of helping them and not ever charging for it. That was very kind of us, I think.

[00:06:08] - Gabriela Hersham
But actually, I think that if you attribute a value to something, then everybody else perceives that value to be there as well. So we decided to step out of the comfort zone of, including it in membership because, hey, it will help us with sales and retention and actually say, no, there's a lot of thought and time that's going into this. We're going to charge for it. It's not just for our members that they'll get a special price, but it's now for everybody.

[00:06:31] - Claire Haidar
Gabby, you guys invited me to be one of the mentors on the people and culture track. Honestly, I think it's a genius idea. The reason why I think it's a genius idea is because as a founder, I know how critical it is to be upscaling that younger generation, if you will. By generation, I don't mean age. It's literally whoever is in that career path to grow into a new area.

[00:07:00] - Claire Haidar
As a start up, it's really hard to allocate resources to that. You know, it's critical. You know you need to do it, but there are so many competing resources and ultimately a startup will always default to customer resources and sales resources, you know what I mean? Because that's the lifeblood of the business.

[00:07:19] - Claire Haidar
So those type of what I would call the margin resources do get deprioritized. That's just the reality of startup, you know what I mean? And yet it's such a critical area of the business. From my perspective, if you guys had a Huckletree in Dallas where we are, we would definitely be putting our people through that because it's such a critical thing.

[00:07:40] - Gabriela Hersham
Well, also, first of all, it's all online, so anyone can join anywhere.

[00:07:44] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, exactly. It's digital.

[00:07:44] - Gabriela Hersham
As long as the time zones work out. We had somebody that we were speaking to for one of our programs from Australia, and we just couldn't make it work with the time zones. But largely a lot of people around the world can join.

[00:07:54] - Gabriela Hersham
Yeah, I'm glad that you agree that it's useful. I think also that now, obviously, people handing in their notice left, right, and center, and everybody searching for what they really want to do and where they really feel valued. If we're not investing in learning and development, and both professional but also personal, then I think we risk losing employees across the board. I think that now is the time, more than ever, where we really need to be investing in our people.

[00:08:21] - Claire Haidar
So given the success of it and given the fact that you yourselves have just seen that it works because there's such a big need for it, do you see yourself scaling up in any way?

[00:08:30] - Gabriela Hersham
It's a good question. I think that there is a lot of scaling up that we need to do within our innovation products in general. We have a dedicated team, but they're not a huge team, and it's very much relationship-based, and we haven't scaled it yet. I think that we definitely should.

[00:08:47] - Gabriela Hersham
There are lots of things that we can scale equally. I think the beauty of some of these programs, so Alpha Accelerator program is only open to five startups. Each cohort, and we only do one cohort a year,100, obviously 25 people per cohort.

[00:09:01] - Gabriela Hersham
I think that the beauty of it is in that intimacy and in the small groups, especially if it's about making peer groups and building those connections and whatnot. But that doesn't mitigate the fact that we could definitely scale it, but I think we would want to focus on making sure that each group is small.

[00:09:19] - Gabriela Hersham
You're not going to do like 100 track for 100 people in one go, it's too much. You don't really get the value of meeting the people around you and the focus that the mentors and the workshop leaders can bring. I think it's always a delicate balance.

[00:09:32] - Doug Foulkes
Do you think there's extra value, though, if you're doing it more in person, or at least people might be meeting online? But if people are from the same area, that bond maybe would grow more than, for example, if you had someone from Australia calling in once a week, surely they'd feel not intentionally left out, but it would be [crosstalk 00:09:51].

[00:09:51] - Gabriela Hersham
Yeah, it's just a balance. It's hard because, yes, you're right, they would, but then we'd love to... If we wanted to scale it, we probably need to keep it digital in some way. It's all a balance.

[00:10:01] - Gabriela Hersham
I think we could probably run many more simultaneous cohorts of a couple of these programs than what we're doing at the moment, and maybe most are digital and some have a physical element to them. There's definitely a way of doing it, but I don't think that either option is complete, if that makes sense. I think everything is a give or take. But people are dying to get back and see each other, I think we all know that.

[00:10:24] - Claire Haidar
If I just look at that cohort that I was part of, that one session that you guys brought me in for there, I think there is value in the digital component because that group of 25 people can essentially fall like little to Slack channel for themselves. And just like as they're going into this new HR role, these people roles that they are finding their feet in, just to be able to send a message to that peer group in a digital format and just say, hey, I'm struggling with this today, you know what I mean? I think there's value to the in person piece as you say, Gabby. But there is also a lot of value to the digital component.

[00:11:05] - Gabriela Hersham
Even like, not even thinking about time zones, but Huckletree operates. We have workspaces in London, Manchester and Dublin. So even if we wanted to bring people in from those markets, it's impossible to do that physically. It has to be online.

[00:11:19] - Gabriela Hersham
What COVID was great at was making us really think, okay, we did so much in person at our locations, built up each locations community. But actually now what's lasting is the migration to digital across our community is still there.

[00:11:35] - Gabriela Hersham
In each of our hubs we'll have members breakfast and members drinks and really fun learning activities or fun engaging activities that our members can do together. But I think the wider learning opportunities like we feel that there's more value in doing those digitally and maybe opening them up to non-members as well.

[00:11:52] - Doug Foulkes
That is what we've got for you today. If you missed the first part of our conversation with Gabby, check it out on Spotify, Google, or Apple podcasts, or on the WNDYR website, W-N-D-Y-R.com.

[00:12:05] - Doug Foulkes
We'll conclude our conversation by looking at the office space of the future shortly. From Claire and myself, we'll see you soon.

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