Sink or swim? Sackville Com­mons on a precipice

Call has been an­swered for new board mem­bers, but more com­mu­nity sup­port needed for co-op to thrive

Sackville Tribune - - EXTRAS ONLINE - BY KATIE TOWER SACKVILLE TRI­BUNE-POST

The Sackville Com­mons is on the cusp of be­com­ing a real suc­cess story.

En­vi­sioned to be a dy­namic and thriv­ing co-work­ing space where lo­cal en­trepreneurs, artists, non­prof­its and com­mu­nity groups can come to­gether to net­work, share ideas and re­sources, and build a sense of com­mu­nity, that dream is within reach.

It’s just go­ing to need a lit­tle more com­mu­nity sup­port to make it hap­pen.

“In some ways we’ve made the mis­take of treat­ing this like a pri­vate en­ter­prise. But it’s not, it’s a co-op … and we have to start ask­ing our com­mu­nity to help us out,” said Ju­lia Feltham, a founder and direc­tor of the Com­mons.

The Sackville Com­mons has been a busy place since it opened its doors in the fall of 2016 out of the for­mer fire hall and po­lice sta­tion on Main Street, bloom­ing with so much po­ten­tial and pos­si­bil­i­ties, said Feltham.

An amaz­ing place to net­work and co-work with other Sackvil­li­ains, as well as an in­cred­i­ble space for com­mu­nity events, the Com­mons of­fers mem­bers ac­cess to work sta­tions, meet­ing rooms, wi-fi, phone and pho­to­copy­ing ser­vice, and great cof­fee – all at an af­ford­able rate. It also reg­u­larly hosts de­vel­op­ment work­shops and in­for­ma­tion ses­sions.

More than 15,000 peo­ple have walked through their doors in the past two years and the ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties are be­ing used reg­u­larly by about 100 peo­ple each week. The Com­mons has 78 mem­bers and has helped to in­cu­bate or build 30-plus busi­nesses.

The space is ob­vi­ously meet­ing a need, said Feltham, but it has yet to thrive the way she imag­ines it could.

There is a need for more spon­sor­ships, more mem­bers and more meet­ing space rentals – in other words, a more re­li­able cash flow com­ing in each month. And she be­lieves it’s now time to turn over some of these re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the com­mu­nity, in­stead of the same core group of vol­un­teers who have spent the last two years do­nat­ing count­less hours to try and grow the non-profit co­op­er­a­tive.

“I feel like we’re on a precipice,” said Feltham. “We have to grow and that’s it … we’re so close.”

For ex­am­ple, Feltham says the Com­mons is only eight mem­bers away from be­ing able to sign up for group health in­sur­ance. And only 12 pa­trons (sup­port­ers) away from gain­ing ac­cess to a tool li­brary. And only four mem­bers away from not hav­ing to rely on grants to pay the bills.

“We want more peo­ple to opt in. We want it to be full all the time.”

She knows peo­ple want to help – she’s heard from many com­mu­nity mem­bers who are ex­cited about the po­ten­tial for a com­mu­nity hub space cen­tered around in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneurial spirit. But she ex­pects most peo­ple aren’t sure how to help or when they should jump on board.

That time is now, she said, and there are var­i­ous ways peo­ple can help out; and you don’t have to nec­es­sar­ily be a reg­u­lar user of the fa­cil­i­ties to show sup­port (see side­bar).

Feltham said a huge first step was taken in that re­gard re­cently when Feltham sounded the horn for new blood on the board of di­rec­tors – five new mem­bers stepped up and an­swered the call.

“So that’s a great start,” she said.

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