Meet António Mesquita, a native of beautiful Lisbon, Portugal. After moving to Australia for an internship and working for a software consultancy, António decided the traditional nine-to-five model of work wasn’t right for him. Exploring South America led him to return home and open his first company, Resvés Cowork, which has now become one of the leading community-centered coworking spaces in Lisbon. Learn more about his story and why community — and people — matter above all else.
How did you discover coworking?
The first contact I had with coworking was here in Lisbon about four or five years ago. At the time I found it an interesting concept but didn’t really research a lot about it. That didn’t happen until two years ago, when I founded Resvés Cowork Space.
Which space do you currently manage? How long have you been there?
I’m the founder and manager of Resvés Cowork Space, in the lovely neighborhood of Campo de Ourique in Lisbon. The project started about two years ago, but it took around eight months to find the perfect space, do all the renovations, and set it up to finally open in February 2019.
How would you describe the community at your coworking space?
I’m totally biased but I would say Resvés has an incredible community! From the very beginning, we’ve been lucky to attract individuals and small teams from various backgrounds — entrepreneurs, developers, marketers, artists, and creatives. They come both from Portugal and from all over Europe and North America. I guess because of the thoughtfulness we put into the space design, I noticed that design-minded professionals (architects, interior designers, graphic designers) seem to be drawn to us. But the left-side brains (developers, software engineers) feel right at home as well due to the deep work vibe we like to respect around here.
In the beginning my focus was on creating a clean and comfortable workspace where one would feel productive. But then I started to understand that, although this is really important, what matters the most in a shared workspace is the connections made, both professional but mostly personal. At this point we really started to focus on growing the sense of community.
That’s when we added Mariana Nepomuceno to our team as a Community Manager, whose pride and joy is to look after the wellbeing of our members. This was really good step towards what we now call ‘the Resvés family,’ as our community started to grow and everybody that joined us really embraced our community-focused culture.
What other unique elements make your coworking space stand out from all the rest?
When designing the space, we really focused in simplistic design that would celebrate the natural light that the space provides, with a touch of bright yellow, comfortable ergonomic chairs. and good common areas with each corner filled with small details to promote sharing and a sense of community.
We are also a mutant gallery, as we organize art exhibitions every two to three months, and do a super cool inauguration party with tacos, beers, and loads of art from Lisbon-based artists. Our location is very central in the city, but in a calm square, in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon, which gives it a calm kind of village vibe when you sit in our sunny terrace right in the square.
Do you host any special member events to bring the community together?
Yes, we love bringing our people together. We host a Community Lunch every Wednesday, where we sit together on our terrace outside for a moment of relaxation and mingling. This month, we’re organizing a small group to go on a “escape day” from the city to a beautiful beach village nearby where we’ll work from our partner cowork space there, Salt Studio, and eat dinner together. We’ll try to squeeze in some surf lessons too!
Before the pandemic, we hosted regular art exhibitions, bringing in some of the coolest emerging artists in Lisbon. We like to encourage the community to kickstart activities they’re interested in, so a dear movie-fanatic member started a monthly Cult Movie Night and another member started what we call “Lunch Trains” on Fridays where someone would suggest a restaurant in the neighborhood and others would join for a lunch. We’re slowly bringing those back now that we can have small gatherings again.
What are the three key ingredients for operating a successful coworking space?
People, people and people. It’s all about the people, you know? And you do need to have a special touch for interacting with human beings, because good chairs, good tables, and good wi-fi are easy to find. Just by putting up a comfortable and sophisticated space, you’re not really adding much value to all the alternatives people have, like a regular office space or the comfort of their own home. That has been the biggest learning lesson so far since Resvés opened.
What is your favorite thing about coworking?
Hands down the community. The networking you can make just by joining one of our events or our community lunches is incredible. I’ve seen all kinds of collaborations from podcast episodes to a trip to the Azores Islands come out from serendipitous encounters at Resvés. The best thing I take from this experience so far is definitely all the interesting people that I met, but specially the friends I made throughout this year.
Do you have any advice or tips for someone who is looking to open a coworking space?
At this particular and peculiar moment, I think that opening any type of business is a big challenge since there is a lot of uncertainty of what’s going to happen in the next few months. But if we “forget” that, I would advise anyone to focus on the community. Start by putting a focus on what the members feel as a community, think about which communities they are part of or which communities they would like to be part of.
And then comes the next part, which is growing and retaining the members in a way that feels organic. It makes it a lot easier if you are authentic and truly care about people, because then you’ll attract people who are also authentic and caring, and who doesn’t want to belong to a community like that?
There are a lot of other tips that I could give that would be more practical, but those you can study, research, and are available to everyone (Coworker is a great resource for all space managers), so start with your research, but then really focus on what makes you stand out by just following the masses.
What has been the most challenging part of operating a coworking space?
I would say finding the perfect balance between having enough stable income from monthly members and office space rentals to keep the business running, and at the same time, offering initiatives that bring in very little income but adds value to our members like free workshops and events.
How would you like people to remember Resvés?
That’s a really good question, I had never thought about that! I guess I want people to remember my cowork space like I’d want them to remember me as a person. I want people to remember Resvés as a place where they can be productive (obviously), but mostly like a home away from home where they feel safe, comfortable, happy, fulfilled and understood.
A community is a bit of everyone that takes part of it, so I also want people to remember Resvés as a part of them.
For more information on Resvés Cowork, visit their page on Coworker here.