Meet The Community Manager: Hazel Shaw of Dublin’s The Tara Building
Community Manager Hazel Shaw wants members to remember The Tara Building as a place where they felt happy, welcomed, and were able to work on something fulfilling. With such a creative bunch of individuals working from this cool space in the heart of Dublin, TTB offers members a thriving community where friends become family. Here’s why.
How did you discover coworking?
I’ve actually been aware of the concept of shared studio space and creative hubs from a young age, as my dad is a designer and has worked like this for as long as I can remember. However the term ‘coworking’ was very new to me when I first came to The Tara Building in 2017. This place opened my eyes to the industry as we know it today.
What is your involvement with The Tara Building? When did it first open?
The Tara Building opened in April 2017, and I became Community Manager here early in 2018.
My background is in the arts, and my involvement with the building itself began way before The Tara Building opened (when it was still a vacant shell awaiting redevelopment). TTB’s founder Nichol Gray is a good friend of mine, and we worked together on a project in 2016 that connected artists with vacant space in Dublin, eventually running an exhibition and some pop-up events in this building. This coincided with a project of my own that curated events showcasing female-led talent in the arts, which actually ran its first ever event from here, too.
Now I’m here running a full calendar of events and building up a community of creatives and freelancers from the very same room – it’s funny how things work out!
How would you describe the community at The Tara Building?
We have a really diverse group of people here. I would describe the community as an open-minded and welcoming team. Most people are working alone or for small companies, but there’s a sense of wholeness in the wider group that communicates well and supports each other on a daily basis.
Do you host any events to bring the community together?
Yes! We have a three-tiered approach to this, trying to strike a balance in our events between wellness, business development, and social gatherings. For wellness, we want to create opportunities to nurture physical and mental health through free yoga classes and regular mindfulness sessions.
We offer Lunch & Learn sessions in various areas of business development, as well as skill-sharing clinics where members can discuss their challenges with the group and work together to create solutions. We also play host to bigger monthly networking events like Creative Mornings and Entrepreneur Evenings, which are open to the public and create a wider community circle radiating from TTB.
For the social aspect, we throw big events every few months, such as rooftop summer parties with DJs and drinks, Halloween costume parties, Christmas potluck dinners etc. But often the biggest social events for our members are the more informal and member-led stuff, like sea swim outings, weekly movie nights, or Friday beers in our roof garden.
What are the three key ingredients for operating a successful coworking space?
A well-designed space and a good location are definitely two key aspects. Create a space that’s aesthetically pleasing but also comfortable and functional. We love natural light and our ever-growing family of plants!
The people are also a crucial element, starting with a friendly enthusiastic team that will attract positive energy to a place and make the members feel welcome from day one.
What types of cool projects are your members currently working on?
There’s so much talent in the building, it’s hard to keep up sometimes! We’ve got people working in design, photography, illustration, marketing, tech, and much more. There’s a good insight into the members and their work on our community website page.
Here’s a few more detailed examples of member-led projects that I think are pretty exciting.
The Fifth Province
This is a project that has emerged from the collaborative spirit of TTB. Led by Bill Hollingsworth, a group of members have formed a creative collective based on a contemporary way of working and the potential that exists in the pooling of creative talents. In Bill’s own words…
“A dozen years ago large agencies were the thing. One-stop-shops businesses could go to, to get all their marketing and creative needs. But the disruption of digital and open source computing changed all that. Quickly there were all number of specialists, all able to work remotely. It has been noticeable, particularly over the last five years or so, that more and more businesses were going directly to photographers, recording studios, designers, etc. These companies had their own business and marketing plans – they just needed the right people to bring those plans to life. Specialists who work with other specialists as required, putting together truly lean and agile teams tailored for clients or for specific client projects. That’s exactly how the members in the Tara Building work,” said Hollingsworth.
After a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm, there is now a team of 14 members (and counting) working together on client projects. The Fifth Province is a pioneering example of freelancers and entrepreneurs pooling their talents and resources to get big clients and create really exciting work.
Sustainable Fashion Dublin
Founded by Taz Kelleher and Geraldine Carton, Sustainable Fashion Dublin is an awareness-raising and events collective that promotes sustainable fashion in a fun and inclusive way. In a time where the fashion industry is having such a negative effect on the world Sustainable Fashion Dublin aim to offer a positive alternative. They do this through swap shops, up-cycling workshops, charity shop crawls, and sewing classes.
Having only been created in December of 2019, Taz and Geraldine have hosted over 40 events around the country and have grown a dedicated community of over 15,000. More recently, the pair have set their sights on tackling the huge issue of food waste by running events and workshops that show people how to shop, consume, and dispose of food more sustainably.
Barry Quinn & Chris Flynn: Anew Mural
Anew are a housing and support organization for pregnant women. In support of the work The Tara Building does for local communities, Anew was commissioned by TTB to provide a mural.
“It was important to us all that this connection and sense of community between the local Anew office and The Tara Building was reflected in the mural,” said Quinn. “We had produced a mural for The Tara Building stairwell, a piece full of floral imagery surrounding outstretched hands, that was to reflect the communal creativity of the space. We intended to use similar imagery and color scheme as a starting point to present the Anew office as an extension of this same sense of community. The floral work includes hawthorn, referencing Tara Hill, and roses as reference to Anew’s founding history.“
What was the most challenging part, thus far, of opening and operating a coworking space?
I’d say the biggest challenge is maintaining a close-knit community from an ever-changing group of people. Since opening, we have grown from 30 coworking members to 125, and within this number the people are constantly changing as members come and go. The most consistent challenge for us is to keep the interactions and collaborations going amidst this flux of members – but it’s also the most interesting part of the job!
Do you have any advice or tips for someone who is looking to open a coworking space?
I think the most important first step is to create an ethos around which you want to build your space. Ours has always focused on the creation of a supportive community whom we serve through our facilities and our actions.
Communicate with your members from day one. TTB grew from consistent loops of feedback and action, largely helped by our first round of members when we opened in April 2017. By asking your members what they need and responding to that, you create a sense of trust which will lead to loyalty and mutual respect.
Finally, I think careful planning when it comes to the design and layout is important – a little research into the needs of the local community and your members in terms of ratios for meeting rooms, desks, breakout spaces, and event spaces will go a long way.
How would you like people to remember TTB?
A place where they felt happy and welcome, made friends for life, and got to work on something fulfilling.