Meet Rita Caetano, a native of beautiful Torres Vedras — a small city near Lisbon where you can enjoy both the magic of the wild Atlantic sea and the peace of the countryside. With a background in PR and corporate communications, Rita worked in the non-profit sector for 11 years before deciding to make a change to the coworking industry, following an invitation from her friends, the founders of Cowork Torres Vedras. Learn more about her story and how curiosity led her to coworking!
How did you discover coworking?
Actually, it all started in 2013 at Cowork Torres Vedras. I was in between jobs and had some spare time when I found out that my friends were starting a coworking space in Torres Vedras.
At that time, the coworking industry was just developing in Portugal, with some good options coming to Lisbon’s city center. It was a time of financial crisis in the country, with low funding affecting entrepreneurs and small businesses. So, it was both a risk and an opportunity to start a coworking space. When they shared their idea, I immediately fell in love! So, I collaborated with them for two weeks and had the privilege to see this place start from scratch.
Which space do you currently manage? How long have you been the community manager there?
I’ve been managing Cowork Torres Vedras since September 2018; so, for one year and a half.
What do you love most about the location/city of your coworking space?
I really appreciate the city of Torres Vedras, not just because it’s my home but also because it has this perfect location nearby the city of Lisbon, wide sandy beaches, and our beautiful countryside. Here, you can be in the city in the morning and at the beach during lunch!
Cowork Torres Vedras is located in the city center, which gives us a great proximity to public transportation (like buses and trains), restaurants, pastries, supermarkets, post offices… all within a maximum of 10 minutes walking.
Our neighborhood is also very friendly. Here, you can find a symbiosis between Portuguese traditions — which are still very present — and innovation, with some new business, social, and artistic proposals coming through. We like to think that we are contributing to the creation of this thriving environment, where new ideas are brought to our city and its many communities.
What unique elements make your coworking space stand out from all the rest?
We have a very beautiful place, refurbished recently by a local architect following our sustainable concerns. Also, we have a very familiar atmosphere and a deep sense of community.
Plus, about one quarter of our coworkers have been here since the very beginning in 2013, showcasing the fact that we have a very loyal community. More than half of these members consistently participate in our events (networking events, talks, lunches, and dinners).
Another important fact is the opportunity for networking at Cowork Torres Vedras. It’s entirely common to see coworkers sharing ideas, collaborating, and doing business together. Also, at a national level, our space stands out for having a very special community — around two thirds of our 80 coworkers own or belong to enterprises. Only a small number of coworkers are freelancers or digital nomads, which isn’t very common. Developers, graphic designers, e-commerce businesses, accountants, lawyers, psychologists, engineers, architects and other professionals make this place very unique.
Do you host any special member events to bring the community together?
Yes, we host events regularly and try to make them diverse. These can range from social lunches and sunset parties to themed breakfasts or inspirational talks to close out the day. Some events are even mandatory, such as our carnival lunch and Christmas dinner!
What are the three key ingredients for operating a successful coworking space?
- People first — which means to be available, to pay attention, to listen to their suggestions, ideas, and reviews and always try to improve
- Sense of community and belonging — it’s one of the most demanding tasks but, I believe, it’s key to success. People are more loyal when they feel part of the project, at-home, and integrated. Internal events are a great tool to achieve this.
- Common sense and judgment — which are crucial in any context of human relationships
What is your favorite thing about coworking?
Linking people together is definitely my favorite thing. Connecting coworkers with common interests or linking people and enterprises from complementary areas is very rewarding.
I deeply believe in the quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” No one can do everything alone — at some point, we will need each other.
Also, I believe that connecting people brings much more creativity and well-being for those who experience it. Sometimes the advantages aren’t clear right away, but that’s the beauty of it! I also appreciate being able to do different things every day.
Do you have any advice or tips for someone who is looking to open a coworking space?
One of the founders, Sérgio, would say something like, “Make your plan and stick to it; then, find out that after all it was wrong, and start over again.” It may not seem the most enthusiastic advice at first, but it gives you the freedom of trying and learning from it.
I’m a perfectionist, so this idea helped me a lot in not fearing to give it a shot. Also, spend time getting to know your community! If it’s just a few members, it’s even easier to do this. You will have the time you need to establish lasting relationships. Your community will be as strong as the amount of time and care that you invest in it!
What has been the most challenging part of operating a coworking space?
It’s not easy to point out one major challenge, since there are a lot of different challenges on a daily basis. But from my experience, I would say finding the perfect balance between community-building tasks and strategic tasks — namely planning what’s next. These are two very important aspects, which are both equally time consuming and not always compatible. If you’re a small team, it’s even harder. But in the end, I believe it’s all about balance.
How would you like people to remember Cowork Torres Vedras?
As a special place where you can find a professional yet cozy environment to work and chat. As a place where you can benefit from a truly familiar atmosphere and a really welcoming community. As a community-focused place — not just focused on the internal community, but also on the external one. As a place that wishes to be as collaborative, innovative, creative, and open-minded as possible. As a living force on its own territory!
For more information on Cowork Torres Vedras, visit their page on Coworker here.