Hi there! I’m Mel, the owner of the Central Coast’s newest coworking space The Foundry Cowork. My vision for The Foundry is to provide a creative workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs and to build a small business community that’s supportive, fulfilling and just plain fun!
Here’s how it all started.
The pre-coast life
As a graphic designer living in Sydney, my work life was fantastic. I shared a cool converted warehouse space in East Sydney with my two besties who were also designers. Our days were ridiculously fun - we installed a swing, a bowling alley and had Dolly Parton on high rotation - but also somehow super productive?! We fed off each other’s energy and bounced ideas around, inspiring and encouraging each other in every design pursuit. The space itself even took on a life of its own and we hosted parties, workshops and a wedding! It really was the best time.
The big move
As much as my work life was thriving, my hubby and I soon realised that starting a family and affording to stay in Sydney’s inner west was going to be impossible. After much deliberation, we made the bittersweet decision to leave the city life behind and make a new home for ourselves on the Central Coast.
Although the chilled coastal lifestyle was something we both relished, my work situation was very lonely. I couldn’t even do my morning soy latte run because apparently a decent coffee was low on the priority list in this part of the world! I worked from home and juggled the kiddies for the first 12 years until the distractions at home and the feeling of seclusion became too much. I bit the bullet in 2017 and signed a lease for a small office in Erina - on my own.
Although I was more productive working away from home, it didn’t improve the isolation factor. It wasn't long before the lack of human stimulation caused major burnout, self-doubt and apathy. My mental health took a huge hit and I felt lost and utterly hopeless. It then impacted my marriage and my relationship with family and friends. I shut off emotionally and became a numb, robotic version of myself. Instead of seeking help, I fled. I flew to New York to visit one of the OG designer besties and attempted to erase all care and responsibility from my life.
The lightbulb moment
The coworking concept had gone bananas in the big apple (ha!) and there were literally hundreds of different business models. I thought "Hang on, coworking is pretty much exactly what we were doing in Sydney all those years ago. I need to either find or recreate that same concept on the Central Coast."
I came home recharged and motivated. I finally sought help through counselling and opening up to close friends and family. And I went on the hunt for a coworking space. Unfortunately, the Central Coast was still a bit behind in this aspect and there were no coworking spaces in my area that were suitable. Surely that meant there was a gap in the market? If I was looking for a local coworking space with a cool, relaxed, creative vibe maybe others were too? After all, the coffee scene had evolved dramatically and the coast had become a caffeine lover’s dream.
What's that quote from Field of Dreams?
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.
Here's hoping Kevin Costner knew what he was talking about :)
The new venture
After a marathon reno effort reminiscent of The Block, I opened the doors to the Foundry in November 2018. To my surprise I had two people waiting out the front!
I’ve put my heart and soul into this new business and my little Foundry community is growing slowly but steadily. The local business community has embraced me, I’m meeting new people and I’m finally enjoying my work again. My life has so much more purpose and I can’t be more thankful.
What I’ve been through has inspired me to champion mental health and wellbeing in small business. I plan to use The Foundry to run workshops, seminars and fundraisers to support local mental health charities and organisations. Watch this space.
For more information on The Foundry Cowork, see www.thefoundrycowork.com.au
Note: Mental wellbeing for small business owners is paramount. If my story resonates with you, please see more information at www.beyondblue.org.au or call the 24/7 helpline on 1300 224 636.