Indie Oxford Interview: The Wheelhouse
Ahead of our September meet up next month, we chat to Annabel Samengo Johnson from The Wheelhouse about how their business has flourished with a strong sense of community at it’s heart.
Tell me about The Wheelhouse, and how it started.
The Wheelhouse started when Harry knocked on the door of our local pub and asked if we could use their space for co-working during the day. We quickly realised there was lots of demand for local, friendly co-working communities, and began to expand our business to create communities among entrepreneurs, freelancers and the self-employed.
Tell us a bit about the team?
Our team brings together a range of experience in lots of different types of business, large and small, local and international, and across different sectors. We came together around a shared love of seeing genuine social impact in our local communities, and want to work hard to grow The Wheelhouse to serve more people.
How do you go about choosing and designing your co-working spaces?
We have two co-working spaces, in Oxford and in Coventry. Both our buildings are beautiful and hold excellent history with lots of charming little features, which we aim to build on when we consider the design. We like to keep things local by buying products & services locally where we can. We have also partnered with a creative design agency called RAW Brothers, who help businesses design spaces to fit who they are.
We know freelancers and independents can feel isolated, so we work hard to create communities in which they can belong
How do you support indie businesses and freelancers?
We know freelancers and independents can feel isolated, so we work hard to create communities in which they can belong, while retaining the flexibility and independence that attracted them to their work. We want to be there to help, so we’re low on cost but big on community and flexibility.
What makes The Wheelhouse unique?
We describe ourselves as a community co-working company – we want the community to be palpable when you walk into The Wheelhouse. We do lots of little things to help our members who are building their fantastic businesses to also build community, which in turn helps them and their businesses to flourish. We do this through our community board, our Lunch & Learn events, cake day Fridays and other little events, always buzzy and fun!
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to dip their toe in the world of co-working?
Give it a go! We offer a free trial and welcome anyone to have a look around; whether they are looking for a dedicated desk, hot desk or meeting room.
How important is the local community to your business?
We support local businesses in any way we can – getting involved with local projects and charities, supporting local eateries, through partnerships, and by singing the praises of anyone who can help our members.
Finally, what are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?
We love the Missing Bean, our faithful coffee provider, they’re so prompt in cycling over as soon as we need more!
Check out their Napoli blend – our members can’t get enough of it!
Also Oxwash, a recent local startup who cycle round to pick up our tea-towels and have them back to us in no time at all.
Finally, Rick’s Vegetarian on St Clement’s is a very popular choice with our members here. They have a selection of delicious veggie boxes and wraps which are perfect for our busy independents and startups!
The Wheelhouse is a great resource for indie businesses and freelancers in Oxford, and we’re really excited to be partnering with them on our next Indie Oxford Meet Up on Wednesday 19th September from 6-8 pm at The Wheelhouse in St Clements. The Wheelhouse team, and Anna and I, will be presenting talks on the importance of community for independent businesses. If you would like to join us, grab a ticket on our event page. Indie Oxford and Wheelhouse members can get free places, non member tickets are £5.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Love, Rosie xxx