Let’s Own Coworking Bansko Together

Coworking Bansko was established with the idea to build a base for nomads, freelancers and entrepreneurs in the rural mountain paradise of Bansko. Initially, the idea was to start the space with more founders than just two, but ultimately only Uwe and Matthias were ready to put their own money in to get started.

Check our virtual tour of the space to see it in all awesomeness.

Now that the space is operational, has a growing members base, significant brand recognition and is nearly breaking even, it is the right time to revisit the ownership structure. Also because the opportunity came up to buy the quiet space house at a reasonable cost and extend it to accomodate more members.

Initial capital was required to get it started, but now we are breaking even on operations since the summer.

We believe that the community should own and run Coworking Bansko to make it more sustainable, less reliant on individual owners and grow it to the next level.

The legal structure that seems to be best suited for this is a co-op (cooperative), legally there are at least 7 people required to form a co-op in Bulgaria, but the aim would be to get about 20–50 people together for it to have a really broad base and keep the financial stake for everyone pretty low, between €1000 and €2000. Of course Uwe and Matthias will also hold a stake in the co-op but then be at the same level as anyone else.

What would be the advantages compared to the current setup for the community:

  • Strategy and leadership decisions would be made in a group, not only by two people. So it might reflect the wishes and goals of the community better. And any necessary unpopular decisions get a much broader basis.
    We already involve the community in some decision making, but having some skin in the game will provide better results.
  • Having a real organization behind Coworking Bansko gives it a more long-term perspective. This is especially important for members that started to make Bansko their long-term base.
  • Shared ownership forms even stronger bonds among members. And members might support the community even more with their skills and networks in the future. Every co-op owner would be an amazing ambassador for Bansko and all the future projects here.
  • Having a co-op organization would open up capacity to tackle other projects in Bansko together where Uwe & Matthias didn’t have the bandwidth in the past.
    Some examples:
    - we have been asked about providing umbrella company services to non-EU members to get a visa easier and to members that do not want the hassle to deal with company formation just to get residency. 
    - we are going to buy the quiet space house and expand it, but this does not need to be the last expansion. How about a second location at the gondola? Or a maker space? Or an off-site retreat location? 
    - more and more members are buying property and want to rent it out when they are not here. The co-op could manage these properties in a rental pool scheme. Or we could set up a bigger coliving property together.
    - we could do joint projects where many members can contribute their skills or expertise like a “digital nomad academy” to train people in our business models or a “virtual marketing agency” to offer services to larger companies that require multiple skills? Some of these projects might allow us to get grant funding as well.
  • Generally, a co-op structure would allow us to pursue a much larger vision for Bansko and also involve people in Bansko that do not use our coworking space but benefit from having a coworking community in the village.
  • Benefits for co-op owners would be discussed once the co-op is formed, e.g. should there be discounts for coworking membership for owners? Should there be co-op only events or benefits? Should earnings be distributed or invested? etc.
  • Even though Coworking Bansko is not generating dividends at this time, our growth rate looks very promising and could make investing into the co-op also financially attractive in the near future. But you should NOT look at this as a financial investment but rather a way to become more engaged.

So how would this transition actually work?

  1. See who is interested in general to become an owner of the co-op
    Goal: Raise €60k to take over the shares from Uwe&Matthias.
  2. November 9th to 11th: Do a co-op formation weekend in Bansko to get everyone together, discuss the co-op goals, sign the documents and collect investments. (or do apower of attorney with Eftim) — Register for the event: http://coop.coworkingbansko.com
  3. Establish the new co-op structure, collect investments and move all existing assets into it at the end of the year.
    January 1st: Start operating Coworking Bansko under the new co-op structure maybe using a digital assembly software like Liquid Feedback to make it possible to everyone to participate in all important decissions.

What do you think? Is a co-op the right thing to do for Coworking Bansko? And do you want to become an owner?