Meet Suia Westbrook from CoastLab
People Behind the Space: CoastLab
CoastLab is a dynamic coworking space located just outside Auckland on the Hibiscus Coast. This uniquely positioned shared workspace is only a short stroll from the ocean and offers flexible deskspace along with meeting rooms available for hire. With a focus on supporting community collaboration, diverse event offerings, and a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, CoastLab is characterized as a vibrant and inclusive workspace.
We had a chat with CoastLab's director Suia Westbrook, to find out more about her mission to grow the economy through the community.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at CoastLab.
Kia ora, my name is Suia. I have a background as an event producer and being half German/half Samoan, I spent 13 years abroad before returning to NZ in 2019 with my little family. Back in Berlin, I was running the events team at Factory Berlin, an Innovation Hub for Founders, Innovators, and Investors (Some also called it a CoWorking space for Innovators), before I took over ownership of CoastLab in Dec 2022.
My main role at CoastLab evolved to being a Community Cultivator. I strongly believe that community building isn’t only necessary within any CoWorking space, but that also includes the community we are surrounded by, our extended community. I like to think of it as a large networking pool of people, connecting on all sorts of different levels. We all seek human connection by default and want to feel like we belong, which is CoastLabs core value to create that inclusive space on a personal as well as on a business level.
It is very important to me to be involved in the local community. I am a board member of the Orewa Business Association and a Youth Mentor at Coast Mentoring. The business association works closely with the local board which gives me great insights to internal processes, learning what’s available (eg. business funding) what the community & local businesses need, what they struggle with, and where I can support and help by connecting the right people and businesses.
And I take care of all the day-to-day stuff at CoastLab.
What do you like most about CoastLab and how does it differ from other Coworking spaces?
Can’t beat the location, as we are located a 2-minute walk from the ocean in a super cute beach town, just 20 minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of Auckland City. No sitting in traffic, but instead calm beach walks at lunchtime or a cheeky swim or surf. We also have a shower so you can get straight back into work after your summer swim/surf.
I am slowly introducing more event formats to CoastLab to offer a wide range to all different industries and want to support the local start-up community. My passion specifically lies in creating a space supporting female founders/business owners. I initiated a Mentoring program for female founders at Factory Berlin, which is now running in its 5th year. Female Founders statistically have less access to networks and capital financing. When taking over CoastLab, I started Force Femme - Connect to Grow, a Women in the business community, where I host different networking formats and educational events with business relevant topics and an expert in the field. As there is still so little Women Founders I felt the need to create something where we could connect, share experiences, celebrate each other's successes, and grow together. Of course then collaboration happens naturally, which has been so rewarding to see in such a short amount of time of Force Femme starting in March 2023.
Different to other spaces, we do not have an appointed Community Manager - but we as a community share responsibilities, depending on who is available. Everyone pitches in and looks after the place, gives tours etc. CoastLab also aims to be as green as possible, being conscious about our environment, how we use our resources to be kinder to the planet.
Can you describe the community and types of businesses within your spaces?
A wild mix really! 50% Founders/Start-Ups from all different industries and a bunch of creatives such as Designers, Brand Strategy Experts, Photographers, Web Devs, Software Devs, etc., and then a couple of amazing Charities and Accountants, Lawyers, Mortgage Brokers, etc. operating from CoastLab. It has a professional but laid-back vibe.
If you could pick any 3 people in the world to work in the space, who would it be and why?
Whitney Wolf Herd, Founder of Bumble (Co-Founder of Tinder). The youngest female founder going public. Please share your whole story with us!
Victoria Harris and Sophie Hallwright from The Curve Podcast. What they are doing with educating women on money & investing in a very and pop culture-related way is amazing and so needed. And they are funny. I just want an insight into their internal processes, how to start a successful podcast, how do they pay themselves, etc.
Jacinda Ardern, the example she has set for women across the globe is undeniably inspirational and amazing. She broke so many boundaries by normalizing being a kind human being, a mother, and a partner whilst running a country. I think as a human, we still have so much to learn from her.
Describe what you like most about working in a coworking space?
- The vibe and the feeling that you have a place to connect with other like-minded people. Collaboration is a big one and happens naturally when being part of a Coworking community. Everyone has a story and it is those stories that connect us.
If you had one piece of advice for anyone setting up a Coworking space what would it be?
Build a connection with everyone who walks through your door. Even if it is harder with some than with others - everyone has a story and a different background. Do your best to make everyone feel like they belong. And a good coffee machine. :)
- Are there any exciting plans in the pipeline for CoastLab?
Expanding the Force Femme - Connect to grow platform, maybe even host a day long event offsite. Join forces with other CoWorking spaces to create a sort of day pass system or discount across the country if you are a member but have to travel for work or when on holiday.
We will be part of the Auckland Climate Festival 2024 hosting a day unconference event.