Brisbane is fast developing a reputation for innovation and collaboration and nowhere is this more evident than in the startup arena.
The city is home to a number of fantastic co-working spaces, including Little Tokyo Two (LT2), run by the entrepreneurial shoe designer come startup support star Jock Fairweather.
The Capital will be Brisbane’s largest co-working space when it opens this year, located in the heart of the CBD with the intention of engineering “creative collisions” with industry and government.
Digital Brisbane spoke to Jock about his journey so far, and what he believes The Capital could do for startups.
Tell us about your business background?
I started a women’s shoe label in London after studying women’s shoe and bag design at the London College of Fashion. The first and second lecturers at LCF both said if you want to be successful in the shoe industry – work for someone else, so I decided that I was going to do it myself.
I sold my first collection literally out of the final assignment at LCF and just hustled my way into shops, communities and shows until people gave in and took my shoes into stores.
From there I made friends with people around the stores – so that they were talking about them when they got delivered and thus they were sold out. After the first season I sold a part of my company to a Swiss luxury conglomerate and then was just a creative director. I had enough of that in mid-2014 so I came back home (to Brisbane).
How did Little Tokyo Two evolve?
Honestly it was an accident. I came back from Europe to decide what I wanted to do with my future beyond shoe design and the only thing that I could think of that I truly enjoyed doing was talking to amazing people and trying to see opportunities during the conversations.
I was back in Brisbane and wanted to play golf with my friends, but they all seemed too busy to play. They all had small businesses such as fashion labels and coffee shops and I wondered how they could be so busy with a small operation.
I started investigating and found out that they were losing motivation working from home, had no-one to give them direction and had to travel all over Brisbane to see each of their services (lawyers, accountants etc).
So, I asked them if I bought a house and they paid rent, in return I would go out and find people to help them along their journey – mentors, services and other talented people. They loved the idea.
A couple of weeks later I was out searching for a house to buy for us and I had about 30 people calling me – so I decided we needed a bigger space. I walked into the original Little Tokyo (space) and fell in love.
From there I started the refurbishment. The literal essence of Little Tokyo Two was a place that people could go, find help and enjoy working on their dreams – while we support them as much as we can, and that is exactly what we still do today.
It was six months into Little Tokyo Two before we even knew it was (called) a co-working space (we consider ourselves a collaborative workspace).
LT2 now has two collaborative workspaces in Spring Hill and Paddington. How many members do you have currently?
I count 282 in our internal chat channel. We could be a bit larger but I love the fact that we can stay personally connected with everyone if we grow organically through word of mouth.
Still to this day we have never advertised and (I’m) not sure we ever will. Scale is great, but our goal is to build an incredible community of talented and passionate people who can then support us to make positive impacts on our city and the Third World and that is not possible if we just got every man and his dog and took on any old space.
How will LT2 be involved in The Capital and what do you think the opportunity will mean for you, for LT2 and Brisbane as a whole?
LT2 is bringing its culture and vibe to what will be a more innovation-focused and upmarket space at The Capital. Happy Panda Two (the name of the new venture) will house our management team and we will work to develop our community through spreading LT2s around Brisbane to develop a supportive and collaborative ecosystem for all of the city.
What are your hopes and expectations for The Capital?
The Capital is a brave but perfect move for Brisbane. I do believe that it will become the precinct that inspires the rest of this city to take risks, adopt innovation and become more vibrant.
I believe that Fishburners (FB) is the No.1 startup co-working space in Australia and the fact that we came in as Happy Panda Two means that we have tailored our offering to suit what this city is missing and also what will complement FB.
Ideally, how would The Capital help someone with a great idea or a fledgling business?
The Capital will have mentors, idea generating people, investors, like-minded people, no judgement, educational events, courses and I’m sure, more.
The only thing left is for someone to inspire the people to come and actually give it a go follow me on @jockfair (Twitter, FB, Snapchat) where I give daily tips and interviews with inspirational people.
Editor’s note: An announcement about the location of The Capital is expected shortly.