A building that was once a radio station, a clothing shop, a paint store, a drapery, and a bakery now houses the first coworking space in South Taranaki.

Te W’anake, The Foundry is in a recently renovated venue in Hāwera, featuring original interior bricks and salvaged rimu. The building has been on High Street in Hāwera since 1905, and offers 30 desks, meeting and event spaces, private offices, and provides high-quality video conferencing equipment, good coffee, and high-speed internet.

The meeting rooms hold 8 people each, with sliding doors between them opening to create a larger event space for up to 25.

The Foundry coworking space and enterprise hub is a collaboration between South Taranaki District Council (STDC) and Bizlink Hāwera (the Hāwera Business Association). It opened on February 7 a week after a formal opening with a ribbon cutting and a blessing, which was attended by 80 people, enterprise hub lead Paul Whakatutu says.

“We had a whole lot of people who expressed interest and who registered on our website prior to our opening; one who came to the launch may put an offer on a private office.”

The Foundry offers hot desks, dedicated desks, private offices and meeting/event spaces.

Te W’anake means ‘move forward, grow and develop’ which is precisely what this startup is doing. Although no venture capital was required, as the startup has backing from STDC and Bizlink Hāwera the local business community has supported the initiative from concept to launch.

“About two-and-a-half years ago we got around the table with a bunch of stakeholders and discussed whether a coworking space and enterprise hub would benefit South Taranaki.’’ STDC business development manager Scott Willson says.

It was a vision that Bizlink Hāwera had in their plans and one that was quickly endorsed by others. After an extensive renovation to create a coworking venue with a warm, industrial ambience, The Foundry is now open for business. 

The startup aims to be regularly full in the coming months, with businesses in Taranaki collaborating in the space. Some of the first customers have included; entrepreneurs, those   working from home, engineering and consultancy startups, local iwi, business support organisations, property developers and software engineers.  

It also seeks to attract travelling professionals who want to have somewhere to work while visiting the region and businesses that want to establish a base in South Taranaki. 

Metting in progress inside The Foundry coworking space and enterprise hub.

“We know South Taranaki has got a really good lifestyle, it’s a great place to live, and you can bring your work with you,” Willson says.  “There’s quite a few people in South Taranaki working from home, and new business ventures launching all the time.” 

For the project team, the process was not without its challenges. They sought the use of the building while it was in construction wrap for renovation, after planning the coworking space since the first covid lockdown three years ago. There were supply chain shortages and labour shortage issues, Willson says, but brighter things are expected for The Foundry. 

“The building has been a place where enterprising things have happened in Hāwera,” Willson says. “I feel quite privileged to be in this building – we want to see further success stories come out of here.”

Success means a full house of collaborating thriving businesses.  To assist businesses to be successful, the Foundry will also partner with Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, which is based in New Plymouth, to provide skills training. Willson says that The Foundry has already had Venture Taranaki provide enterprise support and startup clinics from the space. Massey University has also been supportive of the centre with the opportunity for innovative startups to access funding via the University’s venture arm Massey Ventures Ltd.

“Having access to a range of enterprise support by being in the venue is a key benefit of this initiative for our local business community.”

 Willson says setting up a coworking space in Hāwera, where there is free parking, can attract business owners who want to live in the region for lifestyle reasons, as well as doing business in South Taranaki.

“It has all the things you hope to have in a big city, without all the big city noise.”

Story by Dave Crampton.

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