Coworking has landed in the South. We drop by Launchpad to take part in the test flight.
In a quiet corner amid the high-rises and greens of Alabang is Launchpad Coworking, the first and only such space South of Metro Manila. If you’re not familiar with the concept, a coworking space is where entrepreneurs or freelancers with no office address can stay and work, alone or collaboratively, in lieu of a coffee shop or library. It started in 2006 in San Francisco and quickly caught on in other places where creative nomads thrive—New York, London, Hong Kong, and recently, Manila.
This particular one in Commercenter offers desk space for freelancers, fixed desk space for longer-term work, private offices, and events rental for workshops or intimate gatherings. Perfect for entrepreneurs, service providers, non-profits, and students.
Launchpad is the brainchild of writer, producer, and entrepreneur Melanie Lozano Alcaraz, who happens to be my former boss! Mel and I met in GMA Network where she was Executive Producer of lifestyle shows that I wrote and produced for. We worked on other projects beyond that, including the second season of Project Runway Philippines. It’s this kind of job where you need a space to brainstorm and work unimpeded, minus the overhead expenses that go with long-term leases.
Apart from the amenities, Launchpad also does Mission Mondays, a series of workshops meant to educate and empower freelancers, contractual employees, and self-employed professionals in various aspects of business. Past Mission Mondays have been on data science, building websites, and taxation requirements. With more and more Filipinos opting out of traditional offices in favor of flexibility, Mel figured it was about time for a coworking space like Launchpad to be, well, launched. During their recent test-flight week where interested folks could come in and have a go at their space for free, she gave me a tour and a little backgrounder.
“The first time it came up was around August of last year. I was a stay-at-home mom, and it was driving me crazy working from the house because we have a toddler and we can’t really do anything. I thought that I could work out of Starbucks, or Mary Grace, but I couldn’t because it was too noisy and there were too many titos and titas just hanging around. I don’t like libraries too, because you can’t talk. So I thought, ‘Hey, it’s time to put up a coworking space here because a lot of people like me don’t have an office, and we need a place to work. I got my friends together. From there, it snowballed.”
“So far, it’s been really good. General feedback is it’s about damn time. Surprisingly, a lot of southern people don’t know what coworking is about. I got a lot of questions from walk-ins and Facebook messaging, so we explain it to them. The main thing is you’ll really save money. From the onset, when they look at the rates, it seems expensive compared to renting an office. But they don’t factor in that they have to get Internet, they don’t get a pantry, they don’t get coffee, they don’t get a bathroom nearby, they don’t get furniture. So it really adds up.”
Plane and simple
“We started with a bunch of names, and my partners and I decided on launchpad. It’s a platform for things to fly out, to take off, to soar. The space travel posters, we downloaded from NASA. The private spaces are named Rocket Room, Apollo 1, 2, and 3. I love how we could tie it up with space travel and flight. That’s why this whole place has airplanes. The logo was by [design collective] Milk. We approached them because they’re partners with [arts and crafts shop] Common Room, I asked June [Digan] to do the mural because I love her work, and we always work with her for [creative pop-up] Block Party. The whole place was designed by Dara Redulla, and my brother constructed it.”
“Initial impression is, ‘Ang mahal niya, I don’t know if I can commit.‘ But I don’t think you will really be ready to commit to a five-year lease with all those overhead expenses, either. So the big task for us is educating people that, yes, the traditional office is what you’re comfortable with, but if you give coworking a chance, you’ll get more bang for your buck because we have everything here for you.”
Project Runway girls! I was Senior Producer, Mel was Head Writer, and Magel was Associate Producer. She’s from Alabang as well and was the one who brought me along to check out the place.
Video tour: Launchpad
If you want to see more, here’s a quickie video tour shot from my smartphone. Let me know what you think of Launchpad Coworking in the comments.
See outfit details in this post.