When you’re launching your coworking space (or trying to pack your existing one with new members), one thing is for sure: distinguishing and differentiating yourself from your competitors is critical.
Because with ample options available, a prospective member’s decision to join your space versus another one will ultimately boil down to which is a better fit with their values, personality, and workstyle.
So, the key is to define those factors within the context of your business – in the form of core values and brand messaging – and then communicate them at every touchpoint.
When I got the opportunity to work with NOBO Workspaces, that's exactly what we set out to do.
The Challenge: Position NOBO as a Hub for Toronto’s Creative Class
With NOBO having just opened its doors in Toronto’s East End, they reached out in search of support in crafting their core values and brand messaging as well as the development of their website copy.
As a standalone boutique workspace, NOBO and its founder Sina Djamshidiat had no intention of competing with their bigger, more corporate multi-location counterparts in the market.
For one, it wasn’t a fit for NOBO’s business model.
But more importantly, it wasn’t a fit for the space itself (which has served at various times since being built as everything from a laboratory to a studio for photography, fashion, and filmmaking), for Sina, as a hands-on owner, or for the Corktown neighborhood NOBO calls home (one of Toronto's oldest and most storied 'hoods).
Instead, NOBO needed to be positioned in a way that would stay true to all of these factors: as a hub for Toronto’s creative professionals.
To do this, we needed to strategically develop NOBO’s core values and brand messaging, comprised of five key components:
One-paragraph elevator pitch
NOBO’s “why us”
The Backstory: A Workspace Built for Creatives by a Creative
With an understanding of our goals, the first step was to meet Sina and see NOBO for myself.
Over a house-made Americano (the relevance of this will make sense in a minute), I chatted with Sina about himself, his background, and the space.
It quickly became clear that his personality and his story were going to be pivotal in creating the foundation for NOBO’s core values and brand messaging.
Sina grew up on film, music, and poetry. He was born in a country full of drama and stories. And he attended film school before opening up his own coffee shop as a way to meet and learn about people.
As Sina put it:
People are often judged by our appearances, our lifestyles, and the way we look at life. But people are all different. We all have different opinions, emotions, and personalities. So many of us at some point in our lives have struggled trying to fit in.
For me, it started out in school. I wanted to fit in with the cool crowd. But I looked different, my lunchbox was different, the music I listened to was different. I felt like a persona non grata.
My family moved a lot, and because of that, I’d be put in the same position every few years. At every school, I made one or two friends that were like me. Knew me. Understood me. And then slowly in high school I learned to create my own group. We created our own ‘cool’ and everybody else wanted to fit in.
That whole experience taught me a big lesson:
We are all different, but we’re all cool. You make your own cool.
And he started NOBO for one simple reason: to be a place where creative people could come together, be themselves in an unpretentious environment, and have fun while working to achieve their individual goals together.
His vision was to create a place where people could bring their own personality and fit in seamlessly.
Equipped with an understanding of Sina and his vision for NOBO, we set out to create core values and brand messaging that would embody those beliefs and attract members who do, too.
The Strategic Approach: Using the Power of Storytelling to Capture the Attention of Prospective Members
When it came time to build out NOBO’s core values and brand messaging, we had to look no further for inspiration than Sina and his story.
It’s what would resonate deeply and personally with prospective members and make them realize that NOBO was the coworking space for them.
NOBO’s Tagline, Elevator Pitch, and Mission Statement
With a tagline, elevator pitch, and mission statement, the goal is to be punchy and concise yet impactful.
So, we needed to articulate which services NOBO offers and to whom, all while conveying its brand personality and elaborating on the space’s “why” – it’s “raison d’être” (for more on why this is vital, check out my blog post on the topic).
For the tagline and elevator pitch, we landed on:
Boutique Coworking in Toronto’s East End.
Private offices, dedicates desks, and flexible memberships for Toronto’s innovators, forward-thinkers, creators, and professionals.
And for NOBO’s mission statement:
To provide you with a comfortable and inspiring work environment where you can thrive, succeed, have fun, and feel comfortable being yourself amongst a community of like-minded and equally unique professionals and businesses.
NOBO’s “Why Us”
Next, we needed to embark on the endeavor of creating an emotional connection between NOBO and its prospective members by explaining why NOBO is the right fit for them.
To do that, we started with what the name “NOBO” actually means.
Sina picked the name as an abbreviation for Northbounders – a metaphor he created for people trekking to reach the peak of their own mountains.
With that in mind, one thing that Sina said resonated deeply while strategizing on how to define and articulate NOBO’s core values and brand messaging: the idea of creating a close-knit group that made their own “cool” and shared it with the world.
Since NOBO was an independent, boutique location, it seemed imperative that we position it as its own unique community within the greater professional world – a community of creative people who share the same core values but have completely unique passions and pursuits.
We needed to create the feeling that this was a tribe of Northbounders.
And from that, we forged NOBO’s “why”:
NOBO stands for Northbounders: a bespoke coworking community of passionate professionals who blend curiosity and hard work as they journey to the top of their own mountains.
Our members are in perpetual pursuit of their own personal and professional pinnacles and are carving their own path to get there. They are fixated on the destination, but also enjoy the excitement of the journey: embracing the unknown, welcoming the challenges, and letting their passion drive them.
If this sounds like you, then NOBO is where you need to be: a place where you can embark on your own professional journey alongside seasoned creative and technical professionals in an environment that fosters outside-the-box thinking, stimulates innovation, and supports your success.
With this statement of “why,” we were able to use strategic storytelling to paint a picture of the culture NOBO would embody and, in turn, the type of professional who would thrive there.
NOBO’s 3 Key Beliefs
Last but certainly not least, it was time to identify and define NOBO’s core values: what the coworking space stands for and, in this case, stands against, as well.
These beliefs serve to prop up NOBO’s culture and create a sense of community by acting as the common thread that ties the space to its members, and its members to one another.
Sina knew exactly what he stood for from the outset. And since NOBO’s core values and brand messaging were inspired by Sina himself, the last step was in bringing them to life:
1. No Judgment
Northbounders can’t be put into a box. At NOBO, you are free to be yourself. You’re encouraged to share your own opinions, emotions, and personality. Within our walls, you won’t be judged based on your appearance, your lifestyle, or the way you see the world. You’ll be celebrated for what you bring to the table.
At NOBO, we think normal is boring. We believe in being genuine and true to self. We embrace every style. Every personality. Every kind of cool. Because our individuality is what makes us stand out.
2. Make Work Fun
You’re in pursuit of your own pinnacles. Your own mountaintops. You want to go further. Climb higher. But you’ve also chosen a life of professional freedom. You’ve elected to break the mold. So, as you move through your professional journey, you also know the importance of embracing your playful side. And at NOBO, we share in that belief.
We believe success is a fine balance of putting in the hard work while finding time to slow down and appreciate the process. We know the destination is important, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. We believe in enjoying the journey each day. Because what’s the point of going for a hike in the forest if you’re only focused on reaching the end? Some of the most important moments happen along the way – taking in the scenery, appreciating each step, and embracing every conversation you may have with fellow wanderers.
3. Embrace Imperfections
You don’t strive to be perfect because you don’t need to be. The world is full of imperfect perfectionists working tirelessly to create perfect-looking things. You know there’s no such thing as the perfect product or service because there’s no such thing as the perfect creator. You realize we’re all flawed in our own way, but there’s freedom in embracing this beautiful and ironic reality.
At NOBO, we believe that perfection is an illusion. We’re all flawed, but our flaws are our greatest asset. Because great things happen once we feel comfortable with that idea. We know towering trees grow from dirt. Diamonds are created in coal. Northbounders know that the most perfect things come from imperfect places. Our flaws make us who we are, and we embrace them.
Crafting NOBO’s Website Copy
With NOBO’s core values and brand messaging in place, we set out crafting engaging web copy, including:
Homepage copy that conveyed NOBO’s brand messaging and highlighted its amenities and selling points
A comprehensive “About Us” page that dived deep into NOBO’s brand messaging and core values
Service pages that clearly articulated NOBO’s various membership options and benefits
You can check out the full NOBO website here.
There’s something exciting and rewarding about helping a coworking space identify its core values and brand pillars.
For one, it’s an exercise in getting deeply engrained with the owner and their business. And it’s also an opportunity to meet new people and gain new perspectives – like Sina and his fascinating backstory.
And, most importantly, it’s a responsibility to tell a story that helps connect the coworking space with its prospects on an emotional level – and ultimately drives them to convert into members and, eventually, promoters.
There’s one universal truth in coworking. Your members are what bring your space to life and make it special. As an owner, it’s vital that you identify your business’ values and reason for being, define that information in a digestible way, and then articulate it at every touchpoint.