Despite successful careers in telecommunications, Max (46) and Cherry (42) decided to take some time out in 2002: “I’d been working from home while employed by Cable & Wireless," explains Cherry, “but the experience hadn’t proved enjoyable. I didn’t miss the commuting but I did miss the office buzz and having support services available when I needed them.”
It was while back-packing in China that this home-working experience prompted the birth of a business idea: a “Work Hub” for business owners and commuters that provided a flexible alternative to working from home or doing a long commute every day. “I knew that technology was moving forwards rapidly at that time," adds Max, “and that we could offer IT services to rival any corporate HQ.”
And so, from an internet café in Bolivia, the Campbells registered The Hot Office domain name and the new business was underway. Once back in England, the couple were brave enough to back their idea with a £50,000 bank loan secured by personal assets. With that funding they launched a pilot office in Harpenden in November 2003 which proved a great success - within a year the office was full. But success brings its own issues and for the Campbells, it was the challenge of finding serious funding for growth.
Introductions to investors through Business Link provided the solution and, in the spring of 2005, the business secured £500,000 of investment which led to the opening of three 4,000 square foot centres in St Albans, Aylesbury and Welwyn Garden City by March 2008. More recently, Aylesbury Vale District Council invested £160,000 for the team to create the Aylesbury Enterprise and Innovation Centre which provides all of the Hot Office flexibility coupled with business support services.
“Less than two per cent of UK businesses use serviced offices, while more than 15 per cent do so in the USA," says Max. “Improving work-life balance is mainstream thinking now, just like the green agenda, and so flexible working is set to grow."
The Hot Office is certainly flexible: its “hot lounge” offering allows anyone thinking about starting a business to dip a toe in the water with low-cost, unlimited access to the facility at times to suit them. And with expansion plans in place for up to four new centres per year across England, it’s clear that this model business has the business model for the future.
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