Campfire, a global network of shared spaces founded in Hong Kong, has just opened a brand new co-learning concept in Tseung Kwan O, a residential area situated in the Sai Kung district of Hong Kong. The new space includes a learning center and kindergarten along with a co-working area, making it ideal for working parents to have their cake and eat it too.
WGSN City by City Associate Editor Nicole Hurip sat down to roast some marshmallows with Campfire’s CEO and co-founder Wang Tse to learn more about what makes a co-working space stand out amongst a rising sea of competitors.
What is Campfire?
We set out to be a network of customised, shared spaces among multiple sectors. It was founded two and a half years ago by me and two others, and we all came from the real estate industry. The first one in Kennedy Town was kind of generic, as we originally just wanted to do a co-working space. Since then, however, we’ve grown to 20 spaces in a little over two years, and it’s going very well. and part of that is because we had a different strategy to everyone else. For example, for co-working, we’re industry-focused. For the other sectors, we have co-living, co-learning and co-retail, and all those things make up our network of shared spaces. It is a very unique kind of platform for the members that use it and the people that are involved in the whole thing. You’re solving problems, making office space available to people that previously weren’t able to have that kind of office space. The community aspect of it also promotes a new way of working.
We see a lot of players coming in to the market, and a lot of them have a regional play on it. A lot of people want to do it at scale, but everyone does it the same way, and there’s not real differentiation between one operator to another. Our whole business strategy is to be different and to have a completely different service offering. We make our co-working space industry focused, and people are really drawn to this concept because that space is specifically made for them and there are a lot of things in it that helps them in ways that other operators cannot.
Do you see this taking over traditional real estate concepts?
Taking over is a big word. Uber hasn’t been able to take over ridesharing, so it’s not about taking over, it’s about creating a segment within a traditional kind of industry. What we do to shared spaces is a small part of the real estate industry. What we’re going to focus on is to do that very very well and to do it two years ahead. So being industry focused, being customized, embracing local communities and doing it across different sectors is something that no one else does. So what we will do is continue to innovate in this space.
Can you tell us more about the co-learning concept?
It’s a place where working parents can find work-life balance. We’ve been planning it for quite a while, a space where there is a kindergarten, a learning center, a food and beverages area and also a co-working space. Being a working parent is extremely difficult in a place like Hong Kong, and at Campfire’s co-learning space, they can take their kids to the kindergarten, and then go about their work. We have a bunch of independent education providers offering classes for kids – from coding, to architecture and empowerment classes. Parents can go about their day in the same complex and, in between lunchtime and breaks, you can catch up with your kids. To be able to go to and then leave work with your kids is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have, and something that most parents would want. On top of that, by creating this platform, we were able to support education entrepreneurs within that space. We fully fitted the space for Avendale (the kindergarten).Setting up independently can be a huge cost, but we’re making that space for them, fully licensed, fully fitted, with flexible lease terms for a much lower cost, creating opportunities for education providers to get into the industry.
The courses offered aren’t your traditional maths and english. We do have those, but we’ve introduced other courses. Also there’s two classrooms that we’ve set aside for more flexible use, so educators can come in and book them for 2 hours or a day, and they will go and do their class. They can’t have it longer than a day, so people use them for kids yoga or something. It keeps things fresh. The center promotes creative learning and learning through play.
Do you foresee a big demand for this type of space?
Oh yes. It’s not just us, it is a trend globally that learning can be done in many different ways and it’s not always memorize, memorize, memorize.
Why Tseung Kwan O (TKO)?
For co-learning, we choose locations that are traditionally quite residential, and also where the bulk of the demographic are families. If we are in Central, and the parents have to travel there from Tseung Kwan O or Whampoa, it’s a lot of travel time. By being where they live, we give them more time to go about their daily commitments. TKO is, I think, one of the best up-and-coming districts in Hong Kong as very appealing to families, with a nice lifestyle. The demographic is quite diverse, and also Clear Water Bay is right around the corner. Sai Kung isn’t that far either. To have a coworking space and this education platform there for their kids so they don’t have to travel all the way into Hong Kong Island to get those things – I’d like to think we’re solving a few problems for parents.