Posted on November 14, 2016 by staff

Meet the disrupter: Watch This Space


An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but he – or she – spends more waking time at work than within his or her four walls.

So why is it that so many employers fail to provide their staff with attractive surroundings in which to fulfil their duties?

It is a question which bothered Michelle Rothwell so much that she founded Watch This Space – a property company with a difference.

“I used to be in the agency world, helping occupiers find space, and I found it quite dull – it’s expensive and it’s inflexible,” the energetic Rothwell told BusinessCloud’s Meet the Disrupters event.

“I launched the business earlier this year because I wanted to create inspiring places for this generation and the next generation – and move with the times.

“Tech is an enormous part of my business: the world now is all about ideas, being fresh and innovative.”

Shared working spaces are feeding the nation’s tech clusters, from Campus North in Newcastle to the Sharp Project in Manchester and Bristol’s Engine Shed.

The disrupters of the future will have roots in such creative, collaborative environments.

Rothwell’s start-up opened an office at 31-33 Princess Street in Manchester city centre in August which it billed ‘the UK’s first property co-working space’. She based her own company there.

“I’ve just delivered on my first project: I’ve taken an old building back to shell and completely refurbished it,” chartered surveyor Rothwell, who previously worked for commercial property adviser CBRE and property developer Capital & Centric, said.

“I’ve kept hold of the top floor as a co-working space to create and inspire a community. We’re running events there, we’ve got yoga classes, bike facilities, free beer.

“The idea is that businesses don’t lease the space because there’ a desk, but because they want their business to grow.”

The property firm is to transform a Cumbria pub into a creative business hub.

However the idea behind Watch This Space is not to simply provide a one-off hub for firms to spin out of, but change the way in which the industry itself functions.

“Why should everyone rent space?” she asked. “You can buy a flat in Manchester and have your own space – but you can’t do that in the office world.

“I’m on a project now where we’re delivering the chance for business owners to become their own landlords – so we’re disrupting the sector.”