Published: 00:00, 03 February 2018
Roland Stanley looks proudly around the room at the Dragon Co-working space.
The modern open-plan office suite below the ground floor of the St George Hotel in Chatham only opened in July but has become the part-time home of more than 30 businesses.
The area had been occupied by the same tenant – a small company – for 20 years but became vacant when its owner decided to retire.
Hotel manager Mr Stanley, who has worked at the site, built by his grandfather, for 21 years, settled on the idea of an open office space for small businesses in May and had redecorated the area within two months.
“With the focus so much on Brexit, people seem to take their eye off what’s important,” he said.
“What’s important is to help these small businesses and get them started because these are the guys who are going to be paying taxes in the future.
“Whatever happens with Brexit, we have still got to keep our eye on these smaller companies.
“They are crucial to this country to get the economy moving.”
Dragon Co-working has six offices and will open another five in February. Mr Stanley hopes to roll out the concept in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells in the near future.
Memberships start at £15 a month for one day a week and offer a range of benefits like free networking events, use of meeting rooms, super-fast broadband and free coffee.
One of the members is Karen Scott, whose company, futureCoders, gives young people the chance to start a career in IT by finding them work experience with coding businesses.
She said: “Working with other people means you can share ideas across different sectors.
“They organise events in the evenings and that’s crucial. I have gone to networking sessions in London but it’s a trek, and to build that in Medway is brilliant.”
Working in the open office space has also given firms access to high-level politicians.
Former Medway councillor Bill Esterson, now Shadow Business and International Trade Minister, visited the site in November ahead of Small Business Saturday.
He said: “There have been some very good improvements here in Medway like what Roland has done here, setting up this hub for small businesses to start up and have a shared space to work with like-minded business people.”
Mr Stanley said: “I love networking, connecting and helping people, so co-working seemed perfect. It’s all about low cost and bringing people together.”