Ukrainian Coworking Association interviewed Ilia Kenigshtein, the founder and CEO of Creative States, the network of premium office spaces, to get to know how the locations in Kyiv and Dnipro currently work, whether residents return to coworking spaces and what has already been changed in internal processes. Read on.
Without excessive «loudness»
I have not been writing much lately. The reason is quite prosaic – I just do not have the internal resources for this today. At first, I thought it was some kind of an inner block, which is completely normal today: many people face it, but they are afraid to admit it. Perhaps it is worth just coming out of the shadows and saying: «Friends, I am not writing anything now. I have nothing to say. All my resources are fully directed to the operational recovery of the Creative States business as one of the drivers of our common economic front». Silently and without excessive “loudness”, we continue to function, meet returning residents, settle new ones, pay taxes to the state, restore our locations, make repairs, volunteer. For some reason, volunteering and charity are still perceived in our country as cool newsbreak for PR and the effectiveness of assistance is measured by the number of public interviews. Personally, the Creative States team and I have a slightly different opinion.
Therefore, Ilia Kenigshtein has not disappeared. Maybe I have become less media-active, but these are the priorities now. I am in Kyiv and I have fully plunged into work, a complete restart of the company and support for my family.
Are Creative States open now
All Creative States locations are working. We also continue to make not just creative spaces, but a completely creative world with an effective ecosystem inside. To manage not square meters, but senses. Of course, taking into account the new reality, where security is dominant.
Our portfolio has five locations, fortunately, as it was before the war: four in Kyiv (CS Arsenal, CS Arsenal 2, CS Senator, CS Gulliver) and one in Dnipro (CS Dnipro).
We are the first to open since the beginning of the war. On April 10, we resumed work in Dnipro and on May 10, we opened the doors of CS Arsenal, having done a titanic job the day before to organize everything. CS Gulliver, CS Senator, CS Arsenal 2 are also functioning today. Arsenal became the capital’s “magnet” again. At Mardi Gras, you will again see the residents of Creative States, and just guests – Pechersk pensioners, schoolchildren, tourists. This is a very lively location. We have all been waiting for this since February 24. I always repeat that Creative States is no longer just a network of premium coworking spaces – it is a philosophy. This is a place people simply do not want to leave.
Are there residents
Our locations are large. For example, in Dnipro there are 3.5 thousand square meters, designed for 600 seats, out of which 150 are currently vacant. The location is mostly filled with our previous customers who have returned. The anchor member has been restored, some companies have extended their contracts, and several new residents have come at the same time.
In Kyiv, CS Arsenal is half-full. Before the war, it resembled the Milan railway station, a kind of creative anthill. Unfortunately, this is not the case today, but I am sure that occupancy will restore in September September. More and more visitors are coming to Kyiv locations every day.
Most of our residents still do not know when exactly they will return. At the same time, they do not want to lose their offices. Therefore, at the beginning of the summer, we proposed a new format of cooperation. Customers could “freeze” their offices until the end of summer at a rate of 25% of the pre-war price.
We understand the new reality and what comfort zone we were all in before. At the same time, we understand that from February 24, we and only we manage our future, taking into account the present.
We realize that not everyone will return to the Creative States, from members to employees. There will be new ones, there are already new ones, these are inevitable processes in the conditions of war.
Today, at the locations, you will also meet people who come here for the opportunity to work comfortably in offices, communicate within the community, or simply be alone in search of the same resource that many lack today. We are alive and we are developing, no matter what circumstances may arise.
What helps to stay afloat
First, a financial safety cushion in case of force majeure. In fact, all this time we lived on what we earned and saved earlier.
In addition, current circumstances require maximum flexibility. There must be flexibility both on our part and on the part of the property owners, who you need to communicate with, negotiate and involve in your processes.
Most of our property owners are our partners, so we are fine with that. I think, under the circumstances of war, you need to ask yourself boldly the question: why do you need this location if you cannot agree with anyone?
In our processes, we are, as always, alive, strong and dynamic. When I started rebuilding the locations, I ran into the problem of not having enough professionals. It is quite a non-trivial task during the war to find new people, to bring them up to speed. Now I have half a new staff, in particular, a new Chief Operating Officer, a new Chief Financial Officer, community managers, sales managers etc. In general, today Creative States is a team of 35 cool professionals who are ready to fight and move forward dynamically. The war tore off the masks of many people. I hope that it will be easier in the search for people who share the same values. Every time I thank my partners, employees (those who work and who worked), contractors and all residents. This is all our common achievement.
What has changed in internal processes
Since we are still only on the way to our pre-war metrics in terms of the number of residents at the locations, we are using this time to our advantage. For example, at selected locations, depending on the average attendance, we close spaces earlier. Cleaning at the locations of Creative States was manic, and remained so. War is not an excuse to betray your standards.
The second change is that we started selling more through the Creative States app. A person who is not our member can simply download the application developed by the Ukrainian team andcards, instantly register in it, book a hot desk or meeting room for a day, week, month, etc. After that, the client can come to the location, get a card on the spot, go in and start working right away. That is, from our side even more respect for the client’s time.
Also, we are currently engaged in full automation of the client’s journey – so that a person can use the app to get to the location, go through the turnstiles, connect to Wi-Fi for the purchased period and receive a message one hour before the end of the package. We have almost implemented this idea. Now is an ideal period for testing it on residents who are loyal and ready to experiment. We are upgrading our infrastructure in accordance with the capabilities and current needs of the client.
It is enough to fight for customers. Go to business centers and pick up customers from there.
New operator challenges
Today, most coworking spaces face a huge challenge – to find new customers, who are very few in the market. The rat race where everyone is against each other begins. Therefore, I deeply respect and understand the mission of UCA – it is very difficult to unite everyone. Nevertheless, now the business has a common goal – to restore the country’s economy.
It is enough to fight for customers. Go to business centers and pick up customers there. Today, many companies are leaving due to the inflexibility of property owners regarding office rent. Those property owners who do not understand this will lose not only operators but also customers.
The role of CS in the restoration of Ukraine
We are a company that in 2019 created a network of huge creative business spaces, offices of the future with a fully equipped business and lifestyle infrastructure. In Ukraine, we are the undisputed market leaders because we invent and implement standards ahead of the industry, which are then inherited by others. Both our residents and competitors recognize this: some simply imitate, some adapt, and some pass them off as their own. Therefore, our role remains a leadership one. We will take an active part in the restoration of Ukraine and its economy – this is our mission. We see our role in the organization of various associations, centers, teams with ideas for the development of the country on the business front.
In half a year, the war became our everyday life. This is crazy but this is the way it is. During these six months, one thing became obvious – the future lies only in what we believe. There are no compromises and there cannot be. There has been fewer falseness and showing offaround. People are learning to live again and you will no longer grab their attention with cheap fables. The foam came off and the essence remained. For many, this is a chance to start from scratch. For me personally, restarting my business for the third time: after the raid, the pandemic, now during the war. I am guided by only one unchanging principle – do what you have to, and come what may.
We take the punch and run further.
Translation by: Margarita Mashtalir
Original Ukrainian version is available via link: