Tori Donnelly is co-founder and Head of Social at WorkClub, a startup that connects remote workers to hundreds of workspaces across the UK. By using the app, which re-launched during the 2020 COVID lockdown, users can find and book workspaces or meeting rooms and have access to exclusive discounts and benefits. We spoke to Tori, “a mid-western at heart” who was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and who now lives in London with her husband and business partner Nick, and their daughter.
What’s Your Mission?
I want to help people live better lives, engage with their local communities and work where they work best. I want to see remote working become normal practice across every company in the world and restore ownership over time, so that people can really live, not just work.
Where Did The Idea For WorkClub Come From?
I was studying for my MBA, back in 2017, and my campus was in Kensington. Most days, the library and on-site cafe were jam-packed and the WiFi was usually unreliable. I often found myself walking across the street to a nearby hotel, bar or restaurant to meet my husband Nick between meetings and classes, so that we could sit down and get work done. These places were empty in comparison. There were loads of desks and chairs available, the WiFi was speedy: I felt incredibly productive there. This is where and how the idea for WorkClub came to me.
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Was There A Gap In The UK Market For Such A Platform?
Before WorkClub, people worked from home, a corporate office, or an over-priced co-working space. As a student, and now a young mom, I could never get myself to spend more than £400 per month on a desk. It’s madness! With a WorkClub membership, you have both free and paid subscription options with flexibility. It’s really a no-brainer. A lot of our venues used to sit empty throughout the working hours of the day, however, they had all of the brilliant add-ons that a co-working space has. Fast WiFi, comfortable seating and desk options, plugs, coffee, etc. Matching these spaces to the UK’s vibrant community of remote workers was a clear opportunity to benefit both sides.
And You’ve Re-Launched During Lockdown…
A re-launch is never an easy task – no matter what the circumstances are. Luckily, we have an incredible, talented, hard-working and driven team behind the scenes who give it their all. The COVID lockdown was a real challenge for the business, as people were told to work from home and all our workspaces were closed for months. We had to use our time productively, doubling down on product development to ensure we’d be ready to ramp-up as soon as we were able to do so. We also pivoted the platform to launch “GiveLocally” – which enables local cafes and restaurants to sell gift cards online and provide much-needed cashflow during the lockdown.
What’s The Most Invaluable Thing You’ve Learned During Lockdown?
Lockdown has shown us that time is a really precious resource, and it’s one thing you can’t get back. So think of it as diamonds and don’t give it away or spend it on just anything. As a co-founder of a startup and a new mom, it can be easy to get pulled in multiple directions all at once. And while you can thrive on adrenaline for a certain amount of time, eventually that’ll wear you down. It’s imperative to prioritise both your life and your business in a way that lines up with what you value most and to ensure you take time to recharge so you’re ready for the next challenge to come.
Your Thoughts On Being A Female Founder In The UK In 2020…
So many emotions come to my mind with this question: challenging, inspiring, empowering, and so much more. I have come in contact with many female entrepreneurs over the last few years who are brilliant, focussed and driven. One of the pitfalls they regularly encounter is around work-life balance. When you are working “all the hours” as an entrepreneur does, it is seriously challenging to juggle family life and manage your guilt – we are women, after all!