The Vancouver ecommerce community is getting a new addition as JIBE readies to open ECOMsquare, Canada’s first purpose-built coworking space for ecommerce brands.
Located at 1758 West 8th Ave in Vancouver, ECOMsquare is a two-story, 7,000 square feet facility that houses a dynamic coworking space uniquely tailored for ecommerce brands. The building is owned and operated by JIBE, an agency for brands looking to elevate their ecommerce experience.
Techcouver got a sneak peek at the space last month and sat down with JIBE’s founder, Steve Krueger, to get the inside scoop.
What’s your story?
First off, thanks for having me! I’m Steve Krueger and most people know me through my agency work at JIBE – an ecommerce agency focused on helping better-life brands build exceptional digital experiences online. We’ve worked with brands such as Arc’teryx, 7mesh, Grouse Mountain, Sugoi, Casca Shoes, Organika, and Aspen Clean. I’m a technologist, born and raised in Vancouver, who’s passionate about entrepreneurship, community, and commerce. I’ve been building businesses on the web for close to 2 decades and have luckily been exposed to the early stages of building a few successful D2C digitally-native brands.
Where did you get the idea for ECOMsquare?
In 2014, we started an ecommerce-focused community dubbed Ecommerce Vancouver, solely focused on creating a forum for ecommerce practitioners, business owners, and executives coming from all sizes of businesses to openly share their pitfalls, challenges, and successes with each other. With Vancouver being such a small technology market at the time, we had no idea who would show up. We ended up organizing a free speaker series event with representatives from Shopify, Shoeme, Elastic Path, Herschel, and Mobify to over 120 attendees and completely sold out.
After the event, we had people come up to us saying how amazing it was to get out of the house and talk with other entrepreneurs in the space. They also mentioned that they had no idea that a community like this existed in the city. It was a huge success and we ended up continuing the events over the next few years with participants from lululemon, MEC, Arc’teryx, Build Direct, Unbounce, London Drugs, to name a few.
Time and time again, we would end up hearing the same patterns of conversations pop up from small business owners on how to navigate the challenges around their online business. How do you manage customer acquisition? What marketing channels are appropriate to spend on? Where should I go for warehousing? Who should be my first hire?
We started to become a gateway for these conversations and a connector to other members within the community and saw how valuable this was to the growth of these brands. We saw a huge need and started to think bigger and long-term in building a dedicated purpose-built space. This is where the idea of ECOMsquare came to life.
What are some of the main hurdles that an early-stage ecommerce brand would need to overcome?
We identified a few major financial components that early-stage D2C brands have to face, to have a better chance at success.
1. D2C customers’ expect polish. With mobile commerce gaining more traction, a brand’s window of opportunity to capture the customer’s attention is becoming more limited and expensive. We provide a full photo studio on-site, with lighting equipment, professional grade camera gear, lenses, and backdrops to allow for the business owner to model, shoot, edit and merchandise their products all in the same day at a fraction of the cost.
2. Shipping and storage is becoming expensive, while customers demand immediacy at no extra cost. We can thank Amazon for this (same-day delivery / prime). We want to offer on-site storage and small-scale self fulfillment so owners can gain back that closet space in their home office. Did I mention we’re also a 30 second walk to Canada Post? We could literally throw packages off our balcony to their shipping yard.
3. A network of ecommerce business owners, operators, and practitioners who are in the same trench as you. Most small business owners’ interaction with other people are typically their own customers. There’s little chance they’ll be discussing pains of managing cash flow, procurement, or supply chain issues with them. It’s a lonely journey, and it doesn’t need to be one. We want our space to be a place where noise and discussion is a good thing, and sharing onnes challenges lead to more resiliency in their journey.
What amenities will ECOMsquare offer for interested members?
We’re focused on offering all the necessary elements for running a successful small-scale ecommerce business:
- A fully decked out photo studio with lighting, cameras, and backdrops
- A small-scale popup retail spot for product launches or events
- A podcasting sound booth
- Small-scale storage facility for inventory
- A community clubhouse for networking (accessible for all members)
- Meeting space, work stations, bike storage, parking, and showers
Who’s your typical member?
We’re looking for D2C ecommerce small business owners in Vancouver, either solo or with a small team, who are taking the leap at making the business their full-time gig, need to get out of their condo/townhouse/house, and looking for a focused community space to help contribute to and learn from.
How is ECOMsquare different from other coworking spaces in Vancouver, what sets you apart?
As far as I’m aware, we’re the first in Canada to be purpose-built for ecommerce brands right from the start. Through the conversations from our community, customers, and brands that we work with we identified core amenities that are highly beneficial for our members. A fully decked out photo studio, small-scale self-fulfillment, a partner network, community events, showers, bike lockers, parking, walking distance to the beach, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and a full lounge that we’re calling our Commerce Clubhouse.
We will have a tiered mix of pricing models: private offices, on-site membership (full access to our shared kitchen, workstations, lounge), multi-day passes, and general memberships which don’t get you on-site access, but discounted rates to our amenities.
Where do you see ECOMsquare by next year?
We expect to be fully launched and operational by Q1 of 2022 and have had a few events and activations under our belts! We’re already actively looking into other markets for expansion hubs. I also, selfishly, hope we have a rooftop deck by then.
Will you be holding any future events?
We hope to boot up early morning coffee + commerce at our Commerce Clubhouse (our downstairs lounge area) and sweat activities such as running, cycling, and other social opportunities for commerce professionals to network and stay active. Stay connected on our Eventbrite, Linkedin, and Instagram for details.
How has the pandemic helped or hurt the opening?
It has definitely been a tricky one to navigate. While both ecommerce and co-working have seen a meteoric rise of adoption, we’re cautiously monitoring safety precautions to ensure everyone feels safe to join our space and attend our events. It’s been difficult with labour shortages for our buildout, supply chain issues for procurement of furniture, and general COVID restrictions and not knowing when it will be safe to fully open.
When will it be open for tours?
We’ll be accepting early interviews with owners and tours in the coming weeks. You’ll be able to sign up to register here.
When are you booking memberships?
We will be taking applications over the next few months and will be accepting members into our space in early Q1 2022.
What else is in the hood?
Great question! We’re across the street from a massive film studio (it was actually used for filming the X-files), next door to Canada Post, a walk away from Kits beach and the sea wall, a bike ride off the Arbutus greenway, and stumble up from 4th and Burrard.
Over the next few years, we’ll be situated a few blocks up from Quantum Park, the redevelopment of the Molson Brewery building geared at technology companies, and tucked in between 2 major Broadway Skytrain stops. It’s a super unique location that has a tonne of opportunity.