A garden interview with the executive director
Often simply referred to as “the Commons,” the Sackville Commons Co-op recently celebrated its first anniversary on Wednesday, Sept. 20 with its first annual general meeting (AGM). The meeting, while intended to highlight and inform community members and stakeholders of the past year’s progress, was also a celebration of innovation and collaboration within Sackville.
Julia Feltham, the Commons executive director, along with Melody Petlock and Rachel Mathis (the two other founding partners) all had different reasons for starting. “I saw a need and a willingness to collaborate, but it wasn’t part of anyone’s mission to co-ordinate together,” said Feltham.
Currently, the Commons is located at both 62 and 64 Main St. in the former fire hall and police station. In just one year, the Commons has expanded to 75 members, which, Feltham explained, means that “as of year one, we are over 70 per cent member-funded, which is really rad.”
The Commons, Sackville’s first co-working space, is a place “built for collaboration and to help people reduce the cost and risk of starting their own business or running an NGO.” The space enables business people to “sort out ideas and get less scared about trying something new and exciting.…Part of our mandate is to have great things start in Sackville,” said Feltham.
Current members and businesses range from a small craft brewery (established by Mount Allison students), a mental health drop-in centre for adults, the Sackville Farmer’s Market, an abundance of local farmers and a workers co-operative focused on cleaning services. The Commons is host to many other diverse and innovative individuals and businesses, which ultimately creates a facilitative environment for new and ongoing entrepreneurship.
The future of the Commons looks toward “normalizing entrepreneurship in Canada,” said Feltham. “People are worried about you when you try and live your dreams and I think as much as New Brunswick has a mandate about becoming the most entrepreneurial province, we haven’t realized yet how we talk to each other about each other’s dreams and hopes.”
As a result of the AGM, Feltham said that she feels reassured about the work that the Commons has done in the last year. Written testimonials from members and community stakeholders have solidified the Commons as an integral cog in Sackville’s co-working wheel.
“In the past couple of months we have also helped over ten families find food or navigate services in town … and also [had] over thirteen business consultations, and at least half of those people have explicitly said ‘it would have taken me twice as long’ or ‘I would not have ever started or tried without the Commons,’” said Feltham. “So yeah, we’re pretty exciting.”
As for the connection between Mt. A and the Commons, “Honestly, we are excited to develop that relationship more,” said Feltham. “Mt. A, explicitly spearheaded by Tina Oh, got us one of our start-up funds. [The University] gave us $500 in our first couple months of existing, which was huge.”
For students as well as community members, the Commons provides a safe space where ideas and businesses can incubate and grow collaboratively. Membership also minimizes the risk new start-ups can face by providing access to “inexpensive meeting spaces and very confidential areas.”
As a message to students, Feltham said, “the more we can collaborate and communicate, the less we have to reinvent the wheel, because students are the heart-blood of Sackville and if we can’t amplify their impact and also help [students] … then it actually is robbing greater Sackville of the richness [that they can provide].”
The Commons is always looking for new ideas and meaningful partnerships with students and community members to create social impact. To get involved or volunteer, reach out to us at [email protected] or visit their website at www.coworksackville.com.