Big things brewing at Whistler’s co-working cafe

February 28, 2017
By: Michelle Ratcliffe
Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

When Heidi Lidholm left Whistler after a season working for Whistler Blackcomb in her early 20s, she knew she would return.

Living proof that a season spent in this resort can lead to a world-class career, Lidholm is a leader amongst the next generation of Whistler entrepreneurs with creative startups that contribute to their community.

While on hiatus from Whistler, Lidholm honed her marketing and branding chops as a digital strategist working with big brands like Mini and BMW. After building a successful business offering online marketing and brand strategy, she returned with a dream to open a co-working space.

Sharing her idea with an old-coworker, Adam Vavrik, who had success building and selling businesses in Whistler, the two friends spotted an opportunity to combine their skill sets in a space in the Summit Lodge that Vavrik had been using for a catering contract.

“That’s where catering met co-working and we decided to fuse,” said Lidholm.

81 Whistler opened its doors as an inspiring work environment, fuelling their professional patrons with healthy food and quality coffee. The two friends have found a balance with Vavrik’s operations and catering experience and Lidholm’s vision and marketing expertise. Together, they have created a collaborative space for a thriving community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, artists and remote workers.

“It’s really creating a place where people can launch their own events, businesses and workshops, but also then come to get the skills that they need to grow their business,” explained Lidholm.

Designed to work

Building a career in the digital realm, Lidholm grew professionally in online communities, but found her freshest ideas flourished in co-working environments.

“Where I found myself the most creative and working the most productively was in the places that had cafes attached to them because I was able to have conversations with people, drink some good coffee, and just felt more inspired,” she said.

With 81 Whistler, creative collaboration is given a space to thrive around oversized, communal live-edge wood tables. Lidholm is plucking professionals from fixed desks and solo entrepreneurs from their kitchen tables. Part of the strategy to get the right people returning is a membership offering perks and flexible working hours to make the space feel like their own.

Private bookings

Driven to attract the digital nomads and online entrepreneurs of the world to an inspiring destination, Lidholm is also offering private event bookings. She sees demand for progressive organizations and tech accelerator programs to bring teams to work offsite and a number of remote workers keen to gather and collaborate in person.

“I’ve seen it meeting people in the hotel. There’s so many people up from Seattle, Vancouver, San Fransisco — people who are in the tech industry and who are used to working in co-working spaces,” said Lidholm, who estimates 40 per cent of their business over the first two months of operation have been visitors to Whistler.

Lidholm has a passion to position Whistler not just as an adventure hub, but a business hub. 81 Whistler has the opportunity to function as an offsite business centre with a versatile design that lends itself to an evolving offering of gatherings, from speakers’ series to mastermind retreats.

Collective collaboration

81 Whistler is the ideal environment for Lidholm to offer consulting sessions. She can directly support those working in the space with the courses and resources she previously offered to her global client list.

“We’re giving people a space to get their project off the ground and we’re helping them communicate what they want,” said Lidholm, whose model lends itself to startups that were previously at home, working in isolation.

With a workforce trend towards shedding the confines of cubicles, 81 Whistler is positioned to grow right alongside the progressive business minds that they serve.

“I really feel that for Whistler to move forward we have to be thinking about where people are going — the trends that are emerging — so that we’re building towards how people are living and how they are working,” said Lidholm. “The more I think we build those collaborative structures, the more we will see this town go where it wants to go.”

Link to Whistler Question article: http://ow.ly/VJRnm