Kontor meets Cain Fleming at their inspiring East London creative hub
Cast your minds back to 2021 - hints of the world returning to normal, banana bread and Tiger King were things of the past (hurrah), and Courier Media were on the search for a new office. Somewhere bigger to incorporate additional headcount, somewhere they could still soak up the East London vibes, and somewhere that could be turned into a creative hub. Enter Kontor, where our own Jack Fryer assisted them in a search for the perfect space, which, judging by the photos, they more than achieved.
We spoke with Cain Fleming - Managing Director at Courier Media, to delve into the ins and outs of the move, what they were looking for, what they got, and what they enjoyed most about working together.
📍 Hackney Road, London
👉 A brief overview
So, first thing’s first, how did you hear about us?
Well, we’ve been friends for years, we actually met at a networking event!
When we met, Kontor stood out as you were doing something different compared to other real estate companies, which matched what Courier is all about.
It felt like a no-brainer to come to you first rather than going to a bigger place which could have resulted in a more traditional process.
Was there a feature or aspect of Kontor you thought was most appealing?
You guys have a great understanding of what growing businesses need in an office, especially us as a creative business, as opposed to just looking solely at things like square footage.
It felt like we were going to get better options back from coming to Kontor, rather than going elsewhere.
👉 Area codes
Where did you want to be?
When we started the process in 2021, we knew we were going to be growing the team, so needed a bigger space, and were very keen to stay in East London.
It ended up being quite a long process as we saw 4-5 different spaces, the final two being this one and a place in Haggerston. Unfortunately Haggerston would have been a huge undertaking as it was a pretty dilapidated building, and we preferred the location here. Plus as it was a blank canvas we could really make it our own.
Location was huge for us, and East London feels like the centre of gravity for small creative businesses in London, and a place we’re comfortable calling home.
We also love the fact we’re on the streetfront - we were keen for the office to be public facing and allow our brand to become part of the neighbourhood.
What was the end goal from when you started looking to the final piece of the puzzle - what did you want to get out of it most?
We had a nice space at our old place, it was small, industrial, lots of natural light and our team enjoyed being there, so we wanted to replicate that in a bigger, better space.
Opening the office up for events was also a huge part for us. Our last place was too small to host events and we wanted a space where we could invite people in, which was multi-purpose, and super creative.
Also, we weren’t necessarily thinking of this when we found this place, but encouraging people back to the office after the pandemic was harder than we thought and I’m thankful we have a really inviting workspace our team enjoy working from.
Who did you need to persuade or get buy-in from internally during the process?
We don’t have a dedicated team who looks after facilities, so everyone leaned in. We had our Creative Director Kate who led on the visuals and the look and feel. I was the commercial guide, sticking to the budget, and then we had Jeff, our Founder and Editor in Chief who had a vision for what the office should be and how it should embody the Courier values, so the three of us were all strongly involved throughout the process.
We were fortunate to work with SODA Studio on the design of the fit-out, and Parkeray did a really excellent job of the build and some of the bespoke joinery. They found great solutions which weren’t overly expensive and still allowed us to have that premium feel.
For example, Kate was adamant about having oak flooring throughout the building, which would have normally been really expensive, but the parquet we went for is recycled oak so helped make it affordable and achievable.
Ultimately we found really clever solutions to make it feel premium yet relaxed and cost-effective at the same time.
👉 Grand designs
Nice! So was there anything else taken on from a sustainability point of view?
Not directly sustainability, but one of the things we really wanted to do was work with smaller manufacturers, because that’s what Courier is all about, it’s a small business, an independent business.
We worked with a freelance interior designer named Emma Archer who selected and curated the pieces you see throughout the space. From the furniture, to the artwork, and even the plants, we tried where possible to work with independent businesses we’d naturally feature in Courier.
We wanted that DNA in the office, rather than using big brands.
Segwaying nicely, how else did you want the office to reflect the brand?
Overall we wanted it to be relaxed, calm, and super creative. I love hearing the team’s chatter in the background, there’s usually music playing so it’s nice and calm, which I think is also enhanced by the soft furnishings and the warm lighting.
We even have a Courier library, a space where the team can take their laptops for some deep work, or (as the name suggests!) delve into our growing selection of books and magazines.
We’re adding to the space all the time. Evan, our Office Manager, is in charge of our product of the week, so he selects a product for the team to try every week, sometimes it could be something disposable like food or drink, or something bigger, like a room fragrance. These are all products from people and businesses who we feature in our storytelling, so we’re constantly trying to embody the best of small businesses.
👉 The must-haves
Can you tell us 3 must-haves you and the team wanted?
Event space - A public-facing space which we could open up for events and be able to interact with our audience. We didn’t want it too corporate, wanted people to feel flexible. We actually took a lot of inspiration from Soho House and wanted to replicate the vibe there, as we’d often hold meetings there when our old place didn’t have the space to accommodate.
Quality design - Aside from the interior focus, we’re a creative company where a lot of collaboration is needed, and that type of work is best done in person.
We currently operate a 2 days in a week policy, structuring face to face meetings around those days, allowing deep-work for the remainder of the week.
Building these communal areas has encouraged people to come in, and we get energy from that buzz - we want to hear chatter, people talking, music, the lot!
Plus, avoiding that awkward boardroom scenario every office seems to have where you have to book a room, kick people out etc.
Seamless tech - This was essential for us, and we’re lucky to be blessed with a lot of interesting tech here - wireless fobs for example - which haven’t turned it into this sci-fi high tech space, it still feels natural and comfortable whilst being beneficial.
There’s no Courier in-house IT team, so we wanted to avoid constantly needing outside help to resolve issues. There’s loads of great smart but subtle features like automated lights and air con which can be turned on and off remotely.
And anything you didn’t want?
We definitely didn’t want a corporate feel, or to the previous point, IT which kept playing up.
Thankfully we’ve avoided both these things!
👉 Perfect match
What do the team love most about the new space?
We’ve had great feedback on the collaborative aspects - the fact it’s a warm office and the feeling everyone gets from being here in addition to the relaxed, calm communal spaces.
I think people appreciate the fact we’ve tried to make it homely.
What was the highlight of working with Kontor?
When we began the process, picturing Courier in a new office presented quite a challenge. We saw a few interesting spaces, and seeing this space in particular was quite daunting given it was an empty shell.
Jack and Kontor were really helpful in helping us decide what’s needed, reassuring us and showing us what’s achievable, ensuring the task at hand wasn’t as daunting as we first thought.
We built a real trust with Kontor and believe they always had our best interests in mind.
He also showed us a great range of properties and clearly explained the pros and cons of each place. Throughout everything we felt really at ease and comfortable, despite any obstacles thrown our way, including things like delays and cost increases which were out of our hands.
👉 End game
And finally, what advice would you give for anyone in your position looking for a new place?
Before you get going, really think about how you’re going to use the office, and do a deep dive on what the team wants and needs.
This was difficult for us due to the changing nature of the way people were going to use offices during that first year (2021), from when we first started looking to when we moved in.
It’s not just about building an easy to operate office, it’s about understanding how you’re going to use the space, too. Consider the logistics around opening in the morning, shutting down in the evening, security, remote access, all of that. It costs slightly more but it’s really useful, especially if, like us, you don’t have dedicated in-house resources.