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In May 2016 Kontor helped booming healthy snacks vendor PROPERCORN to take its first lease and the space they chose really is amazing. The office stretches along Regent’s Canal near Angel, with huge windows looking over the water. It’s all about light, space and comfort.
We talk to Co-founder Ryan Kohn about the business’s search for a workspace.
Where did PROPERCORN start?
Cassandra and I launched the business five and a half years ago from my living room. Since then we’ve grown to 40 staff and now sell PROPERCORN in 12 countries, selling 3 million bags a month.
It was pretty hectic from the start. Our philosophy was just to sell, sell, sell as we weren’t going to get anywhere otherwise. We won our first order from Waitrose in the first six months and other supermarkets followed soon after. Our first customer was Google’s offices – at one point out of 48 snacks that they stock, PROPERCORN was the fastest moving. We really took that statistic and ran with it and quickly got into lots of major high street chains like Leon and Benugo.
How important was your workspace to the company as you grew?
Culture is extremely important in a company, but it’s all very well trying to build an empowering culture for staff if you’re stuck working in a basement somewhere. It’s just not going to develop. Everyone needs to enjoy the workspace and have a place to relax.
Even our first space in a managed office in Primrose Hill was small but had lots of natural light. Next we went to a space in Kings Cross which was also really light and all on one level like this workspace, which we like – it means there’s no hierarchy, no one has their own office. We’re all together.
Why did you choose this workspace?
We had already seen a few options but as soon as we walked in here we loved it. It’s unique, being able to look over the canal. There were lots of dividers from the previous occupants, but we saw the potential and opened it out. It was quite a complicated deal as Kontor had to find someone to buy the building so we could lease it, but worth it.
Kontor were brilliant; as soon as we were introduced to Luke and James we realised there was a great cultural fit. We wanted to work with other entrepreneurs. They were very attentive and came back to us quickly with options and so on. I used to run a property development firm so had a good idea of the process, but they were really useful to add context to the deal and advise on what was reasonable and what wasn’t.
As well as the right environment, did you have other criteria?
We wanted room to grow into and there’s plenty of space here, space for 90 people. We currently sub-let some space to companies that have taken desks for perhaps a year or longer, which subsidises the rent. It wasn’t easy to find tenants as we didn’t want just anybody; we wanted companies with a culture like ours, that complement what we’re doing.
Did you have a specific location in mind?
It needed to be accessible but we didn’t want to be on top of a tube station. We wanted people to eat all together rather than go out separately, so we have our own chef. We’re still only about ten minutes’ walk from the station and lots of the team live nearby.
What sort of fit out were you aiming for?
We didn’t want it to feel too much like an office, more like a living space. We also didn’t want it to just mimic Google or Twitter with beanbags everywhere. This is the ideal fit-out, comfortable but functional, a space we can live in.
The team love it. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better location in London, especially in the summer when we can spill out onto the canal side.
What’s the benefit to having your own lease rather than being in a managed space?
For us it’s knowing that we aren’t going to have to move soon, that we’re here and settled. We’ve got space to grow into so we’re happy to be here.
What advice would you give to another growing company looking to sign a lease?
Pick your battles. Think about the key points you want to achieve and what you would concede on. It’s all a negotiation.
What’s next for PROPERCORN?
Our aim is to be Europe’s most loved snack brand, so we’ve got some way to go. We’ve launched in Germany recently and that’s going really well. For us Europe is a huge opportunity, so we’ve got a lot to go for.