Sometimes the best ideas for our work come during vacation when we let our minds wander and we are relaxed and satisfied. Petter Wallberg wondered how he could integrate this feeling of happiness into his everyday worklife. Together with his partners Patrik Spathon and Nicola Louise Broom, the young Swedish entrepreneur founded The Ski Locker in Chamonix.
REVUE's co-publisher Jan Bathel shouldered his mental skis and joined Petter on a cruise through a place where hard working sports lovers come together to just do what they are good at.
What was the initial idea for the setup of your project?
It started out when I visited Chamonix in the French Alps. I enjoy skiing, love the mountains and I really fell for this place. The location is great and I didn’t want to leave so I had to find a work for me, a nice activity. I started to create a couple of start-ups to from here through the internet. After a while I started to realise that I need to meet new people, I need to meet friends. I met another Swedish guy, his name is Patrik Spathon and we started to work on projects together and prepared meetups, called ChamGeeks: once in a month we met, drank some beers and talked about tech.
We started to understand that we need to build some kind of entrepreneurial community in the Alps because that did not really exists yet. Especially Patrik missed it because he is used to take part in meetups with entrepreneurs, developers and other creatives.
When we finally found a place and contacted the owner it turned out that he had thought about opening a coworking office for ages. He asked me: ”So you want to have this coworking space then?” And I was like: “Ok, let’s move in next Monday.” We did not do any calculations businesswise, instead of we said: ‘Let’s just do it!” That’s how it all started.
What activities do you use to stimulate relationships and collaborations?
The Ski Locker is very different compared to other coworking spaces. We use the mountains as the source of creativity and community building. We go skiing together, we go climbing together, we go running together. That’s how we network, that’s how we process, that’s how we force our productivity. If you use the mountains as a tool, it makes the work much more efficient. And it is also very healthy!
How do you get people to go into a mode of exchange: sharing their experiences, curiosity, knowhow and failures.
We are a young coworking space. Actually we officially opened in December 2014, immediately, which is fun. We are just starting to know each other, hanging out a lot and enjoy to meet like-minded people who like the mountains and to be productive. It is not easy to define in a holiday and ski resort: A lot of people are just coming and going. Most things are happening very natural, we do not need to create special events to talk about fortunes and failures.
To strengthen our bonds we do projects together, for instance we did a transportation application for Chamonix through ChamGeeks. We had a meeting with the Mayor of Chamonix, we loved the application and would now like to make it the official one for Chamonix. We like helping our members to improve the way of life in Chamonix and to decide on things. In this sense it is not about earning money, it is about collaboration.
What advice would you give other people that are about to develop a creative space?
Do not think, just do it. And try not to grow too fast. Take it easy and enjoy the ride! If you want to quickly earn a lot of money, do not start a coworking space. Do something else. But it gives you so much more to run a coworking space. Do not think it as a short-term project, think it as a long-term project. And it must be fun - if it is not fun, you miss the whole point.
At the beginning it is quite good to have a feeling of safety, so you can start small and you can really think about what you are doing and how can you expand. We still have a lot of lessons to learn before we expand. At the moment we are focussing on making the current place as good as possible.
What other spaces have inspired you? What can we learn from other examples and why?
One of the spaces which inspired me was HUBUD in Bali because they have a unique location, similar to the Ski Locker in the sense that it is not in a big city. They also had to create a nomad community. I e-met them a couple of months ago. That was quite fun and they thought me a lot. Without even talking to me in person. Internet is great! You have to realise how important it is to invest many hours of work into building a strong community.
How do you stimulate people to get out of their natural habitat and set up new collaborations?
To be fair, we are pretty spoiled with that. Usually, our visitors have been working in cities as London, Stockholm and Paris. They are used to work really hard and need a change in their lives. They are looking for something else, you know, a happy life. Here in Chamonix, they can combine their work with the mountains and the activities, which feels good. Therefore they have already gotten out of their natural habitat, they often are open-minded and know what they are looking for. It is a really good feeling to meet like-minded people being in the same situation, sharing their journey in life.
When you create a project like this, you need to express your creativity and you need to use it, otherwise you are not feeling it.
We do a lot of extreme sports and soon we will also launch a new yoga “add on” to our subscription. This is a great way to keep your mind and body healthy. We are integrating my other association ChamShake to have another creative space to offer for free to artists, entrepreneurs and freelancers. We are arranging free workshops on things like healings and massages.
How does the design of the physical space contribute to the principles and goals of Ski Locker?
We are partly located in a basement which is good to avoid distractions. In the summer it’s possible to sit outside. We do not have any windows, we have a 50” monitor that displays the top of Aiguille du Midi. It feels like we are positioned 3842 m high in the clouds but actually we find ourselves around 1000 m above sea level.
We have another Ski Locker 100 m from the ski lift. This means that we can bring all our ski gear. During lunch break we are doing a couple of rounds, which is pretty extreme - it can give you some adrenaline. You can basically ski a 3000 m descent in about 1.5 hours, which is a lot.
We have a meeting room, which is indispensable. You can walk in if you have a Skype-meeting or a presentation - we have whiteboard, 42” monitor and any other equipment you need in an office. On the whole our space is simplifying the combination of mountain sports and work.
How do you translate the purpose and goals of Ski Locker into a digital environment?
In the future we will improve our website and customise membership.
We have a lot of gadgets - we play around with a 3D-printer and other stuff - which is just for fun.
We have Facebook, but it is not that essential to us at the moment. Word of mouth is more important. We are not in a hurry, we are not making press-releases in the media. We want to set everything, we want to make everything perfect first. We also run a community called ChamSocial and we are creating a new community platform which will be launched soon.
What is the one-sentence core message of the Ski Locker, which reflects its values?
The Ski Locker unlocks your creativity with the help of the mountains!
Petter, what a refreshing talk, thank you a lot! It is inspiring to see you following your heart and how The Ski Locker is growing naturally without a rush.
26 Place Edmond Desailloud