Christopher Magick is re-imagining the way that we think about our work spaces in a pretty epic way. For most of us, the word "office" is more likely to stir up feelings of mind-numbing boredom and claustrophobia than anything remotely inspirational. They're places where we store our files, engage in a little friendly chit-chat, and then more or less go into a fluorescent-lit lockdown for 8 tedious hours a day. Well Sustainable Valley is shaking us out of this humdrum conundrum and providing an alluring alternative. Far from just your average coworking space, it's a place that is designed to nurture small businesses through deeper channels of collaboration and a more holistic approach to productivity.
Located within the Arts & Industrial zone of Byron Bay, Sustainable Valley is a beautifully designed office space that smacks you in the face with spaciousness, greenery and light - all fusing to form the perfect hub for creativity and learning. But Chris's vision goes much deeper than this. He also offers an in-house creative agency for members to utilise; workshops for business development; guest speakers to impart their industry knowledge; and mindfulness and leadership coaching to stimulate productivity. Best of all, members are constantly surrounded by like-minded creatives who have a genuine spirit of collaboration rather than competition.
Sounds pretty damn good to us. We sat down with Chris to uncover how his global travels planted the seed that grew into Sustainable Valley, and how he sees it all unfolding in the future..
When did you land in Byron Bay and what life changes have lead you here?
Wow, umm that’s a big question actually. Let me try and answer it without writing a novel. I broke my leg jumping off the roof into my mate's pool at his house party. Funnily enough I think that’s what really started the Byron Bay trajectory. I was laying around after for 8 weeks with a spiral fracture while everyone else was enjoying summer and realised how much I hated my life. I packed up all my stuff, quit my job and moved to Los Angeles. From there I bought a car and drove to Mexico City. On the way I spent a couple of months in Arizona with a Navajo Medicine Man and met some other really amazing people and elders along the way. I lived on a cactus farm next to the pyramids at Teotihuacan for 6 months. By the end of this trip I wasn’t angry anymore, just possessed by an idea, which is the quote I use for Sustainable Valley:
“The future is only separated from now by the time it takes for us to design and create it”.
I moved to China after that to start working on an ethical and sustainable technology brand. When I finally returned to Australia in 2015 to continue working on it here, Sydney didn’t make sense for me, so I came to Byron Bay.
That's quite a journey you've been on. What sparked your venture into the creative industry?
I started out doing Marine Science, but my university lecturer told us in the last year of study that nearly all of us would be employed by the oil and gas companies. I quit the next day and enrolled in a graphic design course.
After I finished I began working for a label called Saviour, which led me to freelancing and developing artworks for labels like Marshall Artist, Insight and a plethora of other fashion labels. After this I began working as a footwear designer, developing shoes for some of the biggest retail chains in Australia such as Marcs and Industrie plus a heap of other shit brands. After my foray into fashion design I moved into advertising and freelanced for a range of agencies and clients. I worked as the brand manager for Airtasker - a start-up that began in Sydney. Now I am the founder and director of Sustainable Valley - the love child of quality co-working and integrated creative agency.
Tell us about the concept of the Sustainable Valley working space in Byron Bay.
So Sustainable Valley is more than just coworking and serviced office space. Coworking comes from an idea of sharing a space and working collaboratively. We do those things, but what we also offer is a suite of creative services. So we are a coworking space, business incubator and accelerator with an integrated creative agency. The coolest thing about it is that we have other creative agencies that work in our space, and rather than being competitive, there is an awesome collaborative spirit. We also offer a variety of workshops and speaker events to grow the positive impact of your work. We take a holistic approach to entrepreneurship and doing business, and we have a mindfulness and leadership coach that works in our space and offer things like mindfulness sessions for members.
How did it all come together for you?
I have been working on the idea now for some years. When I arrived in Byron I noticed that what was on offer in the area wasn’t what I would call “quality coworking” i.e. a professional, comfortable and beautiful space to come to everyday to work on things you are passionate about. So I started to look for spaces to develop it in. I came across a couple, but the space we ended up in is perfect. It has a big outdoor area and the garden room is big and airy. The space works great with the big Viking tables that run down the middle of the room.
You’ve recently come from Hong Kong which is a melting pot of cultures and creative people. What 3 factors stood out for you with their co-working spaces?
Hong Kong is amazing, so rad, it’s the future for sure. I have spent quite a bit of time in New York over the years and I love it there too, but Hong Kong has this even newer-than-new vibe that’s hard to put your finger on. Basically I put it down to:
- Great fit out.
- Awesome people.
- A sense of belonging.
So many of the people I worked with are really good friends - not just the members, but also the staff and owners I am in regular contact with. That sense of collaboration and community that goes beyond just a business arrangement is what I think puts the co in coworking.
Now that you're back home, what do you believe makes a coworking space successful?
Comaking, Coloving, Codreaming, Cobuilding, Colaughing, Codoing, Coeating, Codrinking, Cocelebrating, Coeverything (well maybe not everything..).
How does Sustainable Valley support emerging creatives sustainably within the local community?
We are constantly working on ways to support creativity, especially because we believe that it's inseparable from our philosophy of Sustainability. We are working to create a platform that educates and inspires people with hope. We do that through everything we do, make and say. We are working on events, festivals, organisations and agendas that have one thing in common; hope.
Word on the grapevine is that you're planning on hosting some events within the space. What do you have in mind?
We are working with Summersite to do a couple, and the first one coming up will be the Summer Seekers photography workshop.
Another one that is on at the moment is “Drone What?” - a weekly workshop on Wednesday nights that aim to investigate, understand and discover everything to do with autonomous machines and vehicles, the AI and software that drives them and the hardware that makes them move. Not just so we know, but so we can potentially stop bad shit from happening and use it for good. Other workshops include a series based around “Failure” and how good it can be to fuck something up, and “Transition" - a workshop dedicated to the times when it's too fucked up and you're ready to leave. We are also doing things like "Fermentation Workshops" and bringing in social media & marketing gurus - just to name a few.
What are some of the networks Sustainable Valley offers local communities around the globe through your coworking space?
We offer a range of networking opportunities both locally and internationally. From things like ethical and sustainable manufacturing and material sources in Asia, to contacts for philanthropists and impact investors that are looking for ideas to invest into. We have a huge range of resources, networking opportunities and connections and that are available to facilitate and grow the impact of our community.
For our customers we offer:
- 24/7 access for our members.
- Epic workshops
- Sessions with our leadership and mindfulness coach
- Design and branding services
- Business mentors
- Incubator and Accelerator programs
- Surf Coaching for beginner, intermediate or advanced surfers
- Yoga Classes
- Workation programs, which are based around the idea of taking a holiday but simultaneously growing good habits in your personal development and your business, idea or enterprises strategy and design.
What are your objectives over the next 12 months?
We plan on continuing to grow the ecosystem of epic shit that happens here and strengthening our community and our cause. We want to see this region becoming a hub for creative, disruptive and hopeful young people working together to make the world a better place.
Creative Space // Sustainable Valley @sustainablevalley
Interview // Jon Laurenson @prayforthejon
Introduction // Anna Jordan @annajordan89