Part  of The Story of Hub Hoi An.
The Story of Hub Hoi An – if you haven’t read the first part yet, check it out here: The Story of Hub Hoi An 
In November 2016 I arrived in Da Nang on a rainy cloudy day. I was excited, this time I was not here for short term, I was here to start a new chapter of my life.
With my huge luggage I went to An Bang Beach, booked myself in the same homestay I spent the summer 2016.
So, how to start? I had a long list of tasks, ordered by priority and marked with deadlines. That is hilarious in a country you don’t speak the language and you have no idea where to start but it felt good to have a detailed plan.
The first week I wandered around An Bang looking for a beach side location. My little idea of renting an old fisherman’s house, transforming it into a workspace and plant some trees in the garden became ridiculous. First, An Bang turned into a massive construction site and nearly every second house was either torn off or an ongoing construction. In the event I would find a family, giving me their house to rent, the risk was high they will sell their land soon due to the (reputed) demand of accommodation.
The second challenge in An Bang or any other beach side location is the rough weather on Vietnam’s Central coast. Storms or havy rains cause a lot of maintaining which in turn causes high expenses.
I had a look in the city with its yellow houses and small alleys. It is busy there and parking can be a problem. Not mention the increasing prices for rents. Especially to foreigners. And where should I find a central located house with garden or view?
So what was left is the green stripe of land between Hoi An and the beach, somewhere near Tra Que Village. Or Cam Ha, An My or all the other cute little villages around town.
Another tricky part is to find a suitable house that can be transformed into a workplace without building a new house or spending a fortunue. My requirements were:
- At the edge of a village
- A rice paddy or nature view
- Quiet neighborhood
- Good access to Old Town and the beach, even with bicycles
- A square shaped house with large windows
- A garden in the front or in the back
- A monthly rent I can afford
- A landlord that agrees to a business contract
With my requirements in my pocket I drove to a real estate agent who schedulded a very time efficient house visiting week. Most houses were not suitable or not affordable. One afternoon we drove in a small dusty lane off from Cua Dai Street. I was excited because the little village of An My looked very peaceful and lies directly at the rice paddies. We stopped in front of 105 Le Thanh Tong Street.
When we parked our bikes in front of the gate I could feel it already: This is my house. This is a sunny and light open space, with windows and huge doors, with a back garden and a rice paddy view. I fell in love with the tiles, with the open kitchen and the vast land in the back.
The Setup – From self made Interieur Design to Gardening
There were only a few banana trees in the back yard and everything else could be created how I wanted to have the space: a lush green garden, a shared workspace under palms and tropical leaves.
I was listening to my inner voice and signed the contract some days later. My wonderful landlady agreed with some changes as long as I keep the banana trees. Of course, and I will have planted more.
To save money I moved into the house until close to the opening date. I was busy searching suppliers, carpenters and keeping social media on track. I was calculating costs and furniture, the plants for the garden, the salary of the future team. Can you imagine to setup an empty house with no furniture stores around? reYou will become an interieur designer. With screenshots of pinterest in my phone, I drove from a carpenter to carpenter, showed them my drawings with the measurements and materials. I bargained, fell into despair sometimes, braced up again and wrote our agreements finally in dirty notebooks including prices, terms of payment, delivery time and contact details. Then I took photos of my self-made contracts and trusted the Universe it will look great and delivered on time.
So all the furniture you see, except a few pieces are hand made from great local craftsmen.
One day I got some hundreds bricks delivered, flowers, palms and grass. It took us weeks until the empty land looked like a cozy garden. Before we decided we need the glass house, the outside workspace was an open area with only bamboo roof to give shade. It turned out later, this climate is too extreme in all kinds to work outside. We have built the glass house in August 2017, a few months after our opening.
Our Team & Company Setup
So how to find a team? I needed cleaner, kitchen staff, accountant, auditor and a Space & Community Manager. There was one girl I was sure I want to ask her to become our Space & Community Manager, her name is Chau.
When I was in Hoi An in 2016, I went to Swing Dance classes in Da Nang and Chau was our teacher. She still is. And we still dance. At least I try to go every week.
Besides the fun facts of transforming the Vietnamese house into a cozy coworking space, I had some hard times during my company setup. I like things accurate and on time. Luckily, the Vietnamese departments and offices have the same habbits. I think I signed around 200 papers, written in Vietnamese language and always hoping I did not sell my soul.
In the following weeks the new kitchen team tried out recipies, worked out menus and equipped the kitchen professionally.
From Bits and Pieces to a Concept
By accident, I met a Vietnamese woman helping to set up the company. It was a three months up and down phase, nights without sleep and worring if I did the right decisions. Bank account openings, running to notaries (sometimes twice per day), driving from Hoi An to Da Nang, from department to department, to the police station and to the Immigration. Getting lessons in accounting and how to stamp a contract the legal way (it is a science). Flying out for a business visa that I need to apply for a residency and a driver’s license. The residency is required to become the owner or CEO of a foreign owned company in Vietnam.
In the meanwhile I put our team together and we worked hard on routines, especially for the kitchen. Our little open kitchen feels like a business within a business. I have never ran a restaurant before. From hygienic standards to creating the menu, we spent hours and hours putting all pieces together.
My dad, a passionate electric engineer, helped me with the WIFI system, the electricity in the house and the garden and he was excited to figure out a system for the emergency generator. He spent days and days sitting in the Quiet Room, next to Jonathan and both were calculating watt and volt, ampere and wifi speed while I was cleaning, planting or calculating costs.
At the end of March 2017, most furniture was delivered and the team was ready, we opened the doors for the first few members to test the space. It was the 1st of April, when we opened officially.
This is now one year ago. The space has changed since then. The open workspace in the garden turned into a sun and rain protecting glass house, some furniture was added and re-arrangements were done. But the most important change are the people coming to the Hub. Our members bring the Hub to life and give it a soul.
Within 12 months, people launched their businesses in our space, hired each other and became friends or partners. The big table in the garden became the place for our daily communal lunches, for board game nights and dinners.
I am very thankful for getting this opportunity to build a community here in Hoi An. Thank you to all past, current and future members, our great team, my friends and family to supporting this space and making it to what it is now: A space to meet, eat and be together. It wouldn’t have been like this without all of you.
A special thank you for Lieu, Chau and Thinh, for your constant and loyal support, for standing my impatience and for making this house full of joy to everyone.
Thank you to my Hoi An family Cosmo, Steffi and William for your believe in me and the HUB, for your cheering ups during rainy season and for your love and friendship. Thank you to Duyen, Jonathan, Thrinh, Peter and Huy as well my parents Werner and Gabriele, and my sister Johanna and uncle Martin for all your constant support and motivation, for your backup and love where ever I am in the world.
Let me know what you think, I am happy to receive your feedback in the comments below.
If you have any questions about Hoi An or our Coworking Space, please don’t hesitate to ask here or drop us an E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will find some information in our FAQ and it is worth to visit us on Facebook or join our Community..
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