Start-ups offered free offices as firm spreads wings

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A FIRM that provides accommodation to small businesses is offering to house start-ups for free as it seeks to expand using the increasingly popular “co-working” model.

Liberty Business Centres, which runs three office complexes in Fife, will give 20 weeks of free accommodation in its shared offices to small companies that have been running for less than a year.

Liberty owner Jerry Alexander said he can house up to 15 such start-ups at his centre in Rosyth, which provides co-working space where small firms share offices, meeting rooms and receptions.

“I genuinely want to help as I’ve been through this process myself,” he says. “I’m hoping we will be able to get some sponsors but that’s not going to stop us if we can’t.”

Alexander, who has been running his centres for around ten years and is a member of the Entrepreneurial Exchange, sees the co-working model as a potential growth area that can help Liberty expand into other parts of Scotland.

He said: “I would love us to be seen as the place to go for new starts and micro-businesses.

“We really try to create a community in centres and help to create collaborations. We run regular seminar events and networking lunches, all things that try and facilitate our clients doing business together and improving their chances of success.”

One barrier to expansion is recent changes to empty property rates relief – when the group takes on empty offices it is immediately liable for 90 per cent of the rates on the premises – which can be higher than the rents in some city centres.

But Alexander said: “We are actively looking for our fourth centre. The co-working model is growing exponentially around the world and we would ideally like to find another premises for that model, in a city centre.

“We’re gaining momentum. We would like to have six centres – beyond that it would be nice to consider more but that would give us a critical mass and the ability to run those very effectively.”