Interview with Mariana Riva & Andres Abate, the Owners of AiEspacio Coworking (Villa La Angostura, Argentina)
Not so long ago we have discussed a current workation trend. Is it an apt combination of work and fun? A powerful burnout syndrome killer? Or maybe it's just an excuse allowing workaholics to keep close to the laptop and WiFi even on vacation?
You can take a look at my vision of the topic along with useful tips for rural coworkings here: Coworking in the Countryside (for Those Who Need to Keep Close to WiFi).
Meanwhile, the powwow around the remote office space in exotic destinations is running higher on our blog.
Today we are going to figure out if there is WiFi in paradise ;-)
Mariana Riva and Andres Abate, the owners of coworking space located in one of the most beautiful places on Earth will help us answer the burning question.
Let's take a quick look at the geography behind the space.
Villa La Angostura is a resort town on Nahuel Huapi Lake in Patagonia, Argentina. It’s known for its Alpine-style wooden buildings. The surrounding Nahuel Huapi National Park has Andean mountains, lakes, and forests. Nearby, Los Arrayanes National Park contains centuries-old arrayán trees. Cerro Bayo mountain ski trails are just outside of town. The Seven Lakes road winds north to the town of San Martín de los Andes.
Villa La Angostura is nicknamed the “Garden of the Patagonia”. For a long time, it has been a vacation destination for wealthy Argentines. Today it attracts tourists from all over the globe to find relaxation. Villa La Angostura enchants with coziness, rocky mountains, lakefront beaches, wooden and stone architecture, and of course Los Arrayanes National Park.
As Villa La Angostura is situated along Nahuel Huapi Lake, guests can experience the thrill of boat trips, sailing, and kayaking.
The town is peaceful and beautiful, catering to tourists with numerous gastronomic options, spa resorts, and tour companies offering a variety of outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and biking.
What is it like to run a coworking business in such a place? Is it all rainbows and butterflies? What kind of challenges should a coworking in countryside owner be ready to overcome? What are the special requirements of entrepreneurs on vacation?
Get to know all these and many other things from the straightforward answers of our guests, Mariana Riva & Andres Abate. Please also meet Felix Gessert, sales & customer support manager at andcards, a contributor to our blog who has conducted this engrossing interview for you.
Felix: Please tell us about your space. How long ago did you start?
Andres: AiEspacio is located in Villa La Angostura, a tourist village in a "natural paradise" of Northern Patagonia, Argentina.
Born in November 2018, at the initiative of us, Mariana and Andres.
She is a specialist in technological talent management with experience in innovation and new trends in the labor market.
I’m a specialist in business and project development and management, who had lived three years in Australia and traveled the world, had already experienced the spirit of coworking and the use and advantages of collaborative work along with the use of technological platforms that promote the collaborative economy.
With those ideas in our heads and with the conviction that we could do it from the place we chose to live, Villa La Angostura, a symbol of natural tourism and quality of life in Argentina, we created AiEspacio.
Felix: What is AiEspacio?
Mariana: Basically, it is a workspace that promotes people's well-being and quality of life. It is a community that brings together technology companies, entrepreneurs, professionals, relocated workers, digital nomads and all kinds of people who, in a unique environment in the Patagonian mountain range, wish to provide services or products that strengthen their individual capacities and contribute positively to the community of AiEspacio and Villa La Angostura.
Felix: What challenges did you meet on your way? How did you overcome them?
Andres: Although coworking is an international trend that is already changing the way we work, incubate projects and even live, it is still in its early days and coexists with the logic of traditional work and business. Even more in South America, Argentina and in a small tourist town in Patagonia.
But as Ford once said, if he had followed the needs of the market, we would still be trying to make the horses run faster.
Our main challenge is to get companies and people with proposals and capabilities to provide services and products in a delocalized way, such as those that need suitable working environments, to recognize the coworking model as an appropriate place to work, incubate projects and collaboratively develop businesses.
Felix: How did you overcome them?
Mariana: Evangelizing, training, making the model visible and being flexible to adapt to the same needs we are creating.
Felix: Why did you choose a workation coworking niche for business?
Andres: Together with AiEspacio, Aintegra was born, a consulting firm where Mariana and I provide services to companies and organizations related to project and business management, and talent management.
We always had the conviction to do it from our paradise in the world, prioritizing our quality of life and that of our community. We could have chosen to do it from a traditional office or even from our own homes, but we chose to innovate and create a new way of working for us and for those who feel the need to be part of a community of collaborative work and business.
Felix: What differentiates your hub from other spaces in your location?
Mariana: AiEspacio is located in a mainly tourist area in the region of Los 7 Lagos, which includes larger cities such as Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes, gradually being reached by professionals and entrepreneurs who prioritize their quality of life and that of their family.
Most of the coworkings that have settled in the area are basically cafeterias that try to attract tourists who need to connect during their vacations.
What distinguishes our hub is that it was born with a focus on office services, training and networking, and since the first users were ourselves, we created an environment in which work can be the source of enjoyment, without losing the focus on creating value for our users and clients.
Felix: Are the requirements to coworking space of people on vacation differ? How do you cater to them?
Mariana: Inside AiEspacio the services are the same, the difference with the people on workation is that we offer them advice on the attractions and the tourist activities of the zone, as well as in the process of transfer and the reservation of lodging.
At this moment we are designing a package of integral tourist services for relocated workers and companies that incentivize this modality of work.
Felix: What kind of events do you arrange for members to encourage networking and collaboration?
Andres: In AiEspacio we have three lines of work linked to the concept of coworking, collaborative work, and workation aimed at promoting networking and collaboration:
Strengthening of local capacities. Periodically, we hold training events for local entrepreneurs, and we identify people with skills whom we invite to be part of this initiative by giving them a place in AiEspacio. A large part of these trainings are free of charge for the audience.
Angostura Digital Tourist Village (AATD). Villa La Angostura is a mountain village that is chosen by tourists and new residents to improve their quality of life. During this year we have made agreements with companies of delocalized services (mainly, of technology and innovation) that send their collaborators to work to the "paradise" in AiEspacio.
AiFuture. In September of this year, we organized AiFuturo, a completely free event for young people in their last year of high school. We invited representatives of technology companies such as Globant and Patagonian Tech to tell them about their experiences on new trends in the labor market and on the use of new technologies for their training and future access to the labor market.
Felix: What software solutions do you use for your coworking business?
Andres: Currently, we mainly use Google Suite solutions, and we complement them with other tools such as Eventbrite for the organization of activities and Mercado Pago for the charging of our services.
Felix: Do you believe that proper coworking software solution is able to make your space even more welcoming and comfortable for members?
Andres: As I mentioned previously, AiEspacio is a small-scale coworking located in a mountain village in Patagonia. For our current level of operation, we consider that a coworking software solution is not necessary at this time. Our purpose is to take AiEspacio to another scale and to other cities, surely, in that instance, it will be very useful to us.
Felix: What are your boldest business plans for the future?
Mariana: In the short term, consolidate the proposal of AiEspacio at the local level. Although Villa La Angostura is a small city, everything that happens here has an impact at the regional and national levels due to the aspirational character of our tourist destination. This requires us to continue with the same entrepreneurial initiative that has characterized us until now.
In the medium term, give shape and develop our project Angostura Digital Tourist Village. For this, we have recently acquired a piece of land on which we planned a coworking, a hostel operated under the model of Selina, and a residential area to develop collaborative work, flexible spaces, workation and coliving in an integrated manner.
In addition, we plan to continue making AiFuturo so that young people from our locality and other cities in Patagonia can incorporate a modern and innovative look on the changing trends of work and business in Argentina and the world.
Hope this interview was inspiring to those who are going to start a coworking in the rural area as well as for those who are already running it. As you see, managing coworking business at scale without helpful coworking space management software is challenging even in paradise, which our respected guests admit.
Do you have any specific questions for Mariana and Andres? Please ask them in the comments. Would you like to share your personal experience and tips for coworking in the countryside business owners? They are also welcome.