Coworking finds warm spot in Baguio
When you think of the tech and startup hot spots in the Philippines, Baguio is not top of mind.
This is exactly what Ace Estrada II, managing director of recently launched coworking space Calle Uno, wants to change.
As owner of a medium-sized call center in Baguio, Estrada would travel to other places and find himself on what he called a “workation.” He knew he had to stay connected to both his employees in the Philippines and his clients around the world after all.
“We figured that if we provided a place where the internet is fast, the atmosphere is conducive to working and the food is good, and in a beautiful city like Baguio, people would gravitate toward it,” he said.
He thus launched Calle Uno, which means First Road in Spanish, the street where it is located on. Calle Uno’s target demographic is not only the working travelers, but also digital nomads and freelancers in search of an alternative workplace. Even while work at Calle Uno was ongoing, mobile workers were so eager for a change of environment that they already began setting up operations there.
With such a welcome reception from the community, it’s easy to see why the project has become larger than Estrada had originally intended it to be.
Apart from the coworking space, Calle Uno now also includes a cafe, which is operated by members, an art gallery that sells the work of local artists, and an events place available for rent to the public.
Most interestingly, Calle Uno will also soon feature a coliving space, which will have capsule accommodations—the first in Baguio.
Estrada believes mobile workers prefer a coworking space because a home or a coffee shop can attract distractions. He sees coworking spaces like Calle Uno as the ideal in between—all the amenities of a well-funded office, including fast internet and quiet.
Estrada thinks the advantage is even greater for startups. “The simple fact is this: people work better in groups than by working alone. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of coworking is the opportunity to expand professional networks. Suddenly, finding people to work with—or work for—has become so easy.”
Some people may doubt that Baguio has a startup community, much less one that can afford a coworking space. However, Estrada points to the fact that it was declared a next wave city by the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and boasts of over 40,000 graduates from the city’s low-cost universities.
He believes this environment will spill over to Calle Uno. “Baguio has a very healthy tech/startup culture and Calle Uno is a ‘call to gather’ its best and brightest.”
Luckily, like many of the freelancers signing up for seats at Calle Uno, Estrada wears multiple hats, one of which will inevitably prove beneficial to the space. He leads the ICT Council of Benguet, which is a private organization that works closely with the DICT.
“This puts me in proximity with the tech innovators and influencers not just from around the Philippines, but from the Asian region as well. I welcome every chance to speak, to anyone who would half-listen, of my vision for a vibrant and relevant community of technopreneurs in Baguio,” he says.
Despite his faith, Estrada admits some people might see Calle Uno as nothing more than a glorified coffee shop.
“More than a place to go for good coffee and good internet, Calle Uno must be seen as the place for good opportunity,” he insists.
Estrada points to one of Calle Uno’s members who owns Live Juice, a business that sells organic fruit-and-veggie juice blends. The owner of Live Juice is also its one and only employee.
“When he asked to operate a food cart at Calle Uno, we naturally said ‘Yes’ and [gave something more]—permission to grow his kale and carrots on the vacant lot behind Calle Uno, and that the cost of his membership would extend to the use of the cart,” Estrada says.
But Calle Uno did not stop there. It also helped the owner create a website for Live Juice, so the company would have a larger online presence. They are also helping him develop an app.
“Did we say it was delicious, by the way?” Estrada asks, ever ready to promote one of the members that now call Calle Uno home.
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