Music to the ears of one-man bands
As serviced office brands struggle for supremacy in Central, a more grassroots approach to providing space for smaller businesses is occurring elsewhere.
Instead of aggressive expansion, with tenants in the financial services sector lured by high-broadband speeds and espresso machines, another subsector of the business centre market is focusing on serving solo operators who are often starting their first business.
Fashion is driving demand for such services as manicure, nail art, handicrafts and wedding boutiques for which a street-level shop is unnecessary. Often known in the serviced office community as 'one-man bands', these businesses do not require a hi-tech office, access to a conference room or costly administrative support.
All they need is workshop space, presentable enough for customers to visit and have a dress fitted, make-up applied or their nails done.
Carrie Kwan, senior officer with the aptly named Solo Prestige Offices, says these microbusinesses once operated from home or relied on premises tucked away in drab commercial buildings.
Now they are growing and looking for workspace in central business districts.
With ground-floor shop rentals being too steep for many independent operators, Kwan says there is growing demand for smaller 'instant' offices or work units where services are promoted via the internet or customer referrals.
'It is not a must for them to locate on the ground floor since clients often search their addresses and visit them,' Kwan says. 'These businesses are expanding and they are our target tenants.'
Solo was set up two years ago with three floors of a building in Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, providing 60 units. Now the company has expanded to the entire 16 floors of the building and over to Hong Kong Island, with locations at Eton Tower and Radio City, in Causeway Bay, and the Sentact Building in North Point.
Kwan says Solo works on a concept of 'small workshops and chic design', offering 'hassle-free offices' with flexible lease terms and low monthly rents.
But Solo also provides offices for more conventional businesses, such as accountants, traders and companies, with a mainland head office.
Kwan says office sizes range from 49 sqft, for a one-person operation, to 238 sqft which can comfortably accommodate visiting customers.