14th June 2019 | London
Festivals to Fora – Making Communities the heart of your business

'It isn’t rocket science: if you create nicer environments people will be happier, and if they’re happier they’ll be more productive’.

As part of Clerkenwell Design Week Glug teamed up with ‘Fora’ to put on a night of creativity which celebrated ‘the faces of Clerkenwell’. Speaking on the night we had Jennifer Hyashi, an energetic and colourful art director, designer and illustrator, along with Francis Augusto a London based freelance photographer.

At Glug we’ve always looked towards companies who champion the meaning of community. That ability to put people before the needs of a business, to grow together and bring the best out of each other. It’s no surprise that if you create the best experience possible for individuals it creates an environment that they want to remain in. A place to connect, share and celebrate. This is what has always been at the heart of why we exist and it’s also what we love to see other businesses doing.


Glug x Fora: Faces of Clerkenwell Doodle Date

From Nike to Microsoft, ‘customer-first’ experiences are something that almost all brands are chasing. It's the art of not treating your audience like a paycheque; to create an awesome experience that feels all-encompassing and fulfilling to their users which is not only affordable but also creates a spectacle and an 'OMG' atmosphere. This is something The Big Chill Festival and premium office space ‘Fora’, co-founder Katrina Larkin was doing this as far back as the early '90s, before the days when the term 'Google' became synonymous with searching for dog videos!

Katrina has a career that stretches back decades. Having first co-founded ‘The Big Chill’ festival in 1994, she has since continued to grow her own brand to include worldwide events, a record label, a radio station and two London bars. There is however one key thing which Katrina has continued to strive for across all her pursuits, her continuing desire to create exceptional spaces the likes of which now play host to companies such as Soho Radio, Dropbox, and Tortoise Media.

‘I’ve always created spaces designed to bring people together – that’s the common theme in my journey, from co-founding the Big Chill Festival to working for Market Tech; which owns Camden’s four main markets. Those experiences opened my eyes to the idea of co-working – it was all about finding micro-communities of people who could inspire one another. It isn’t rocket science: if you create nicer environments people will be happier, and if they’re happier they’ll be more productive’.


Glug x Fora: Faces of Clerkenwell Doodle Date

Within her latest venture ‘Fora’, an estate of seven premium co-working spaces and private offices in central London, Katrina describes the company as ‘pro-working’, rather than ‘co-working’. She wants to create a more professional way for companies to work together and aim to provide solutions for any scenario which presents itself.

'When people came to us and said they needed one meeting room, we offered them access to eight – because sometimes you might want more informal areas with sofas, sometimes you want a more professional boardroom, sometimes you want to be surrounded by books and so on.


Glug x Fora: Faces of Clerkenwell Doodle Date

There's something to be said for a customised, community first approach to 'co-working'; a term which would have been barely recognised a decade ago. Today we all want an individual experience when we engage with the varied environments, we find ourselves in. We want to feel unique connections, shout about it and tell everybody around us. In a way, that's how social media was born. It can now support our fascination with other peoples 'unique' lives whilst wanting to showcase our own.

Katrina and co-founder Enrico Sanna have clearly tapped into this way of thinking. They understand the need for businesses to look and act differently to each other in today's world. They want to form a connection between people, and while doing so they have managed to create some truly spectacular spaces for communities to thrive. From ‘The Big Chill’, which offered a luxury festival experience for an affordable price, to ‘Fora’ which services the unique needs of businesses, and not just as a collective space. They seem to have a ‘people before profit’ business mentality by not wanting to sacrifice quality in order to enhance the customer experience. Katrina has pointed out, however, that people kept asking 'what's the catch' expecting to see sub charges and hidden costs. As she always points out-there aren’t any.

So how did she do it? Well, in a recent interview with 'Marie Claire', Katrina highlighted areas which are key to their success and also to their customers wellbeing.

  • Challenge the status-quo. Nobody is the same so why treat spaces like they are. Things are sociable, so move people away from their desks. You can learn far more from talking to someone face to face than you can through email.
  • Ensuring the lighting in the building enhances the customer experience. 'In our Borough-based building in London, we have installed circadian rhythm lighting throughout in order to ensure people feel more awake and productive'. 

  • Utilising tech which isn't a distraction but instead enriches people's daily life, whether it's notifying you when a client arrives or enabling you to get drinks at a push of a button. Tech should enhance flow and efficiency it should not act as a gimmick.

  • Soundscapes are also a big part of Fora. This is unsurprising for Katrina who co-founded a music festival. She states that sounds can increase productivity and happiness, so they are as important as any other part of the environment.


Glug x Fora: Faces of Clerkenwell Doodle Date

‘Togetherness is my buzzword, together we can share, together we can exchange.’

It is clear that Fora will always remain a business with a focus on generating revenue and turnover. However, with Katrina and Enrico at the helm, there will always be an emphasis put on customer satisfaction and community. We asked Katrina about the direction they would like Fora to grow and it was apparent that while they have aspirational goals to expand overseas, they want to do it at their own pace, in a way which feels right and not at the cost of losing their unique tone of voice and in Katrina’s words ‘togetherness’.

It's been a long road since the founding of The Big Chill, and it's great to see another company which is putting the wellbeing of the people who invest a significant portion of their lives into it, above its own need to just make a profit. Maybe it's a lesson more businesses could stand to learn from. A positive experience for an individual and the community you've created delivers success for the company, not the other way around!


We’re always on the lookout for great stories about communities at the heart of business. Get in touch to share your own.

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