Sebastian is a Frankfurter and the Founder of SleevesUp! a very well know coworking space from our region. In 2019, in an interview with our friend Andreas Söntgerath for our partner HalloFrankfurt- he said something that we still remember: “None of our tenants ever asked us about yoga classes, designer lamps or a crazy lemonade. All that was important to them was a functioning office at a fair price. “ Today we have the opportunity to get some updates on such an interesting and important industry that support our ecosystem.
Sebastian, tell us a bit about yourself, your story, why are you in Frankfurt? What do you do?
As a real “Frankfurter Bub” I was born in Frankfurt and spent most of my time here. During School and University, I have seen many other parts of the world and came to the conclusion that my hometown would also be the best place for me to start my entrepreneurial journey. My first endeavors as a founder were basically in the field of hospitality, first starting a Barcatering Business while still studying at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Later on, I tried to digitize the field of hospitality and gastronomy through an Incentivisation App for Restaurants, Bars, and Clubs, which however did not work out. During that time, however, I discovered that flexible office space for entrepreneurial-minded people was really rare in Germany and demand was steadily increasing — so I started a new business called “The Office Frankfurt” in 2016 which later on was changed into SleevesUp! Spaces, which I am still running and growing today. With SleevesUp! my team and I are creating flexible serviced offices and Coworking Spaces for entrepreneurial-minded people — not only in the big metropolises, but especially in smaller Cities as demand here is high as well, but there is mostly no professional provider for that target group so far.
What is the big issue that you and your company are addressing and what value do you bring to your clients?
Basically, like many others also entrepreneurs and self-employed people do have a need for flexibility and service when it comes to their office situation. That alone solves a lot of issues, like the long-term risk of paying fixed rent over many years or having to care for office-related problems yourself, which causes a lot of distraction. Now, of course, we are not the only provider for flexible office space — classic “Business Centers” have been around for decades and new players like Wework or Design Offices have been emerging quickly over the last years. Those providers do have a professional product but, however, focus mostly on prime areas in big cities and usually target (multinational-) corporations — hence their pricing is almost always out of range for entrepreneurs and self-employed people. Those guys, however, do too have a need for a professional office standard, yet can’t or won’t pay 700+€ per office desk. Furthermore, this target group is located all over Germany and not only downtown the Top 5 biggest cities. Therefore we decided to create a product precisely for that target group: Professional, modern workspace, flexible with lease terms of 1–3 months and distributed all over the country. With that approach, we can save our target group hard cash and take a lot of long-term risk out of their P&L. And of course, we have the ambition to create an office infrastructure so flawless that our customers never have to worry about an office-related problem, but are able to completely focus on their actual work.
Can you highlight some, top mistakes or funny situations you come across in your experience working in your industry?
Well, I guess our whole journey has been a process of constantly learning from bigger and smaller mistakes. Having 12 office spaces in the market by now, we have learned a lot. For instance, in the beginning, we had the assumption that our customers would highly demand open spaces desks, but especially in our target group small team offices containing 2 Desks is what’s needed most. This learning, of course, had a large influence on how we design future spaces. Another interesting experience has been the fact that our flexible office model sometimes attracts also rather dubious customers — therefore we can call several authorities in search of certain “persons of interest” our guests. Amongst them: Ordnungsamt, Finanzamt, Steuerfahndung, and Zoll 😀
How is your company facing the competition?
Currently, we’re experiencing an increasing demand of customers that want to move away from the inner city of Frankfurt and are looking for alternatives in the outskirts of Frankfurt, which is, of course, beneficial for us. Other than that, I feel that our customer group is not very heavily targeted by our competitors, their focus lies rather on big corporations. Our challenge is much rather to identify and address SME companies in Germany — they are usually very open to our model, however many have never considered a flexible office model before. So our task is more often to educate our target group of the possibilities in the first place rather than competing with others for their customers.
How is COVID affecting?
During March and April the market was pretty much dead, but starting in May, we experienced increasing demand quite quickly again — mostly from people who were looking for an alternative to their home office or students who couldn’t access locked-down libraries anymore to study. Companies have been quite hesitant to make decisions of any kind up until recently in October — especially since November 2020 we feel that the “classic” market is picking up again companies are increasingly looking for flexible solutions when it comes to their office situation. In the mid-term, I believe that our distributed and cost-efficient model will benefit from the Covid-Shock, as we are an affordable and flexible alternative to conventional office space for companies and as well a professional alternative in the outskirts of Frankfurt for people who would like to appreciate the advantages of mobile work, but don’t have a proper home office available.
Where can people find you in our Valley?
Finally, personal goals for 2021?
Smoothly opening our new locations in Darmstadt and Stuttgart in Q1 and hopefully picking up enough Post-COVID traction to open one or two more locations in the Rhein-Main-Area in the course of the year 🙂
For those willing to get to know more, an additional interview is available with our partner startuprad.io here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2M91Ml3cAk