"People miss people" Why Tom Lewis believes connections live on.
Updated: Sep 16
Tom Lewis, is founder of both The Guild Co-Working Hub and The Drawing Rooms in Bath – two unique places, The Guild is for working and The Drawing Rooms for meeting, we will find out more about the businesses later in the interview.
Tom’s journey to become founder was not the straightest path. He studied a Business Studies degree in Birmingham and following this ended up in a career in sales, although this was not his true passion. Although he had a fantastic job with global brand MARS, he felt disillusioned and left the corporate career to find himself. After a few personal hurdles he found himself in Bath, due to a relationship with a partner based here, other than her, he knew no one.
He set about considering what would give him great professional satisfaction and tried to think about what he relishes in and decided that he is very good at bringing people together. Tom said “I’m a great broker of people … I should have been an estate agent!”
He decided that the best way to meet and engage with like-minded people in the Bath area would be to create a networking group. Hearing that there was another person thinking of doing something similar, they joined forces and Bath Spark was born – a networking group for tech people in the Bath area (although he is no longer involved this is now Tech Spark based in Bristol). https://www.techspark.co/
Bath Spark brought connections, attention and visibility, which lead to Bath City Council meeting with Tom. Impressed with the networking he had developed they asked what was next for him, Tom told them “I’m obsessed with bringing people together and very interested in how people communicate. I’d like to open a co-working space”.
Bath City Council loved this idea and wanted to be ahead of the curve as there was nothing like this nearby at all. Tom received a £500,000 grant and the council rented him prime central Bath real estate at the Guildhall. The Guild Hub was born, reinventing work and workspaces, the vision was real.
The council put a lot of trust in Tom even though in the project encountered criticism that it would never work. Now co-working is everywhere! His original idea has now become mainstream. They have a combination of friendly, creative and technical members and day bookers who use the space collaboratively together.
From this concept grew his next idea, The Drawing Rooms; to reinvent the coffee shop, a members club for similar professionals to meet. The venue is also available for hire for events. The focus of The Drawing Rooms is giving a space available for local professionals in a city where most meeting places are geared at the tourists. This is a safe, quiet space which seems even more essential in this Covid environment.
Why have you decided to become involved with TEDxBath?
This is the 3rd year we have sponsored, we offer our meeting rooms and spaces for any TEDxBath related conversations.
Tom explained “Our connection started by Rhodora Baguilat (TEDxBath Lead) contacting me and I was really impressed with her vision for TED within the city. She was an outsider coming to the city with a big idea to shake things up in the Bath business world. We like being aligned with organisations that fill the gap, think outside the box.”
What does the TEDxBath 2020 Theme, ‘interconnected’ mean to you?
When Corona Virus changed the rhythm of work as we knew it and The Guild and The Drawing Rooms had no choice but to shut their doors, they made a conscious effort to communicate with all their members, each in a different new position. Through these conversations they moved their members to Slack, the online connected chat platform, as it was discovered that although many members are a team of one, the collaboration they found from their co-working members was invaluable. The community continued and showed that this was much more than a diskspace, these co-worked were interconnected. Social events like ‘cake Wednesday’ and ‘desk beer Friday’ still happened – albeit virtually!
The Guild and The Drawing Rooms are now both re-open and the memberships can include physical and virtual interconnectivity.
What can you (and your business) do to help keep the businesses and people of Bath ‘interconnected’?
Whatever the new normal will be and however the world changes, people miss people. Having these two spaces in central Bath allows for reduced travel, socially distant yet compliant meetings and get togethers. Tom built these businesses from hundreds of face-to-face meetings and is determined to provide Bath residents with two safe spaces to reconnect and safe spaces to be interconnected digitally as well.