High real estate prices are a familiar issue for people in large cities searching for residential housing. This problem also presents itself to independent professionals looking to rent or purchase office space. As one such professional living and working in downtown Vancouver, Kimberly Tholl was well acquainted with the city’s (un)affordability problem. When the search for the right office in various coffee shops came up empty, she decided to pursue an alternative route and make her own solution. This route led to the creation of her company, CityHack, in 2018.

CityHack Corporation offers unique coworking spaces across downtown Vancouver and Richmond. The feature that distinguishes their offices from other popular coworking spaces is that CityHack partners with primary establishments (mainly hotels) to transform their underutilized space into flexible and shared workspaces instead of purchasing real estate at the height of their market value. With these partnerships, CityHack is able to bypass the real estate costs and pass significant savings to their users.

The Hotel BLU CityHack location in downdown Vancouver. Photo by Peggy Liu.

It was through Tholl’s previous professional background of working in the corporate supply chain that taught her the importance of partnerships. Her skills in procuring products and managing financial negotiations were crucial for her understanding in how to cultivate the right business partnerships from the ground up. This knowledge became the foundation for her pursuits as an entrepreneur.

Tholl’s inspiration for CityHack was born out of a growing frustration at seeing the rising costs of living and real estate in Vancouver fracture the city’s sense of community. Having lived in downtown for 10 years, she pointed out how discouraging it was to see one business close after another because the owners couldn’t afford the growing rent. When she noticed that there were quality spaces in the city that were left empty and unused, she began to connect the dots. The potential of a sustainable work community and the physical spaces themselves were available — just not accessible to the majority of the public. An important mantra that helps Tholl maintain her vision in her work is: “The doors are locked, but what if I can unlock them?”

CityHack’s primary aim was to act as a solution to Vancouver’s expensive office costs, but Tholl found that the results her company can achieve is actually threefold. On top of opening doors to affordable, quality work environments for local professionals, Cityhack brings an additional channel of marketing to the hotel businesses (restaurants, boardrooms, and even hotel rooms), which results in increased traffic and revenue for the overall establishment. And thirdly, Tholl highlights the positive social impact that coworking spaces have on the freelance, entrepreneur, and small business communities. In giving them access to a proper, affordable work environment, independent professionals no longer have to stress about a basic work need and are free to be productive in the city they love.

CityHack workers at Hampton Inn. Photo submitted.

In terms of the company’s internal community, Tholl has onboarded a superstar all-female team. She describes the team as tight-knit and accommodating with a huge commitment to detail in their service to CityHack users. She believes such an empathetic company mentality is what grows a company in the right direction. On the topic of starting a company from scratch, she commented,  “It’s like mothering something. You have to love and take care of it [in order for it to succeed].”

Choosing entrepreneurship is choosing to constantly grow and evolve, since new challenges will present themselves at every turn. Growing pains are inevitable, and so to entrepreneurs both new and experienced, she advises, “You might have to pivot a few times. You don’t know what you don’t know. Be open to what you can discover.”

For the people hesitating to begin their business journey — for whatever reason — it’s understandable that imagining these future challenges can be daunting. The hardest but most important part is often simply finding the courage to take the leap and just start. “There’s always something,” Tholl says firmly. “There’s no perfect time. Just do it now. Just start.”

Located in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Hampton Inn, and Hotel BLU in downtown Vancouver and the Radisson Hotel in Richmond, CityHack coworking spaces come equipped with free high speed wifi, unlimited coffee and tea, power outlets, and boardroom access. To check out their updates and membership packages (that come with numerous cool perks like restaurant and parking discounts), check out their Instagram page and company website. They’re always welcoming new members to join their coworking community.