Olivia Fleetwood and Karina van de Pol have a lot in common: they both worked in creative industries in Melbourne, Fleetwood in publishing and Van de Pol as a food stylist. They both married “boys from Geelong”. And, since 2019, they both run The KO, a multipurpose workspace located in the Geelong suburb of Newtown.
Incorporating a coworking office, photography studio, a kitchen and events space, The KO is “a blank canvas” for classes, workshops, demonstrations and celebrations that members can book on the collective’s website. Realising that demand for flexibility has become the driving force in people’s work lives, Fleetwood and Van de Pol saw an opportunity to “open a space with the ability to host all sorts of different things,” says Fleetwood. “We’ve been really overwhelmed by the success so far.”
It’s been a case of being in the right place at the right time. Fleetwood and Van de Pol discovered that, like them, many people, particularly young families, were moving to Geelong for the lifestyle even if it meant commuting to Melbourne. “We wanted more space and flexibility. A lot of people have the same idea and are opening little cafes,” says Fleetwood. “Geelong is changing so much.”
The KO serves a growing community of creatives who call Geelong and its surrounds home. “We work with a lot of photographers who live on the Surf Coast at Torquay and Jan Juc,” says Fleetwood. “They were used to travelling to Melbourne, and now they can come to Geelong.”
Their online presence, championed by a website built on Squarespace.com, has been crucial for a business whose ethos is, as Fleetwood describes it, “helping people come together in creative collaboration”. The KO’s visual brand “is everything to us,” Fleetwood says. “Karina and I are very visual people. We’ve strived to make the space look beautiful and high quality, and we wanted a website that would reflect that.”
Stunning imagery by Armelle Habib, a Melbourne photographer whose work has been published in cookbooks by Julia Busuttil Nishimura and Lola Berry, as well as a raft of food and interiors magazines, elevates the site and showcases the beautiful spaces The KO offers. “With Squarespace.com, all of the templates tend to be so clean and refined and have a high-quality look to them. We just added in the imagery, kept it really simple, and have been able to add to it as we’ve grown.”
Pre-launch, they built a simple landing page to introduce the business. “When we opened we didn’t necessarily know what we needed and wanted to have everything at our fingertips,” says Fleetwood.
In the 18 months since they opened The KO’s doors, they’ve slowly upgraded the site, adding features as the business expanded. “We’ve added e-commerce functionality, and we wanted more in terms of analytics,” Fleetwood says.
The site’s flexibility provided Fleetwood and Van de Pol scope to quickly adapt to the unusual events of 2020. “During the lockdown, when we didn’t have much going on, we reached out to a whole lot of creatives who had worked in the space and asked them to make videos for us that were instructional – we had pasta-making and hand-building pottery classes,” Fleetwood says. “We embedded all those videos and added a journal page to the site. It was so easy, and we didn’t have to talk to a designer – everything is set up with the template. It’s just so simple.”
2021 promises to be a year of growth for The KO, with an expanded program of workshops in the pipeline. Fleetwood and Van de Pol have commissioned a mural from Victorian artist Hannah Nowlan, whose work is also set to appear in an exhibition at The KO. “We’re excited to have more artists get involved in the space,” says Van de Pol.
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This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Squarespace.