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Christoph Fahle
June 4, 2013

Startup of the Week: Sunny Office

Meet Katja, the founder of Sunny Office, who told us more about the idea behind her project and the difficulties she had before starting it.

Who are you?

I am Katja, a young sun lover who’s been living in Berlin for a while. I love working in the sun, chocolate, running, being free and having wine with friends. These loves determine the directions the story goes… After 5 years in consulting, I decided to be an entrepreneur and freelancer in order to live my life the way I love - location–independent and free in terms of where and what I work on. Therefore I made the Sunny Office come true by implementing the lean startup approach and simply bootstrapping the business. Besides that I am one of four co-founders that initiated Ideacamp, that was founded 2 years ago and helps other people to find their business idea and found their company in lean/ bootstrapped way.

Why did you start this?

The origin of my idea was an own need - being not only able to decide on what I work, but also where I work. Last November this finally went true and I’m enjoying to work mostly location independent since then. The first thing I did was travelling to the beautiful coast in South Spain in order to work from there, practice my Spanish and to escape the winter. At first it took me really long to find a suitable accommodation and to organize the whole trip. E.g. you can find a co-working place in Malaga, but if you want to stay in a more rural area, it is hard to find a nice place with good wifi. In Spain I had a wonderful time but lacked some like-minded people to discuss my projects with. This was when I decided that I want to create the possibility for other entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative and visionaries who work (at least partly) location independent to easily find the perfect accommodation at a beautiful place on the sun plus meet like-minded people there. Therefore I visited many houses and apartments and picked a few great places that are perfect for work & living for a while.

Did you have any difficulties when setting up the Sunny Office?

My first Sunny Office started with an adventure indeed… When I organized the first Sunny Office, I already had great locations that I knew and had tried myself. For the first Sunny Office retreat we had 7 people and I had to find a bigger house than any one I had known before because most participants demanded a single room. Since I was too busy to travel myself, I found a suitable owner on a well-known vacation house platform and organized everything via emails and phone calls. When arriving few days before the retreat was about to start, I did not find the owner in the house in the agreed time. Since my phone was not working that days, I considered it as a misunderstanding and came back there the following morning. Then, from talking to the nearby neighbors, shops and real estate agencies I eventually found out that the owner is somebody completely else and they did not know my renter. So I was in Spain, with no house and 4 days until everyone arrives. I immediately went to a nearby Mc’Donalds with a great sea view and wifi and began researching again. After around 2 hours we found a perfect house that was big enough, located directly at the sea and free! Thanks to the low season we found a place better than the initial one. It was a rather unexpected start and a most probably I won’t get the money from the fake owner back, but I met incredibly helpful people who turned into friends and learned again that being relaxed is the best thing you can do, because then you always find a way to handle anything.

What would you do different now?

The group of people was perfect, so I wouldn't change this. But I will definitely always have a look at every place myself or ask a friend to have a look at the location.

How was the first round of coworkers?

Just great, because we got along very well and had great discussions and idea exchange! We were a mix of entrepreneurs and freelancers with business, design and IT background between 25 and 37, guys vs. girls ratio almost equal. Some of us were there with aim to set up a new business, which they never had time for because they had been trapped in their daily life. Besides the new things we were also working on existing projects. Some had a goal to use the time and distance from home to make an important decision. People were quite productive even though we were in a holiday destination. We usually worked during the day and enjoyed the evening with joint dinners, tapas tours and other touristic stuff. We were really successful because everyone reached their goals (e.g. 4 new websites went online) and ‘despite’ the productivity, every one went home relaxed. So it was a relaxing productivity. We were tracking ourselves when taking evening 30-60 min turnarounds when we discussed what we’ve work on during the day and what were the targets for the following day. Or we would take some time to discuss or brainstorm specific topics (new book title, new business ideas, …). We even keep in touch with the exchanges after the retreat and have had two mastermind skype calls so far.

What are your plans for the future?

The idea of Sunny Office got born out of my personal plan to be in a warm climate this winter and to be fluent in Spanish until the end of the year. What started as a temporary 2 week retreat will probably turn to a great permanent Sunny Office this winter. Thus I will set up a small number of great locations where the Sunny Office co-workers can easily travel to, so they can be sure to find other like minded people while we’ll take care of organizing everything. For the close future – this summer I’m considering to organize a Sunny Office in Germany and Finland since Spain might be too hot to work during the summer months. I’m issuing a newsletter for all the like-minded people, who are interested into the Sunny Office. If you’re interested into the topic, I’ll be happy to have you in the mailing list! Furthermore I will work on fulfilling the new demand that occurred - the interest of small teams (startup teams or small companies) to have a team retreat organized for themselves.

Why coworking?

It's just so much more fun than working alone plus I like to exchange ideas on a regular basis. I also love to work alone sometimes, but I am alone as soon as I put in my earplugs.

Has betahaus insipired you in any way?

For sure – I like to work in betahaus café and always enjoy the mix of people there. We in Ideacamp got inspired by it and therefore now we just rented our own little place named ‘creative loft’ and share it with some other entrepreneurs.

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