Where, when, and how we work is changing. Last year, co-working startup WeWork was valued at over $16 billion. Today, more people are working remotely, working hours are increasingly flexible, and work-life balance is becoming a watchword for the more conscientious MBA employers.
Maria Sirotkina – an MBA graduate from Spain’s IE Business School - is looking to take the future of work to the next level. She’s founder and CEO of Restation, a sharing economy startup which runs co-working and co-living spaces in dream locations across Europe.
She’s just finished trialing her first co-working space in the Canary Islands, and is looking to expand across Europe. This summer, she’ll also launch Nomad Train, and will take a group of digital freelancers and remote workers on an 11-day trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway, from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.
Before business school, Maria - a serial entrepreneur – grew her own study abroad agency in her native Russia from a student startup to a national business. She relocated to Madrid for her MBA at IE, attracted by a program ranked the best for entrepreneurship in Europe by the Financial Times.
Now, her aim is to make the world fit for remote work and create new business hubs internationally.
How did the idea to start ReStation come about?
I’ve been working remotely for a number of years, taking care of my business projects from great locations all over the world. I love the idea of being productive, adding value to society, making money, and enjoying the lifestyle at the same time.
However, it's not always easy to find right places in the world to live and work from - and that's exactly what I want to create. Basically, I'm building a solution for my own need – a community, a workspace and a quality lodging so that the learning curve for a remote-working professional at a new location is not so steep, and one can easily move to a new place without having to worry about settling there.
Where are you at right now with your business? What do you hope to achieve?
It's a very exciting period! We’ve just passed the pilot phase with the Gran Canaria location. Now, we know quite a bit about the industry, the demand and the types of customers.
The next stage for us is setting up for growth locally and internationally, attracting investment and building the second and third locations in Europe. We're exploring potential partnerships within the EU and preparing for a round of crowdfunding.
What challenges do you face?
Scaling without acquiring real estate is a major challenge. We’re testing different ways of scaling the project further with less investment, and we do believe it's possible. Nowadays, when accommodation is a commodity, we create a strong differentiator - a community that attracts like-minded people. That's the key.
How will the workplace change in the coming years?
Traditional offices will still exist. The nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone. And some companies need a stable set up, with privacy and fixed desks.
However, as the working landscape changes there will be more flexibility in terms of work space and location. Offices will become business hubs where real communication happens. I believe the world needs more lifestyle business hubs away from capital cities. New locations can become centers of innovation and core spots for talent.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at IE Business School?
I value the spirit of entrepreneurship. That's why I picked IE in the first place. Its startup incubator – Area 31 – is an innovation hub, attracting new projects from the school and Madrid in general. Plus, IE is one a few highly-ranked business schools located downtown, in a European capital’s city center. I didn't feel like I’d be disconnected from city life.
How have you profited from your MBA experience at IE?
The IE alumni network has been an incredible asset in terms of mentorship at the early stage of the business launch. And IE organizes events for startups across Spain and all over the world. I’ve had so many conversations with my ex-classmates and so many brainstorming sessions that have really helped me to find my niche, structure my marketing, and business strategy.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
There's never a good moment to start something new. But if you have a strong motivation, just go ahead, because you need this drive to keep you afloat. It's like a feeling of being in love with your new project: before it brings any fruits, make sure you leverage this motivation to your own advantage. And make sure you have enough money saved up. You don't want to have to quit because you need to pay your bills.