Sam Spinks, the co-founder of Waho Landscape Architects, likes the creative aspect of his job so much that he chooses to work in a creative space.
For the past three months he has been beavering away at The Shelter, a community workspace in Dubai.
Crafted from the shell of a warehouse in the Al Quoz industrial area four years ago, it was intended to inspire creative professionals and freelancers. And in September 2011 to further encourage entrepreneurship in Dubai, it dropped all charges.
"We have a large open space here, with a cafe downstairs and it provides interaction with people from other disciplines," Mr Spinks says.
Free community workspace is a novel concept for Dubai, but the needs that it aspires to meet are enduring for small businessowners - support and a sense of community.
With Wi-Fi on tap and no rent to pay, The Shelter has generated interest among young business owners and freelancers.
"People interested in starting up a business in this region already face huge financial hurdles, and need to reduce costs as much as possible; providing a free space to work is a great way to reduce costs," says Mary Ames, The Shelter's education programme director. "It brings people together for a common purpose that a cafe does not."
On average, this hub on Al Serkal Avenue attracts about 10 people a day. Among the users are small advertising companies and freelance writers. Instead of monotone desks at a regular office or a small space in a crowded cafe, the two-level structure, topped by an A-frame roof with windows, has a rustic ambience.
Chilli-red sofas and picnic tables cover the ground floor while a workspace and conference room dominate the upper floor. A bookcase resembling a beehive runs all the way to the top. Its volumes range from art and management to self-help and fiction.
The Shelter "produces a clarity of mind, creativity and is designed to encourage collaboration that a cubicle environment could never do", says Ms Ames.
She describes the business model of The Shelter as a social enterprise, where money can be generated through Arabic-language courses and paid workshops on topics such as women and leadership, but generating money is not the sole purpose. "It is to support small businesses and create a sense of community," she says. The mobile operator du is a major supporter. The company covers costs as well as providing technical support during workshops.
The brainchild of the twin Emirati brothers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib, The Shelter is, however, not the only game in town for small business owners and even office workers who want a change of landscape.
The Pavilion, in Downtown Dubai across from the Burj Khalifa, and the Make Business Hub in Dubai Marina are also in the mix. The Pavilion reflects its upscale location with elaborate interiors, two art galleries, a restaurant, a cinema, a library, an espresso bar, a shisha cafe and a lounge. While the developer Emaar owns the Pavilion, it is managed by the bin Shabib brothers.
The Make Business Hub positions itself, much like The Shelter, as a collegial workspace for entrepreneurs with free desk space and Wi-Fi but primarily as a restaurant for entrepreneurs. "An important thing about starting a business is knowing what the market thinks about it," says Luma Makhlouf, a 24-year-old entrepreneur who expects to launch a T-shirt company with two partners this year. At the Hub, other regular users chip in with their suggestions as they look over Ms Mahklouf's shoulders while she works.
"Here I get free advice on things like packaging, which is important for us as we are trying to be as innovative as possible," Ms Makhlouf says.
Networking is another aspect of such spaces.
Mr Spinks, for instance, is collaborating on a project with interior designers he met at The Shelter.
The place is, he says, "almost like a design lab where you have other like-minded individuals and discuss ideas".