Nicole Gray, the visionary founder of Boxed Community, a virtual coworking and upskilling community, started her career studying hospitality management and from there went into fashion retail and freelance make-up artistry. It was here that she experienced freelance life and the importance for connection and building synergies, having met fellow makeup artists, photographers, wardrobe stylists and fashion designers she even started ‘Talent Box’ a creative management company.
Simultaneously, at this time she was also a founding member of the self-funded South African Startup Academy that saw 20 people go through a programme on entrepreneurship education. Her involvement in another project, the Urban Youth Festival, was centred around creating awareness about entrepreneurship as a feasible option for young people, accelerating her passion for skills development and startup support. She has always been around freelancers and entrepreneurs and has wide experience working to support them.
When she made the leap to consult for businesses, she found herself again surrounded by young creatives, writers, editors and interns but eventually made the move to settle in London, where she started experiencing the running of physical coworking spaces for travel-tech and then creative professionals. During this time she ran the ‘Creative Pioneers’ programme for early stage startups. Needless to say, startups and freelance professionals have always been a big part of her personal work journey.
Through her experience in the coworking space, she finally felt like she found ‘her’ industry, energised by the enthusiasm in spending time amongst different entrepreneurs and freelancers.
After two years running coworking in physical spaces, she decided to birth ‘Boxed Community’ with the concept of expanding on the idea of the traditional coworking space, but still with the mindset to collaborate with these physical spaces – offering the coworking clients the option to choose their hybrid, and make both online and physical spaces work for them – whilst staying connected to the core community.
Now more than ever, her virtual community makes for an easier solution for people to stay accountable and connected, especially during this time of remote working where the transfer of skills need to adapt to a virtual working environment.
At the heart, Boxed Community was created to offer a space for members to get involved, learn from one another and benefit from focus groups and activities including; industry networkers, business bootcamps, member mingles, monthly mental health conversations, and even book clubs! Offering the balancer of knowledge sharing and social connection.
The virtual community provides members with a high level of structure and safety. We all need some kind of stability in the freelancing world where work can be quite volatile. Boxed Community today is a place that its members call ‘home’ offering ‘digital nomads’ both freedom and structure.
2020 has been the year where we have been forced to make a mind shift around coworking from the physical to the virtual, and Nicole’s concept for virtual coworking is designed to help freelancers enjoy the benefits of skill sharing and networking through focused learning activities and social engagements – this should be a collective focus for all freelancers now during these uncertain times.