We talked to Mohamed Khaled of Mok3b about the coworking space and the effects of COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mohamed Khaled: Hi there, I am the CEO of Mok3b coworking space. My family and I are still holding up, trying to navigate our way through that disturbing period. One of the many downsides we faced during the last months was news of relatives and friends losing their lives fighting Covid. It’s still a heartbreaking dilemma that is still continuing. A dear friend of our family lost her life in late August. Two parents of two close friends of mine also passed away. I still haven’t caught the virus till now -best of our knowledge- yet it was a devastating experience with all these panic attacks and extremely sad news.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Mok3b.
Mohamed Khaled: I would describe myself as a young, devoted entrepreneur interested in civic engagement and invested a lot of my time pursuing developing the ecosystem of Student activities in my city Ismailia. I founded two main clubs, Enactus Ismailia and Takatof SCU, and spent 5 years serving in different positions. Later my colleagues and I discovered a community need that should be solved, so we came up with “Mok3b,” which is pronounced as “Moka’ab”. It’s the first coworking space in Ismailia and one of the leading collaborative spaces in Africa. In November 2017, we were invited to the coworking space summit alongside 50 collaborative spaces in Africa. I have a huge interest in the African ecosystem, so I took part in the summer school for public policy organized by the African Union in December 2018. One of my goals is to connect the Egyptian ecosystem to our peers in Africa with similar learnings and experiences.
How does Mok3b innovate?
Mohamed Khaled: Mok3b focuses on three categories that we think it’s essential to enrich our local community: small businesses and startups, student activities, and non-governmental organizations. We allow our visitors engaged in such activities to come and work on our projects. “mok3b” is a friendly place where people can interact and grow their professional network.
Additionally, “mok3b” provides individuals and organizations with a comforting space, allowing them to work efficiently on their projects without going through the hassle of finding an office space. The coworking space also works hand-in-hand with NGOs towards enriching our local community through cultural events and community-mobilizing movements for social causes. In the last two years, we have joined national programs that helped us create over 50 job opportunities and support more than 20 startups.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mohamed Khaled: Due to the lockdown, we had to stop hosting any space users. We maintain social relationships with our audience through digital platforms. We monitor updates in order to make a comeback whenever the situation is suitable.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mohamed Khaled: The decision to suspend our operation entirely was devastating,
In late July, the Egyptian government started to ease restrictions, which allowed us to re-open. But, our moral restrictions warned us from taking that decision as long as we cannot take proper precautions. The two branches we were operating from didn’t help us to apply social distancing. So we decided to look for another branch and resume operation in early 2021 when it’s safer due to the availability of vaccines. This decision forced all mok3b team members and founders to lose their jobs and income.
I started looking for another job for 3 painful months. However, I landed a proper job related to the entrepreneurship field, which helped me feel that my years operating mok3b wasn’t in vain, and it increased my value in the job market.
The process of re-opening mok3b is not easy due to the burdens along the way. Good quality of life has always been one of our main goals to help our community avoid risking their life. So we have to be 100% sure we are saving our community. Further, the financial burden is also threatening our come back.
There is no specific lesson learned along that process, but I tend to maintain my physical strength and try to support my family and friends.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mohamed Khaled: It’s not an easy task to overcome stress at such a moment in our lives. In the first few months of the lockdown, I was overwhelmed by the sad news from all over the world. Yet it was also time to sit back and reflect on the past few years of my career as an entrepreneur, what went well and what went wrong and what the future would look like so I can capitalize on that. Afterward, the stress mounted up, and it was so hard to take time for any reflections.
Getting more spiritual and donating to the needy were ways I tried to get any positive energy through my life. That helped and is still helping me get by these challenging times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mohamed Khaled: Our main competitors locally are other spaces offering similar services, public clubs, and coffee shops. The target market for the coworking spaces industry is widely spread with preferences for each group. While we tend to offer high quality- friendly value-based experience, others may find it better to offer a hotel-like experience. These are decisions made by founders.
We decided to maintain a friendly yet professional experience with the support of national and international NGOs that we host.
Your final thoughts?
Mohamed Khaled: I believe that the coworking spaces business model will thrive after the pandemic. The unfortunate job losses will drive many to startup their own business while working from home procedures are expected to remain even after the pandemic. We have the know-how of managing spaces through years of experience. We have been hit really hard, and it’s so hard for us to bounce back alone. However, with our local community’s help and the support of our friends all over the world, I believe that the comeback will exceed our expectations.