Refreshing Beechworth

Old Beechworth Gaol has benefited from a one day, bespoke capacity building of staff development through EXPLORE Sense Check. They were provided with fresh perspectives and experience to spot new business opportunities, problem solve & prioritise an action plan.


"Thanks Claire for a great day yesterday – feeling absolutely energised and there really were some great ideas shared around the team."

– Clayton Neil, COO, Old Beechworth Gaol


Beechworth is a small rural town with a population of 4000, in NE Victoria, Australia, 3.5 hours form Melbourne. 

The Opportunity


Beechworth has a growing local tourism economy because of its heritage architecture, natural beauty, colourful-history (gold, outlaws), food growing & production and vineyards. However most people rely on the nearby larger centres for employment opportunities. There is significant youth and young adult underemployment and unemployment as a result of the seasonal nature of tourism and its highly casualised employment needs. Many people are forced to leave the community in search of career opportunities and ACRE wants to address this issue by supporting entrepreneurship in Beechworth and attracting international tourists to the area.

The Local Leaders

The Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (a non-profit organisation) has secured the largest community asset buy-back in Australian history, raising $AUS2.7M to secure the town’s old gaol l which closed down in the mid 1990’s. ACRE see quality coworking as critical to the successful future activation of the Old Beechworth Gaol site - as a way to engage local businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as attract and retain young people, new people/families and new businesses to the region.

Why Quality Coworking is Needed Locally

  • To provide opportunities for incubation and acceleration of ideas

  • To connect others who may be working in isolation

  • To enable people to share skills and learn from each other

  • To help create and foster innovation in regional Victoria

  • To provide affordable resources for people to make business / enterprise happen and therefor create jobs / livelihoods in the area


They aim to combine great lifestyle, cycling, community, food, wine, and beautiful landscapes with a great place to bring your business and grow a young family.

These extensive and highly unusual buildings and grounds will be home to a thriving multi-purpose hub to support local business and tourism activities, including 3 coworking spaces (shared services offices, kitchen and maker-spaces), visitor attractions (Ned Kelly - famous historical outlaw), indoor and outdoor retail spaces, events spaces and cafes.

Aims to be open by mid 2018

Progress made to date

  • Securing funding and investment to purchase the asset and resource some of the capacity required to work up more detailed implementation plans

  • Key stakeholder engagement – at local and regional level

  • Market research, feasibility study, business modelling, action planning

  • Engage external expertise to shape and make progress on their action plan

Key stumbling blocks

  • Gaining permissions / permits

  • Removing left-over infrastructure at the site to make areas usable/ habitable

  • Securing resources for the project management team to activate the site

How their vision has been ACCELERATED

EXPLORE Sense Check provided a day’s on-site capacity building in September 2017 bringing specialist knowledge and insight to the projects’ delivery team. Topics covered included:

  • What is ‘Quality Coworking’? How and why it works. Outlining key elements for success.

  • Site tour and advice on short/medium and long term opportunities.

  • Core products/services, space design for maximising yield and customer satisfaction (i.e. how much can they earn...?)

  • Understanding and defining their staffing model - who will be doing what to deliver this business? Critical experience, skills, qualities, aptitudes.

  • Planning the critical stages, activities and processes needed to open.

  • Post-opening, how do they actually deliver their services?

  • Marketing strategies, messages, methods, customer segment analysis and outreach. Attracting and retaining the right customers.

  • Identifying key risks and mitigation strategies.

  • Core concepts of quality coworking - using the Coworking Canvas for ongoing staff training and influencing stakeholders.


  • Clarity of direction

  • Identification of new business and income opportunities

  • Prioritisation of phased approach to starting multiple businesses

  • Clarity on where to / not to invest their reserves into the site’s development

  • Generate common language and understanding within the team, to better describe their core activities to stakeholders and potential customers

  • Revitalised energy and motivation of the team through start-up stage

  • Understanding of global trends in coworking

Next steps

  • Further leverage the Coworking Accelerator Network’s knowledge and experience in the development of a great quality coworking space at the Old Beechworth Gaol

  • Start earning unrestricted income from sales of easy-to-activate office spaces and provision of venue for events

  • Scale up delivery of the ‘Ned Kelly Experience’ visitor services

  • Activate a small scale café space for visitors


Learn more...