Javier Reina: The Butterfly Effect

Marc Navarro
Apr 25, 2023
Javier Reina: The Butterfly Effect

Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

Ask Javier Reina, co-founder of CustomSuits, about the childhood he spent in the countryside near Alicante among almond trees, playing with Star Wars action figures in worlds that only existed in his mind, and you will see his face light up. He confesses that he was a “terrible student... it didn't motivate me.” However, Javier was born an entrepreneur: even in those days, he would resell empty beer bottles to a small local store for extra cash.

When you have been an entrepreneur since you were a child, you are either creating when you play or you are an entrepreneur"

Javier's first contact with flexible workspaces is the vivid story of how a failure plants the seeds for something much bigger. “We had an international trading company with offices all over the world, when closing offices down, we learned that flexibility when selecting an office is critical.”

The one office they had no trouble closing was the Indonesia office—which was located in a Regus facility.

"Looking at the loss statement it really struck me that, the Jakarta office, both growing and closing, had been very easy. I thought that if this had worked for us it could be something attractive to many more companies. We decided to change our business to get into creating flexible workspaces."

“It was a hard time,” recalls Javier,” and in those moments you pick yourself up where you feel comfortable. We came back here to Alicante and found a building that, according to the people of the city, was in a bad area (the port) and was jinxed (in which no business was going to work). At that time we bet on the port because we saw it through the eyes of people from other countries who came to the city and saw what we Alicantinos were not able to see.”

View from the Alicante Harbor

Business World Alicante became, in Javier's words, the best space in the city. “In 2016 we had full occupancy in our 3500m2 Alicante space.” At that time they received a request from CBRE (they had no office in the city after abandoning it during the 2008 financial crisis) which confirmed a trend they sensed: “things are happening in Alicante.” This feeling did not take long to materialize. A little more than two years later Regus, together with CBRE, would take over BWA to convert the building into its own space in Alicante.

During this impasse, things changed quickly for Javier. “When I met Juanjo Martínez, founder of Networkia, I realized that I had no idea about the sector, but he allowed me to detect an opportunity in a growing market: there were the [flex] operators and traditional real estate companies, but the gap between the two worlds was not being addressed. I thought that, through consulting, we could help owners to convert their assets and operate as a flex operator.” And so, with this idea, Custom Suits was born in 2018.

At that time Javier was no longer an operator but he didn't have to go far: his sights were set on a space that was right in front of his building (now managed by Regus). What is now Panoramis was at that time a 16000m2 shopping center that had been closed for almost a decade and had been auctioned off after the previous owner went into bankruptcy. “There was only one company bidding at the auction so the value of the asset was far from clear.” He was clear and sought the new owner to tell him his idea.

"I presented the project to him and he had the vision and the courage to invest, although he told me: ‘if you believe in this you will have to put something in."

“I invested what I could afford and we created something I had been dreaming of since the Jakarta stage: a work-city, an environment where you have all the services around your workspace that you have in the city center. Not only will we have flexible offices and coworking space, but we will also have a conventional office in a concept we call ‘net square meter,’ a gym, a toy library, restaurants, physiotherapy, and family medicine services...”

Two years, four months, and twenty-four days after that pivotal day in which Javier presented the proposal, they are at full capacity. During this period they were in charge of the entire project from start to finish. Today they continue to manage the asset at the marketing and operational level.

When you talk to Javier you see a person who is close to you, proud of a job well done, although he never stops to admire it because he is already thinking about the next one. A quite unique combination. Javier's summary of the project at this point?

"We are super proud of the project and already thinking about the next one."

What's next then?

There are two concrete projects that Javier shares: “One part is my holding. After the Panoramis project, we created an investment vehicle. We want to not only participate as consultants but also participate in the purchase of the assets and obtain part of the extra profitability obtained when an operator manages an asset in a flexible way and provides a value that clients are willing to pay for.”

The strategy is to replicate what they have done in Panoramis, since, according to Javier there are plenty of tier 2 and 3 shopping centers that need to be reconverted: “they were built in the 80s, have passed through many hands, and no longer offer a solution. They provide nothing but drama for the city and for the neighborhoods in which they are located, as was the case here, and they need to be renewed,” says Javier.

After analyzing more than 70 centers in Spain for possible purchase and transformation into a "work-city," they selected eight—on which they are currently working. “They are much larger spaces than Panoramis, we are talking about spaces between 50 or 60,000 m2 where we will still be able to provide many more services to our coworking space users. [Coworking] is the motor of the space, flexible office, and conventional office in the net square meter format. That is, the client signs a contract for the square meters of office space because all the other essential elements of an office are provided by the building itself, from the bathrooms to meeting rooms, lounge area, etc. They are a hybrid since they offer a traditional rental contract with all that implies, but with the advantage that you only pay for the square meters you need.

By having so much surface area, these centers don’t need to be located centrally given that the space itself will have all the possible services, bringing life to areas of the city that have long had moribund concrete monsters leaving scars in their social fabric.

The second project he shares is simply to continue the path with Custom Suits: Helping other landlords turn their assets into flex—no more, no less. Although what we are sure of is that this will not be Javier Reina's last adventure. Another thing I am sure of is that he will always continue to share what he knows from the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are never standing still and that goals will continue moving forward with you.

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!

Marc Navarro

Coworking and organization consultant. Content Director of the CoworkingSpain Conference. Created the coworking with social return concept.