A few months ago, when Covid first hit. I went on, what my husband would only call, a letter writing frenzy! I was unemployed at the time, thanks to Covid, and had some extra time on my hands. So, amongst other, perhaps more useful endeavors, such as home schooling my child, and pitching a TV show idea, with my partners at Done and Done Productions, (Selling Sunset) I wrote two letters. One to Prince Charles, and the other to Governor Newsom. Needless to say, one of them got back to me, and one of them didn’t. Of course the subject matter and tone were slightly different to each.
My Environmental Work with Prince Charles
To Prince Charles, I wanted to thank for being such an influence on the environmental aspect of my doctorate work, which was on – how to use wellbeing principles to design workspaces and reach your optimum flow at work,- and to return a book that the Prince had lent us by Wendell Berry.
My husband, Oli Barry and I have spent quite a bit of time with HRH. We developed an environmental documentary together, and Oli also directed, ‘The Prince of Wales Up Close’ Which was an intimate look at his work with The Prince’s Trust. And contrary to how the Prince is depicted in The Crown, my experience of him is that he doesn’t hunch, he is very warm, and has a wicked sense of humor.
Why I needed to write to Prince Charles
My uncle, who was a professor, died last year, and I immediately regretted not sharing with him what an influence he had been, on me endeavoring to go out of my comfort zone and do a doctorate. So, having learnt my lesson the hard way, I was determined not to wait to show gratitude again. Hence, catching the Prince, before he is King, and perhaps becomes more difficult to get hold of.
Why I Needed to Write to Governor Newsom
My letter to the Governor of California, was of a slightly different tone. I was asking him how he was going to help our business, Village Workspaces, a coworking space in Los Angeles, survive, when we have had to be under mandatory lock down and our kids have been off school for a year. Making it impossible for most of us, to go to work.
Waiting for a Reply from Prince Charles and Governor Newsom
So, I sent both letters, and quite honestly, figured that it was fifty-fifty that I would get a response from the future King, and really thought Governor Newsom, or one of his team, might have sent me a note to say that he was on it, and to be patient. After all, I did send my letters on beautiful headed paper, with photos and, regardless of job loss, spared no expense!
And yet, that is not what happened. A month later, I received a very gracious letter from The Prince of Wales of fond memories working with us, and also how interesting he found the environmental aspect of my workspace design work.
However, I didn’t hear a peep out of Governor Newsom. No email from any staff member saying, ‘We’re working on it.” or “That’s what he was debating at The French Laundry. Not sure why the press gave him such a hard time!” Nothing of the sort!
As a result, I am now publishing an adapted and shortened version of the letter, so that I can be heard in one way or another. And by the way, I’m under no illusions that other Californian business owners aren’t writing. But, again, for fear of another regret, feel the need to share.
An Open Letter to Governor Newsom
Dear Governor Newsom,
My name is Dr. Sophie Keller. I am co-founder of Village Workspaces, a luxury coworking space in Los Angeles. It was designed as an action research example of my doctorate on how to use wellbeing principles in workspace design and flow.
When the mandate hit, Village Workspaces had to close immediately. We were, at the time, packed and had been cash flow positive since we opened this location in 2016. Instead of using raised money to start our business, we put our own money in to build a luxury research example of a workspace design that could be a blueprint for businesses now, and into the future.
Village Workspace has helped hundreds of other companies thrive. Previous members in our space have won Emmys, Oscars, Webby, Launched IPO’s and sold for billions. Shopify, Soundcloud, Vox Media, Byton Cars, Caldwell Banker, Billie Eilish Management, Done and Done Productions, are just a few flourished inside of our workspace.
However, Village Workspaces has not been supported properly by you or the Government, as we are a lease heavy, rather than a staff heavy operation. Hence not properly legible for a proper PPP loan. With over 15,000 square feet and 47 offices you can imagine our monthly nut and the debt that has been built up due to the mandatory lockdown and instilled fear.
The schools in Los Angeles have been closed for a year. Many of our former or future members cannot return as they are having to carry the load of working full time and looking after their kids at home. The mental, physical and emotional health fall out of this is unfathomable.
Please consider this situation, when you decide what the laws are going to be on any ‘back payment’ on commercial rent, due to Covid-19. It seems that many landlords have been able to put their mortgages on hold and added time on to the end of their terms, and yet, those of us with extremely heavy leases, have had little or no aid.
Will our rent be forgiven, while many of us have had to home school our kids? Or will extra time be added on to the end of our leases?
We are an unusual business as a coworking space. However, our once flourishing business, that we have worked so hard to build from scratch, cannot reopen properly unless our kids are back in school and adults are vaccinated. I look forward to maybe hearing your response.
Dr Sophie Keller
Hmmm, now that I’m rereading this, I realize why he didn’t reply!