upSpace - Jenn & Charlie

upSpace - Jenn & Charlie



Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio


Tell us a bit about yourself

While we are both designated accountants, we have very different backgrounds and very different personalities!

Jenn is a do-er. She is the extrovert of the duo and the face behind upSpace. Jenn comes from an undergraduate degree where she changed specialties four (!!) times (illustrating that it’s okay to not know what you want to do!).  Her career has included experience ranging from multinational corporations to startups with a focus on energy and sustainability. Throughout everything she’s done, there has consistently been an undercurrent of seeking to improve business and foster connections among those in her surroundings.  We aren’t entirely sure how that led her to backpack across Australia, skydive, and kick some butt on the volleyball court, but we’re confident it’s all related. Jenn wants to make her mark in clean energy while continuing to further the pursuits of family businesses.

Charlie is a thinker. Charlie is the more introverted of the duo and handles everything related to the back end of the website. Charlie started getting into the web development business in University when he started a business to help pay for tuition. He is also very active.He became interested in endurance events in high school, including a 150km fundraising bike ride.  He then joined the high school swim team without having had a swim lesson, and then quickly took up triathlon. This drive to push himself beyond what he’s capable of accomplishing followed him through university and into the start of his career, both of which were riddled with instances of working to master new skills across a variety of subjects (what do web design, bicycle maintenance, and magic tricks have in common?  We don’t know but apparently they’re all on his spectrum). One day he’d like to complete an Ironman but in the meantime he’s happy to continue broadening his skills and applying them to meaningful endeavours.


How did Meetup inspire the creation of upSpace?

Jenn had recently moved to Ottawa and was lonely not knowing anyone. She decided to use her background in finance and created a Meetup for teaching people interested in learning how to better manage money. She found she spent more time trying to find a space to host the Meetups than actually preparing content. After a few months of this frustration, Charlie stepped in and after a weekend brainstorming session, the two decided to solve this problem by creating a website that simplifies finding and booking venues. We knew there were other people facing the same problem of trying to find space for events and wanted to help them too.

Tell us about your mission/goal

Our mission is to ensure that space availability is never a barrier to holding an event. Two goals that help guide us in our mission are:

  • To help local businesses succeed by maximizing use of their space;

  • To enable a more engaged and connected community.


There is a big growth in online business, side-hustles and freelancers - did that have any impact on your decision to launch upSpace?

Indirectly, yes. We both have had experience with entrepreneurship and we simply wanted to jump on this opportunity. Freelancers and people with side hustles are actually included in our target market for those that may either need a workspace or even a place to host a seminar or workshop. We’d like to think that we’re helping the movement toward more autonomous employment.

Did you have another business before you got started?

Charlie ran a website design and hosting business while in university. While it helped to pay for schooling, it also satisfied his urge to learn and apply new skills in a way that helped both individuals and small organizations.

Jenn always had a desire to do her own thing, whether it was tutoring in University and College, curating a dog walking client base, or creating online content. Those things have always been on the side, so this is the first time she really dug into a venture that she aims to see grow beyond a source of income and that can benefit society at large.


What inspired you to launch this type of service?

We had experienced pain while trying to do something good for the community. So we decided to solve that pain by creating a solution.

On a deeper level, Robert Waldinger’s  TED talk WHAT MAKES A GOOD LIFE? LESSONS FROM THE LONGEST STUDY ON HAPPINESS had planted a seed long before upSpace was born. Robert talks us through the causes of early mortality and the significant role that relationships can play on our long term health. Since then, we’ve strived to enable connections which is a founding principle of upSpace. By ensuring space is not a barrier to hosting an event, we like to think we make it easier for people to come together, whatever the reason, work or leisure.

What do you enjoy most about running upSpace?

Charlie likes the satisfaction of solving a problem, whether that’s something that we’re working through in the business or seeing the resulting impact the business has on other people, like being able to share their space with new faces.

Jenn loves how every day is a challenge and brings opportunity for learning and growth. She receives intrinsic rewards by helping another individual or organization to save time, money, or both. It’s very fun to see how excited people get about the business we are creating.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or business owners?

Charlie - First:  if you have an idea, just get started with it. With so many resources and tools available, you already have what you need to get started testing, building, and iterating. There will always be excuses to wait until tomorrow but you need to dig in and just get started. Second: find an accountability buddy outside of your business. Maybe it’s a friend who is also building their own start up. Have someone to talk to about problems you are encountering, bounce ideas off of, and set goals with where you hold each other accountable to deliver.

Jenn - Number 1: Do two things every day to move your business forward no matter how small they may seem today. It’s amazing how impactful consistency can be and these small actions over time, repeated, will bring large results. Number 2: As a new entrepreneur, everyone will eager to provide advice and opinions. Take these with gratitude but know your path and focus so as to not become distracted by a sometimes very loud outside world.


When you’re not busy running upSpace, what d you like to do in Ottawa in your free time?

Charlie is an avid bicyclist and is keen to rejoin the triathlon community after having taken some time off due to injuries.

Jenn is a member at Pure Yoga and really appreciates the time and space to focus on mental and physical health. In the summer, she enjoys getting out to explore the city and markets by bike, playing volleyball, and checking out local festivals.

Favourite local coffee shop?

Equator! The food is great, the latte art is out of this world, and it’s the perfect place to get some work done in a great atmosphere.

Mayor of Ottawa - Jim Watson

Mayor of Ottawa - Jim Watson

Tallow Boutique - Jasmine

Tallow Boutique - Jasmine