Support, Skills, Sisterhood: Is All-Women Coworking Right for You?

To do "authentic work," you should be in a community where you don't fear taking chances, where you test ideas, and where you collaborate with like-minded peers.

Why join a coworking space, let alone an all-women community?

Lisa Wang, cofounder of SheWorx, had worked with a male cofounder in the past for her first start up. She knew the industry. She had her connections. But what was missing was a space “where serious entrepreneurs could learn actionable, tangible content for building their businesses.” She joined forces with Yin Lin and together, they realized that they didn’t just want a space. They wanted a network that would help women connect, learn, and grow.

“Women face unique challenges when it comes to building and scaling a high-growth company, especially when it comes to navigating a 94% male investor landscape.” As many female entrepreneurs know, it’s “the small paper cuts that build up over time – the inappropriate glances, the lightly condescending questions, the flippant assumptions about our seniority – the small injustices that we’re not allowed to talk about because it’s considered overdramatic.”

Wang believes it’s critical for women to be with other female founders who understand these unique challenges. Both Felena Hanson of Hera Hub and Grace Kraaijvanger of The Hivery voice similar stories. To do “authentic work,” as Kraaijvanger terms it, you should be in a community where you don’t fear taking chances, where you can try out ideas, where you collaborate with like-minded peers.

These women’s coworking founders believed that an all-women community is where this entrepreneurial magic could occur. The communities mentioned in this article are three of the largest in the country: The Hivery, Hera Hub, and SheWorx. All three veer away from the term “coworking space” because they see their organizations as more, as fundamental to the personal and professional growth of their members. The Hivery founder Grace Kraaijvanger says, “The Hivery is a movement, a new model, based in the core values that women can create successful, viable work in an environment that’s kind, supportive, creative, and colorful.”

Women coworking and business growth

In early 2016, it was estimated that women own 38% of all businesses in America, contributing over $1.6 trillion in revenues. This percent keeps growing, and with more entrepreneurs come more styles of working. Many workers are opting away from the traditional office space, choosing instead to work from home, a coffee shop, or a coworking space. The number of global coworking spaces has boomed in the last ten years, and seemingly each new space comes with a new theme: formal rooms with long tables, open spaces with artisanal beer on tap. Typically catering to the male-dominated industries of tech and engineering, these spaces are now branching out to cater to other groups of workers. One such subsector of coworking space is the all-women coworking community. No men allowed (although, to be exact, men do technically comprise1%of Hera Hub’s 4,000+ members). Men are not present as members, but rather as mentors, lecturers, and investors who can share their wisdom and collaborate.

These all-women coworking spaces abide by the basic format: you pay a monthly membership fee for workspace, benefits, networking opportunities, etc. However, what separates this sector of coworking spaces from many others are the personal and professional gains. Every single woman interviewed said they don’t just go to a space; they are part of a vibrant community.

SheWorx
SheWorx

 

Women’s Coworking  FAQs

Who are the members?

The women in these communities are at a variety of stages in their professional life. They are looking for what’s next, finding their passion projects, launching their businesses, pitching ideas, seeking funding or growing capital. They dress casually or formally; they work every day or once a week. They come from a huge variety of business and creative sectors.

What is included in the cost?

Monthly fees range from $129-$380 for the two organizations with designated workspace, Hera Hub and The Hivery. That fee includes a variety of work days, access to networking events, talks, workshops, retreats. Some of these spaces have yoga and meditation classes or gym access.

SheWorx operates in a different model. You pay $20 or $80 for membership that includes weekly breakfasts, access to a nearby coworking space, and access to events and workshops. These fees are comparable to other all-women business communities and coworking spaces.

The Hivery
The Hivery, Mill Valley, CA

Why Do Women Join Coworking Communities?

Every entrepreneur has her own specific way of getting work done. What works for some doesn’t work for others. The women in these communities joined for a variety of reasons: they couldn’t focus at home, they wanted to utilize the conference rooms to meet with clients, they wanted coaching to grow their businesses, or they wanted to figure out what their passions really were.

However, even though each had her own reason for joining, the benefits of the space weren’t often enough. They wanted more. Giovanna Garcia (http://www.apurifiedlife.com) joined The Hivery because she was “craving a space…where I could be inspired, grow my businesses, and be part of community.” Almost all of the women interviewed used these words to describe why they joined: “community, learn, challenge myself, grow, develop confidence.”

What Are the Communities Like?

We know that places where we work influence us. If you’re surrounded by chaos, you may feel your heart rate rise. If you’re sitting in the middle of complete silence, you may focus intensely, or your may fall asleep. Hera Hub and The Hivery took time to make the physical locations and community environment feel “safe, empowering, and supportive.” (Lyndell Werling (http://www.lyndellwerling.com))

The Hivery, housed in a former dance studio, overlooks the square downtown in Mill Valley, CA. Member Anne LaFollette (https://annelafollette.wordpress.com/), who joined in order to discover what was next, says “The Hivery is a safe haven where dreams can come true, one step at a time.” The open windows, paintings made by local artists, comfortable chairs and shared working spaces foster collaboration. The Hivery describes itself as an “Inspiration Lab,” and offers coaching sessions, entrepreneurs circles, informative lectures, writer’s circles; the list goes on. Communities like this attract women who are artists, writers, founders, idea-people, action-people, and more.

Hera Hub defines its space as “spa-inspired,” emphasizing the comfortable with good energy. Werling said that the business resources and online platform, coupled with the networking events and workshops, is “a powerful model that makes everyone better together than they are individually.” At the end of the day, that is what these communities strive to achieve: there is greater power together than there is alone.

TheHivery
The Hivery
Hera Hub
Felena Hanson with Hera Hub

Being Pushed to Achieve Your Goals

These communities offer acceptance and comfort, but they push you at the same time. Yin Lin, cofounder of SheWorx, says, “We believe in the power of connecting entrepreneurs with peers facing similar challenges to support each other while providing access to mentorship regularly to push them to exceed their goals.” This mentality of being pushed yet supported is reiterated across many of the experiences. April Harter Enriquez (www.wordpopPR.comdescribes her experience at a Hera Hub planning workshop in the following way:

“They created a comfortable and open-minded space for us to share business challenges and goals, while teaching us to draft a five-year business plan and to think big – ‘10X’ big. The environment was nurturing, but not soft.”

Nurturing, but not soft. These members are powerhouses, fighters, thinkers, doers in their own industries. Members can plan and host their own workshops. They listen to pitches; they connect one another with investors. The more knowledge you acquire, the more confident you can become, explains member Camille Laurente (Odessa PR) of her growth through SheWorx:

SheWorx has tremendously inspired me to have a more proactive voice in the tech and startup ecosystem… It’s a harsh reality that females don’t often get the spotlight when it comes to conversations around startups and investments. With organizations like SheWorx, I’m confident the landscape will change.

Coworking: Contributing to Professional and Personal Successes

Members of these spaces experience shifts in their professional and personal lives. There are tangible successes, like how Kristen Paruginog (www.breakthesilenceDV.org) turned her $70,000+ organization into a $200,000 business in just a year with the Hera Hub accelerator class. There are community connections, like Giovanna Garcia (www.apurifiedlife.com) expressing her gratitude for the women she now knows at The Hivery, claiming,

“I have met some beautiful wise sisters through this community that are now some of my closest friends. These women host full moon circles and have lovingly invited me in to be part of them. I am grateful to have such awesome women in my life who are doing amazing things professionally and personally.”

And there are personal benefits. Many women interviewed told how these coworkers inspired them, taught them, and became their friends. April Enriquez (www.wordpopPR.com) told of a friendship with fellow founder Tracy Petrucci (Tracy Petrucci Marketing). She tells how they were purposely paired together when they joined, they both learned to navigate their lives as “newlyweds, runners, business owners, and aspiring female leaders.” They’re there for each other to celebrate successes, keep one another in line, encourage and prioritize health, but also “give support during the 10pm deadlines that have to be met, where late-night coffee must be poured.” The women in these communities assume endless titles: sisters, mentors, coaches, friends, coworkers. They cannot be confined to a single role, just as none of us can be defined by a single label.

Overcoming Fear –

Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but being a female entrepreneur requires a large dosage of grit, determination, and passion. It takes guts to overcome the potential fear and doubt. But rather than being consumed by that fear of failing, or fear of not starting,  Grace Kraaijvanger, founder of The Hivery, believes those moments of fear can be repurposed into vitality. When the fear dissipates, that’s when creation can occur, and it’s easier to do that when your’e supported by others who understand you, she says.

To overcome fear and to continue doing the “authentic work,” that you do, it does not mean that you must embody “masculine” qualities to be successful. Lisa Wang explains the shift she has seen in her industry by saying, “Traditional masculine leadership traits of assertiveness, self-promotion, and aggressiveness are giving way to a new wave of feminine leadership, driven by collaborative team structures and exploratory, big-picture strategies.” This feminine leadership, according to the founders and members of these communities, is best grown when women work together, learn from one another, hold one another accountable, and celebrate each other’s successes, and that is what thousands of women are doing in these communities, and others, across the country and world.

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