We are the two cofounders of an experiential lunch provider. When we moved from our hot desk to an office space in the nation’s fifth largest entrepreneurial tech hub this spring, we heard a stat that could have been disheartening.
Specifically: Out of the 1,000 people there at our new home in the Atlanta Tech Village, we were two of only eight female founders. And that type of statistic was hardly an isolated one: Just this month, we were the only female founders at the coworking space pitching at a startup night.
Yet, even as we fielded questions following our pitch that evening, and were asked about our decision to invest our bootstrapped money in a dedicated working space, we couldn’t have been more positive, despite our minority status.
“This has been the best decision we’ve made this year,” we said — and meant it — “as we have quadrupled in size, but more importantly, we’ve found our people and our place.”
Here’s why we’re now urging other women to follow our example and make the investment in a coworking space, even if at first they’re in among a sea of men:
1. You no longer have to practice your pitch in front of your dog.
Most women-owned businesses are sole proprietorships, which can feel isolating, especially during the first year of business. And for all entrepreneurs, the journey can be so lonely and challenging that 30 percent of founders experience depression. It’s important to prioritize the interpersonal needs of yourself and of your team, even if your “team” is just you and a partner.
So, consider coworking space. From the moment you walk in the door of one of these facilities, the ample human interaction that will greet you will remind you: You’re part of something greater. You’ll enjoy the sociality of a large office, minus the cubicles.
2. You have something to learn from your unlikely neighbor.
A restaurant-hiring app sitting down with a creative journalist; a shopping platform grabbing coffee with a collegiate social media app; different industries making you think differently about what you’re doing.
Casual or formal, mentorship is the heartbeat of coworking concepts. And startups that receive mentoring enjoy double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The open and relaxed atmosphere of a coworking space can do that: It makes asking someone to grab coffee or review your pitch deck far less intimidating.
In no other environment can an entrepreneur get access to the best legal advice or an extra creative eye simply by walking across the hallway.
3. Coworking spaces are greenhouses for growth.
The goal of the most forward-thinking coworking spaces is for you to grow so big they can no longer house your office (think Uber, Salesloft, Yik Yak). Evaluate coworking spaces by their most successful companies. Did they graduate out of the space? How long did it take? Were they supported in their growth? Do these companies have meaningful relationships with younger startups?
The design of coworking spaces is to propel growth. The best spaces do this by minimizing the effort needed for their resident entrepreneurs to excel. In a coworking space, for example, it’s easy to join in on topic-specific discussions, head to the gym to work out at any time of the day, grab coffee at all hours, change up your work surrounding, take important calls in sound-blocking rooms and even catch some Z’s in a nap closet.
As the fastest-growing segment of the economy, women-owned businesses should continue to build their brands in places with this sort of design, energy and track record.
4. Sometimes you need a physical location to get stuff done.
While working from home may seem to be the ultimate dream for some, meshing work and personal life will take your company only so far. With a coworking space, you still maintain all of the control and flexibility of owning your own schedule, but you also get the built-in structure of an office you don’t have to vacuum and a copier you don’t have to fix.
If you’re becoming a far too familiar face at your local coffee shop, or your living room couch isn’t primed for top productivity, it may be time to take the plunge. Embracing your minority status in the startup community and reaching out to other women doers can make a transition to a coworking space the most powerful growth-hack out there.