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. Out of the 1,000 people at the Atlanta Tech Village, we were two of eight female founders.
Just this month, we were the only female founders to pitch at a startup night at the coworking space. We fielded questions after our pitch and when asked about our decision to invest our bootstrapped money in a dedicated working space, we answered, "This has been the best decision we've made this year, as we have quadrupled in size, but more importantly, we've found our people and our place."
Here's why we're urging other women to make the investment in a coworking space:
1. No more practicing your pitch in front of your dog.
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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 it is just you and a partner.
From the moment you walk in the door of a coworking space, the ample human interaction will remind you that 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 neighbor.
A restaurant hiring app sitting down with a creative journalist. A shopping platform grabbing coffee with a collegiate social media app. Different industries make you think differently about what you're doing.
Casual or formal, mentorship is the heartbeat of coworking concepts. And startups who receive mentoring double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The open and relaxed atmosphere 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 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 ones do this by minimizing the effort needed on your side to excel, by making it easy to join in on topic-specific discussions, work out at anytime of the day, grab coffee at all hours, change up your work surrounding, take important calls in sound-blocking rooms or 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.
While working from home seems to be the ultimate dream for some, meshing work and personal life may only take your company so far. With a coworking space, you still maintain all of the control and flexibility of owning your own schedule, but with the built-in structure of an office you don't have to vacuum and a copier you don't have to fix.