In earlier posts I have briefly noted (e.g., in the summary here) the interesting coworking space, HeraHub, out of San Diego. I met one of the HH staff at the recent Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC 2016) in LA, so I took another look at their web site. Wow! They have been very busy. The web site has a bunch of videos, there is an online “magazine”, and so on.
HeraHub is, of course, “the first national spa-inspired coworking space for female entrepreneurs.” It is an interesting case study from several points of view.
The first interesting point is why should HeraHub even exist.
Despite intentions of diversity and inclusiveness, many individual coworking spaces are inhabited by communities of young, pale, males, which do not reflect the population just outside the door. Furthermore, many coworking spaces cultivate a silicon valley inspired workplace “culture” described by some as “badass”. While I know a fair number of “badass” women, this kind of work environment is off putting for many people, including women and grownups in general.
There are large number of independent and freelance female entrepreneurs who would like a coworking space, but don’t really like what they find.
What’s a woman to do?
Create a better community, designed for female entrepreneurs, of course!
The second interesting point is what they think the solution to this problem should be.
The HeraHub folks have created a version of coworking that is heavy with “incubator” types of features, such as mentoring, training, and matchmaking. But the truly novel features are 1) the community is all female and 2) amenities are “beautiful, comfortable and feminine, yet also very professional.”
The community apparently calls themselves “Hubettes”. (I suppose that “Heratics” sends the wrong message. was rejected.) The
all-female female focused community is intended to make it easier for its members to identify and fit in, and therefore to trust and share. Sisterhood.
The environment is distinguished by “soft lighting, tranquil fountains, candles and relaxing music”, which is described as “spa inspired”, and claimed to be “feminine”. I can’t possibly judge either of those characterizations, but the décor is certainly different from a lot of “Google-like” coworking spaces. (And note that this is absolutely not “bleeding edge” in the sense that Freeth advocated.)
The third notable feature about HeraHub is their ambitious expansion plans.
Last year they expressed the goal to expand throughout the US, fifty sites or more. To date, they have locations in Southern California an done in Washington, DC. I gather that they are working on mechanisms for rapidly expanding elsewhere. (The legal fine points of licensing, franschising, and whatnot are outside my own knowledge, and I have no specific info about HeraHub.)
From what I have seen of this group, I’m pretty sure they will succeed in this growth. Which means that we may soon have a local HeraHub. (I suspect there will be imitators.)
The fourth interesting feature is that, except for the feminine angle, HeraHub is pretty much identical to many other coworking spaces with an emphasis on incubation. It is more than a place to work, it is “a community of like-minded ambitious women”. Change “women” to “fellow coworkers” and this is the fundamental premise and promise of any coworking space.
In fact, the description of the community and the perceived benefits are identical to every other coworking space—except for the deliberate gender selection.
Overall, I’m impressed with how effectively HH has booted up, and the apparent success to date. Given that working women seem to be drastically underserved by conventional “college dormroom” style coworking spaces, it is reasonable to expect there is a strong market for more amenable coworking. And HeraHub is hitting right on that that target.
I think that one of the ways that coworking makes workers happy is by allowing each worker to select his or her own working environment and coworkers. HeraHub is a very clear example of this process, and we can see how it offers something that many women want.
Of course, I have to reserve judgment about the ultimate benefits of such gender separation. As in the case of girls-only schools, there are positive and negative effects. However awesome the network of sister Hubettes may be, if it turns into a ghetto, cut off from broader economic power and access, then that is very bad.
17-May-2016: This post was corrected to reflect the fact that HeraHub is female oriented (and obviously heavily female), but not “female only” as the original post said.
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