Why I’m Choosing to Close a Successful Coworking Space

I’ve been exploring edges, the overlapping spaces where one thing ends and another begins. Meadow and forest, lake and shoreline. In ecology, an edge, or ecotone, is a zone of incredible biodiversity.

 

It is neither, and both, and something else altogether. Edges are rich with life and potential for novel combinations.

 

This summer is Shecosystem’s edge – not yet closed, but not business as usual. On September 1, I’ll hand back the keys to 703 Bloor and close Shecosystem as a coworking space.

 

Since day one I have been trying to model vulnerability and emotional authenticity in my leadership, and in the same spirit, I want to share what’s behind this transition. This is not an easy lesson in “failing forward” or an announcement of a bold pivot. Simply a story of a very human entrepreneur trying to live her truth.

 

In a business that is all about work-life integration, the decision to close the space is not just about finances. I’ve gathered wisdom from many sources, negotiated, talked to members, and carved out quiet time with nature where I can tune in to myself and to the earth’s lessons.

 

Here are a few of the factors involved in my decision:

 

The rent is going up and my store of energy is running low.

I have things to say that have been drowned out by the noise of daily operations, and values that have been stretched thin by hustling to pay a monthly overhead of nearly $10,000.

I have a sensitive temperament, deep emotions, and high anxiety.

I have a radical vision that is not lining up with the reality of running a brick & mortar business in Toronto.

And I have 36-year-old ovaries a longing to make room in my life to focus on relationships and start a family.

 

There have been offers of help from fierce-hearted people who believe that we can all benefit from this shared vision. I want so badly to lean in to the power of community, but as the sole shareholder, I know that the risks and the responsibilities ultimately fall on my shoulders, and that feels really heavy. So does the thought of radically restructuring Shecosystem’s ownership and governance before this deadline imposed by the lease is up.

 

I have learned to listen to my body’s wisdom, and have noticed how my chest and throat tighten when I feel into what it would take to keep the space open. I felt it even as I typed the last paragraph.

 

One of the core ideas behind Shecosystem is that entrepreneurship is a soul journey. Creating a business is one of the channels through which our culture enables us to deliver our soul’s gifts to the world, in service of the world. It’s a space of inspired creation, mystery, and intuition. It’s also a space where we have to enter the underworld to do battle both with our own shadows and with the cultural constructs that undermine and rob us of joy and wholeness.

In this moment I have been forced to ask myself: will continuing to run a coworking space help me walk further down my soul’s path?

 

Over the last three years, this business has compelled me to work on my inner critic, as well as on my issues with money, privilege and deservedness.

 

It has forced me to grapple more deeply with messily ingrained patriarchal capitalist values like competition, relentless growth, and individual achievement, all the while learning to ask for help and surrender control.

 

It has allowed me to honour my full range of emotions, accept enoughness and imperfection, and value rest and flow.  

 

It has taught me to trust the unknown, work with cycles, and listen to the wisdom that doesn’t come from my head, but from my body, my intuition, and my dreams.

 

But these lessons have been hard won. My identity is getting lost and my energy is stagnating. I do hear notes of my soul’s song in this coworking space, but they’re getting more and more faint.

 

At this pivotal moment, letting go is a test of my ability to untangle my self-worth from the roles and the status that Shecosystem has afforded me. It’s a test of measuring success not just by scale or profit, but by impact and inspiration. It’s a step toward heeding the subtle but persistent call to a quieter, slower, and more embodied life lived in closer relationship with and in deeper service of the natural world.

 

I’ve given the process of shutting down Shecosystem’s coworking space a very glamorous title: Shecompost.

This summer is the breakdown period of the birth-death-rebirth cycle.

 

I’m starting to think that in the metaphor of business as an ecosystem, I care less about the flowers than I do about the soil. Shecosystem as a coworking space at 703 Bloor is a flower  – bright, alluring, and ephemeral. It’s been growing in thin soil, demanding heavy inputs and constant attention.

 

Composting is a transformative act of turning decaying matter into nutrients that are readily available to feed new life. Whatever iteration of Shecosystem sprouts next – if anything – it will grow in richer soil. I have no idea what that will look like yet: breakdown takes time and happens unseen.

 

Shecosystem is an unsustainable business model, but it is not a failure. This is an important distinction.

Nearly every day, someone tells me wholeheartedly that they are grateful this place exists, that it has changed their life, that there is nothing like Shecosystem out there. Member surveys show that we’ve had an impact and have served a unique need in a population that has been marginalized, underrepresented, and not taken seriously by mainstream entrepreneurial culture. We’ve won awards, been recognized by the media and by thought leaders in our field, brought thousands of people together, and helped launch businesses, friendships, and collaborations. It has been a success, and I feel proud.

 

Shecosystem stands for things people believe in and want to rally around:

 

Self-care as part of business strategy.

Showing up with your whole self at work.

Bringing feminine balance and feminist values to the working world.

Building meaningful communities in the workplace.

I can rest in the knowledge that there is no undoing the connections that have been made, the projects that have been initiated, the waves that continue to ripple outward from Shecosystem.

Compost demands a mix of elements, water, oxygen, heat, insects, fungi, plants, and time. I invite the community to join the heap and help release these nutrients!

 

If you love what Shecosystem is, what it has meant to you and to the world, please reach out and let’s talk about how this richness can live on in a different form.I’d love to hear your reflections and stories. Or come spend these last couple of months with us soaking up all the good vibes before we close – there are more memories, connections, and discoveries to be made! Scroll down to learn more about our $100 Unlimited Monthly Membership for July and August.

 

There is a lot to be grateful for, and the chord Shecosystem has struck will continue to resonate with our community’s heartbeat. I invite you to explore the edges with me.

 

With love and tears of gratitude,

Emily Rose 

 

The Summer of Shecompost

We’re closing in September but in the meantime, We have a few months of long and dreamy summer days and I want to make the most of them together. My intention (and I always frame them as questions) is: how can we collaboratively celebrate and evolve Shecosystem as we prepare to close the coworking space?

To honour our core value of accessibility and openness, we’re offering a $100 Unlimited Monthly Membership for July and August – let us know if you’re in!  

 

In addition to regular coworking, this membership includes more programming…we want to seriously raise the vibration before the space is gone! Join us to fill Shecosystem with joy, important conversations, unlikely cross-pollinations, all of life’s realness, and things that you can’t imagine happening anywhere else.

 

We’ll be offering:

 

  • Monday motivation meetups
  • Family Friendly afternoons every Tuesday
  • Wellness breaks and a pot-luck Salad Salon on Wednesdays
  • Member happy hours every Thursday
  • More damn dance parties!

You’ll still be able to focus and get work done, but we also want to create more opportunities to socialize, move, and welcome in our whole selves. After all, most of you have told us repeatedly that you’re here for community first.

 

If there is something you want to offer, let us know!

 

There are lots of places to get quiet work done, but there’s only one Shecosystem and we want to make the most of everything that it is above and beyond being a coworking space.

 

See you this summer!

 


Emily Rose Antflick is Shecosystem’s founder and Chief Community Cultivator. With an MA in Education, Emily spent a decade teaching and creating transformative educational journeys in Canada and internationally before opening Shecosystem. Emily proves that having a singular passion is not the only way to succeed: in addition to being an entrepreneur, she is a Rite of Passage guide, Permaculture Designer and dance facilitator. Emily was a winner of the Startup Canada Women Founders Fund and has been profiled as a Woman of Influence and a local feminist to watch. Contact her at emily@shecosystem.ca.


I’m a feminist, you’re a feminist, the Wing is feminist…let’s get to work.

This weekend Shecosystem was mentioned in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times – a brief mention but a cause for celebration nonetheless!

Unlike The Wing, the main subject of this feature, we may not have (or want) a primping room or a partnership with Chanel, but our members are just as thrilled as Wing member Tavi Gevinson, who is quoted in the article saying, “It’s crazy that this place exists in real life.”

I spent the day on Saturday as a committee member at the first ever Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum, and that experience in combination with our mention in the Times article was powerful validation that feminist businesses like Shecosystem are gaining momentum.

Because to me, women focussed coworking spaces are part of a movement, not a trend.

There is a need for spaces where women and feminists of all genders can gather to do business their way. We are forging new models, experiences, strategies and definitions, and we are doing so in the spirit of collaboration and with values embedded in the creation of ventures that drive positive outcomes for women and girls.

We are innovating in ways that, as OCAD Dean Dori Tunstall said, succeed when we can show that we have “created more compassion and harmony with each other and with the environment”

Shecosystem is not The Wing, but we respect what they’re doing to raise the profile of women’s spaces, and we are equally proud of sister spaces like Make Lemonade here in Toronto, Hera Hub, The Riveter, Working Ensemble, Rise Collaborative Workspace and so many more worldwide, each with their own vibe and values to serve the needs of their unique communities.

As Feminists at Work’s CV Harquail said yesterday in her opening remarks, “I’m a feminist. You’re a feminist. We have 100 different feminisms in the room and we are working together.” 

Let’s hope one day the Times runs a feature on this emergent movement: Entrepreneurial Feminism.

In the meantime, here are a few resources to check out:

Feminists at Work

Liisbeth Magazine

Feminine Capital

Feminist Business Model Canvas

 

 

If loneliness is an epidemic, Shecosystem is good medicine.

The table was set with salads and sweets, the lighting in the studio was low and the last rays of the setting sun filtered through the windows. More women arrived and we squeezed in two, three, four more chairs. Our first monthly Potluck + Perspectives began with a question:

 

What is community to you?

Community is ubuntu, interbeing, coming to know ourselves in relationship with all that surrounds us.

 

Community is where souls gather to be seen.

Community is hard to find when your friends move into different life stages

 

As we stuffed ourselves with vegan chilli and homemade truffles, we moved through topics from community building tips for online entrepreneurs to the challenge of honouring your boundaries as a community leader. We wrapped up with everyone lending a hand washing dishes, lingering in the kitchen chatting before going out into the autumn night.

 

Western society is starting to feel the impact of our fragmented, digital age in very real ways. Vivek Murthy, a former US Surgeon General has called loneliness an epidemic. Loneliness is associated with health risks from cardiovascular disease to anxiety, and this month’s Harvard Business Review cover story explores how it impairs our performance at work, limiting creativity, reasoning, and decision making.

 

Connected workplaces can be part of the antidote to this epidemic.

 

“Designing and modeling a culture that supports connection is more important than any single program” says Murthy, adding that “real connection requires creating an environment that embraces the unique identities and experiences of employees inside and outside the workplace” and citing kindness, compassion and generosity as the foundations of these relationships.

 

At Shecosystem, we are creating a workplace that is centred in a sense of belonging and supportive of genuine connections.  In a recent survey, 55% of our members reported feeling less lonely and 67% said they felt an increased sense of belonging.

 

Here are five ways we do this:

 

      1. We gather daily for Opening and Closing Circles where community members and guests reflect on what is going on in their lives and how it impacts their work

     

      1. We model vulnerability, even at the leadership level. Members know that they can ask for help with their businesses and are open to receiving it.

     

      1. Our events are not about passively learning new skills but about coming together to actively exchange information and perspectives. Events like Potluck & Perspectives let members and guests step up, share wisdom and ask each other questions about business. Our monthly Red Tents are co-created circles where we can be emotionally open, spiritually connected, and present for each other in a compassionate and generous way.

     

      1. The small size of our space creates a safe and intimate environment, while shared tables and open spaces allow for spontaneous connections to happen.

     

    1. Touch is important for connection, and you’re likely to get a hug – or five – every time you come in.

 

As we approach one year since the doors opened at Shecosystem, these genuine connections continue to deepen. And I know that they will sustain me as I prepare for a long, cold winter.

 

If loneliness is an epidemic, Shecosystem is good medicine.


Join our coworking community for as little as $30/month.

Check out our memberships here.


Emily Rose Antflick is Shecosystem’s founder and Chief Community Cultivator. With an M.A. in Education, Emily spent a decade teaching and creating transformative educational journeys in Canada and internationally. After experiencing a pervasive sense of depletion in her personal and professional life, Emily turned her attention to helping women like herself get unstuck and cultivate heart-centred communities that empower them to be their best selves. Emily proves that having a singular passion is not the only way to succeed: in addition to being an entrepreneur, she is a Rite of Passage facilitator, Permaculture Designer and dancer. Emily was a winner of the Startup Canada Women Founders Fund and has been profiled as a Woman of Influence and a local feminist to watch.

Lisa Simone Richards (PR & Visibility Coaching)

Lisa Simone Richards

Business:  PR & Visibility Coaching


What is at the heart of your business?

I help health, fitness & wellness entrepreneurs go from unknown and underpaid to standing out and selling out.

Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

I wanted to find a space of like-minded people on a mission to help others live their best lives full of health & vitality. Finding a women’s-specific community wasn’t on purpose, but it’s an inadvertent natural fit. Somehow there’s always been a female-only area of my life, whether that was Girl Guides, an all-girls high school, or being in a sorority during undergrad. So I’m definitely not surprised I stumbled into a women’s coworking facility!

What does thriving look like to you?

To me, thriving is living in a space of full abundance and possibility – financially, professionally & personally. And of course, having the freedom to enjoy all of those things.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Collaboration definitely resonates with me the most. I’m a big believer in collaboration over competition, and as a natural connector, I love to partner with others on certain types of projects.

What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

I know that a lot of women in the space are entrepreneurs and it’s totally my passion to work with health, fitness, and wellness entrepreneurs – the kind that really wants to make a big difference in the world. However, a lot of the time entrepreneurs can’t afford traditional PR agencies or publicists, so I hope to help the women in the Shecosystem community learn how to stand out in their industries, get known as the experts that they are, and magnetically attract their ideal clients right to them.

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life: 

Middle of the day naps. Lots of ’em 🙂

What’s your top piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs?

Don’t wait for permission or perfection. Also, persistence without being a pest is *key* – everything I’ve ever wanted and gotten is because I haven’t been afraid to be persistent, go after, and claim the things I want.


 

CONNECT WITH  LISA!

Website: lisasimonerichards

Twitter: @ellerich

Facebook: Get Seen Get Clients Get Paid

YouTube: Lisa S. Richards

 

Jake Hassel-Gren: LEAP Learning Lab

Jake Hassel-Gren

Business:  Founder of LEAP Learning Lab


What is at the heart of your business?

Enabling women to join forces and turn their combined resources and expertise into the power they need to make the life, and business they want.

Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

Because I believe women are more powerful and successful together.

What does thriving look like to you?

Thriving is about feeling good in my skin, giving to others, and contributing to my community.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Community for sure! In fact, I believe a community is foundational to the future economic model for women entrepreneurs. To thrive, women entrepreneurs need to be willing to bring their businesses together to collaborate and build revenue in a likeminded community.

What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

I will give my time and my expertise. I am also willing to be a mentor for younger women in the community. I wish to receive support for my new business and hopefully access opportunities to deliver workshops, talks, and small group sessions based on topics relevant to the community.

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life: 

I am an avid Crossfitter and I am in my Crossfit box 5 mornings per week without fail

What’s your top piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs?

Seek direction from women who have gone before you, find your niche, find your community, hold your breath and leap!

CONNECT WITH  JAKE!

Website: leaplearninglab

Twitter: jakehg8

Instagram: Jake_hassel_gren

Facebook: leaplearninglab 

YouTube: LEAP Learning Lab

 

Finding my Tribe

This morning as we gathered in our Opening Circle, I pulled a card that landed upside-down – facing out into the circle. The card had an image of a redhead with a rose in her hair surrounded by laughing, dancing women, and it read:

“Find your Tribe.” 
Finding your tribe goes way deeper than just having like-minded people around. Your tribe are the people who step in to uplift and defend you, to help you build and grow.

I feel the power of this tribe every single day that I witness – and experience – the many ways in which this community connects.  Shecosystem has grown to over 50 members who work and play together.  There’s a palpable feeling of belonging, support, and trust in this expanding circle of folks who get it.

This month, the tribe is springing into action – and it couldn’t come at a better time.

After seven months of forcing myself to wear too many hats, I’m tired. It’s not the kind of tired that I can fix with a screen-free weekend or a long nap after work. It’s the kind of sustained weariness that can ONLY be remedied by asking for help.

 

So with the help of my Shecosister Mathura, I’m piloting a Summer Energy Exchange program. The means that rather than one overstretched and exhausted woman at the helm, Shecosystem now has a team (we’re calling it a Coven because we’re magickal like that) of seven committed women. We are truly becoming a Shecosystem – interconnected, resilient, diverse, governed by patterns and processes that naturally tend toward abundance!

At the first meeting of our Coven, I sat in awe as each woman described the kinds of work that bring her joy. The greatest part: their zones of genius are all so different from mine.  I’ve always said that diversity makes a Shecosystem thrive, and we are now putting that into play by harnessing different skills, perspectives, and personalities.

The women in the coven will be here to woman the space all day every day (so I’m free to leave and work on the business), each bringing a different vibe and new ideas. They won’t just be sitting around doing data entry and welcoming guests; they’ll each be leading an exciting project that makes the most of their unique talents and lets them do the kind of work they enjoy.  This means that the stalled projects that I’ve found too challenging or draining to pursue will get done, joyfully and willingly by competent experts. And it means that I can reconnect with what I do best, and fall in love with my work again.

The coven includes:

  • MATHURA our coven’s head witch who brings order to my vision and keeps us all flowing
  • JOY helping our members and our space shine online
  • ERIN our smooth operator making our events and scheduling accessible and efficient
  • PAT our get shit done gal levelling up our tools and systems
  • LINDSAY a people person extraordinaire who will make everyone feel at home
  • MELANIE a networker who will spread the social love far and wide
  • KATE a green goddess making sure we’re making a positive social and environmental impact

You’ll be hearing more about these wonderful women over the next few months. And without a doubt, you’ll be reaping the benefits of their work.

 


 

Emily Rose Antflick is Shecosystem’s founder and Chief Community Cultivator. Get in touch with her at emily@shecosystem.ca