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, 2018, 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.
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,
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.