“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
Like most things in nature, Shecosystem started with a few small seeds budding in a dark, tight place. Here’s the story of these seeds planted by our founder Emily Rose Antflick, and the roots they are putting down so Shecosystem can blossom.
In March 2015, after spending over a decade hopping around the world working in classroom and experiential education, I found myself starting every day with feelings of dread. It was a brutal winter in Toronto, and my first back in the northern hemisphere after living in the tropics.
Guided by fear, I had settled for a teaching job at a private school knowing it was a terrible fit. I was also spending every pocket of free time volunteering as the Community Leader of G Day for Girls Toronto, a rite of passage for adolescent girls.
I hated my job, was breaking up with the man I was engaged to marry, and my physical and mental health was declining. I dropped out of my bellydance troupe, isolated myself socially, cried myself to sleep and woke up with stress nightmares. I felt completely emotionally and energetically depleted.
My life was crashing and burning around me and I had to fake it every day in front of students and colleagues. And as I led the G Day steering committee, I struggled to appear capable and positive in order to inspire the team. Until…I didn’t. This was where things really started to shift.
We work better when we can bring our whole selves to work.
First I told one committee member, and then I told the whole crew what was going on for me, personally and professionally. I stopped worrying about how busy they were and I asked for help.
The shift was palpable – the team galvanized and pulled together an amazing event. The energy at our meetings was open and safe. When we worked from an open-hearted place, showing up with the shine and the shadow, we worked better. When I gave myself permission to be imperfect, I became a better leader.
I realized that a huge part of what was burning me out was my inability to be authentic at work. I was tired of living a fragmented life and wanted to create a workplace where I would want to show up every day – authentically, vulnerably, and empowered to take risks and grow beyond my comfort zone.
I wanted to work toward work-life integration instead of pretending they are two separate things that one can juggle and balance. And I wanted to prove that this more holistic, feminine way of doing business can lead to abundance.
Women entrepreneurs are hungry for Sisterhood
Fast forward a few months: Quit the job. Ex moved back Down Under. The snow melted and I was sleeping through the night again.
After the success of G Day, I felt that my new mission was to help women listen to their inner wisdom and get unstuck. I was at a conference full of female entrepreneurs – surrounded by these women who were pursuing their authentic purpose. But I kept hearing one woman after another talk about how how they felt alone, depressed, and disconnected even while supposedly living their dreams. How they were always turning ideas over and over in their heads because there was no sounding board.
I also saw how happy they were to be in the same room, and I thought: why does this conference happen once a year? Why can’t this be our 9-5?
Women crave a professional connectedness that goes beyond networking. They want to build supportive and mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded others who will listen and give feedback, create opportunities for collaboration, and hold space to share successes and failures. We want to nurture each other’s passions and tap into a whole that is greater than the sum of our parts. Women want a coworking space that’s designed to promote sisterhood.
I started envisioning a womb – warm, safe, nourishing. A place of creation that honours the feminine. With a bit of mystery and magic.
I held on to my vision of a this space where women could go to fire up their passion for their businesses and connect with supportive peers and mentors. I gave myself the summer to dream, to flesh out the idea and soak up as much inspiration as I could.
Self-care needs to be a part of our working lives
With a background in dance and a need for emotional healing, I started exploring how movement can heal. I trained to facilitate Dance Our Way Home, a guided dance journey where women can get out of their heads and connect with their body’s wisdom. Dance helped me identify and clear emotional blocks, release stress and tension, and develop a deeper trust in myself and in the universe. Through dance, I came up with creative insights and found intuitive answers.
Remembering all of those women talking about burnout and depression, I recognized that self-care is a crucial and often neglected ingredient in entrepreneurial success. We get overwhelmed by neverending To Do lists, and feelings of guilt set in when we consider taking time for self-care.
When you are your business and you’re trying to present an authentic face to the world, your personal wellbeing cannot be compromised. If you’re not thriving, your business will be less productive, less resilient in the face of challenges, and ultimately less capable of generating abundance. You can’t grow nutrient rich food in dead soil.
In the fall of 2015, I started to water these three seeds: workspace, community, and wellness. I researched, networked, read, and asked tons of questions. I registered the business and chose a name: Shecosystem. Rooted in my environmental education background, this name speaks to the fact that just like natural ecosystems, our entrepreneurial ecosystem thrives when it is diverse and interconnected.
I began building community through weekly Coworking + Wellness meetups, creating mutually beneficial relationships with women like Leigh from Women in Biz Network, who added an element of mentorship to the mix.
For 10 months we met every week to get our work done, take a moment for self-care, and connect with a supportive community. Over 50 women have stepped up to share their gifts as business mentors and wellness facilitators, and women in the community have seen tangible results in their businesses and in their overall wellbeing.
With all of this research and an open-hearted community to validate my assumptions, I was ready to move toward launching a coworking and wellness space. Shecosystem is still a seedling, and what will blossom is a mystery.
Women are coming together to grow this vision beyond the limits of my capabilities as a lone cultivator. I’ve learned that when you create a container for women to connect, magical things happen in those spaces between us. Over and over, my community has shown me that everything I need – whether it’s tips on the best accounting software, compassion when I’m overwhelmed with self-doubt, or a volunteer for an event – is right there if I can just be open enough to ask for help.
Women are leading an entrepreneurial groundswell and I love being a part of it. Shecosystem celebrates what women bring to the table: a holistic perspective, a desire for connectedness and collaborative spirit, a sense of power based on taking responsibility rather than enforcing domination, and a deep well of creativity. We need these skills for our economy and our planet.
I can’t wait to see what grows here. Want to cultivate the Shecosystem with me?