Co-working spaces, where small business owners, freelancers and sole proprietors share a common workspace, are becoming more and more popular. If you don’t want to (or can’t) work at home, but don’t need (or want) the expense and overhead of renting office space, these “communal” spaces can be the ideal solution. Most offer not only workspace, but basic business services such as access to copiers, printers and conference rooms.
Now, co-working spaces with a new twist are springing up: They’re just for women. The Philadelphia Business Journal recently highlighted one such co-working space, The Hive, launched by entrepreneur Melissa Alam.
Alam got the idea for The Hive after joining a co-working space in an effort to create greater work-life balance while operating her online magazine for women entrepreneurs, Femme & Fortune. “I found that my business grew so much faster when I was surrounded by a community of other entrepreneurs who were also working at a similar pace,” she told the Business Journal. “Imagine how much more women entrepreneurs can accomplish through a co-working community [just for them].”
A quick Google search for “co-working spaces for women” will turn up many other co-working spaces like The Hive—possibly including one in your area. What do you stand to gain, and what should you consider, before signing up for a women-only co-working space?
What does the space offer? Most spaces offer different packages depending on how often you want to work there. Consider starting with the minimal package until you’re sure you like the vibe. Find out what services are included, such as scanning or free coffee and snacks, as well as the hours of operation.
Who else is there? Visiting a co-working space can give you a good idea of the location’s core users. Are they people you can learn from and network with? Will you be able to work harmoniously? See what you can find out from the space about other tenants, or use social media to do some investigating.
How diverse is it? One of the benefits of co-working is rubbing shoulders with others who are different from you and can give you new insights. Is everyone in the space you’re considering in your industry, and will that help you or hurt you? Will a smaller space with more homogenous members benefit you, or do you need a larger space with a wide range of companies?
What types of programs does the site offer? Most co-working sites host or sponsor networking events, speakers or even conferences to help members grow their businesses. Find out what the sites you’re considering have to offer.
If you sometimes feel hampered or shy in the presence of male entrepreneurs, perhaps a women-only space can give you the support you need to gain confidence and speak out. On the other hand, limiting yourself to one type of people could be stifling to future opportunities. In the end, the decision to join a women-only co-working space is one only you can make.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.