On November 11, I wrote this post about starting a business & dreaming about how we move the needle on women-owned businesses, specifically in Iowa. When I put a female coworking space out to the social media world, I got tons of responses. People wanted to help, people wanted to fund it, people wanted to question me, people wanted to hear all the details. So I created a survey that dug a little bit deeper on the topic & sent it out to people I know in the Des Moines metro. And soon this idea was published on Lift IOWA and my email inbox filled up, survey responses reached 105, and people were eager to hear more.
My brain nearly exploded.
So I started meeting with people before work, over lunch, in the evenings, via phone. I learned a lot. One of the girls I met with was like, you should talk about the journey you’ve had because stories like this typically go… “I started my own business! It was really hard getting there, but I did it and now make six digits a year.” The in-between, middle, sticky, complicated stuff rarely gets shared, but that’s where growth and transformation happen.
So here’s where November 11 to January 11 has taken me.
Step One: Put your idea out there. Simple enough, but also a risk in and of itself. I put it out there without understanding the coworking industry and/or entrepreneurial field & I was okay with that.
Step Two: Get input. This step created several emotions for me. Some of the most important input I got has shaped a lot of what I want to do moving forward.
Coworking spaces typically don’t create a lot of revenue. If they do, studies have shown it’s usually after being in existence after two years. Conversations with coworking space owners revealed that breaking even is very typical, especially in the beginning. I wasn’t looking for a “get-rich-quick” thing at all, but um hello, yes, I do want to be able to make money and not have to beg my parents to pay my grocery bill.
The majority of survey respondents were only willing to pay $50 a month. Hypothetically, if a space costs $2,000/month, I would need 40 people in one space just to break even. Whoa.
Females crave community. They want to learn from one another and help each other succeed. That is exactly why I wanted to create a physical space in the first place, but does that truly address the gaps females feel in their entrepreneurial journey?
Bricks and mortar businesses are extremely expensive. The build out of a building I was looking at would cost nearly $150,000. I’m trying to fathom a mortgage right now, so this number was slightly terrifying.
There are dozens and dozens of resources for females to utilize if they want to start a business or be more connected. There are networking groups galore and women who are ready to help entrepreneurs. This is one of my favorite reasons to live in Des Moines; we are such a supportive community. How do we connect what exists in a more cohesive way?
Step Three: Figure out what it all means.
There is a ton of risk. Is it impossible? No way. Am I as eager as I was in the beginning to roll this thing out? Not at this point in my life. Do I still want to put a business plan and flush it out more? You bet.
I crave a space where ideas are pitched, where holes are poked into plans to make them stronger, where dreams are discussed and turned into reality, where we regularly collaborate on projects. Many people do, but does that require a coworking space? I’m not entirely sold yet.
My friend Justin said that this would be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I know that I could handle it, but I also know that right now, today, January 11, 2016, I want to spend part of my twenties traveling, embracing youthful things before kids are a possibility, enjoying a modest savings account.
I don’t look at any of this process as good or bad, right or wrong, stupid or brilliant. Intuitively, I know I’m not quite ready to take this leap, which is very different than believing I am capable.
So what’s next, Emily?
I get this question a lot. I feel comfortable saying that I would love to continue conversations about what current & future female entrepreneurs need to succeed (including myself!). The survey data gave great input, while also allowing for more depth. I want a business plan to be pieced together, to get real cost estimates, and more understanding about what would make a person want to pay to be a member. I love the idea that females come together to build something like this as a group, a team, a community, rather than me taking the lead solo. And I think a lot of people want that too; they want to do something that makes a difference, that leaves a mark.
All that to say, putting myself out there was awkward, scary, and exciting. I did because it felt right & I wanted to dig deeper. You’ve leaned in with me, gave input, shared challenges and opportunities, inspired me, made me terrified, and reminded me that whatever happens, happens.
At the end of the day, I want to embrace the word flourish in everyday life. Whether it’s helping a young college grad flourish outside of campus life or help a neighborhood flourish. Wherever this journey is taking me (or us), I will do my best to share the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.
*Ashleigh is the creative brain behind this hand drawn piece.
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