I sat and cried on June 1, 2020 when I watched a Facebook live video of Bryn announcing the closing of CharlieCo in Denver. I had never met Bryn but I knew how much it took to get that coworking space open. I had just opened The Village Workspace in Centennial, Colorado March 2, 2020 and was crying because I was suddenly filled with fear that it could be me closing my doors next.
In May 2020 we learned that The Riveter was closing all nine of their women-centric coworking spaces nationwide, and now this week I learned yet another female-focused and woman-owned coworking space, Rise Collaborative, is closing their doors at the end of this month.
There are many male-owned businesses that did not survive the pandemic, but when I see women-owned businesses failing I know there is another underlying issue at play. So many women went home to work and care for family members which hurt their businesses, while many men were able to stay the course and keep their businesses afloat. I see that in the membership makeup of coworking spaces as well as in the owner-operators here in Denver who run coworking spaces. Younger women with children typically are the ones who have to make those choices while most men simply do not.
The January, 2022 jobs report found that 275,000 women left the workforce last month, leaving the women’s workplace participation rate at 57%—a rate that pre-pandemic had not been seen since 1988. An entire generation of progress has been erased in two years.
The fact that The Village Workspace remained open and thriving through the pandemic is a combination of luck and hard work.
- We were fortunate that the space planner we worked with not only understood how to layout a successful floor plan for coworking spaces, but Mara Hauser also owns 25N Coworking spaces and knew how to layout a space for revenue success. Many of the female-focused spaces that closed had few private offices and instead had lots of open space with bench seating. Perhaps because women like gathering and hosting events or because building out more offices costs more. We were urged to have as many private offices as possible.
- The Village Workspace is located in a suburban area (Centennial) instead of being downtown. Obviously downtown locations have the population density that supports many coworking spaces, but during the pandemic people left those areas and found spaces closer to their homes. When we were looking for space back in 2019, it was a selfish decision to not be near downtown. I wanted a place with easy and free parking that was closer to home.
- We became a certified mail center for businesses before we opened our doors which somehow was considered an essential business during the heat of the pandemic and we were allowed to stay open. All this really means is we get mail for people who work at The Village Workspace as well as those who just want a business mailbox. In any case, we were fortunate to be allowed to remain open when others closed their doors.
- The business I owned before opening The Village was a marketing firm and marketing because our strongest tool to remain open and engaging with our audience. We started a series at The Village called “Remote Life” where we interviewed members and non-members on everything from how to make your Work-From-Space more productive, to tweaking your SEO and upping your marketing to keep your business on top during these challenging times. We had fun and tried to focus on bringing people a smile and a positive message even if they were home panicking about how their business and careers were going to fare.
Sure we have worked hard over the past two years to grow during such uncertain times, but we have also been so fortunate that people who needed to get out and be around other people felt that they belonged here, and many who couldn’t work from home due to sharing that space with dogs kids, roommates, and others came in and got offices and desks to get back to work.
This year alone we have hosted a street fair our in our parking lot, featuring local artisans and vendors, a large art show with 14 local female artists, a dog fashion show to raise money for Denver dog rescues, a roaring 20’s dance party with a live jazz band, a gala for a non-profit raising money to help moms struggling with postpartum depression and several marketing classes including one to help businesses start a podcast (we have a great media room fully equipped for podcasting and video production).
We are almost completely full now and are in the process of scouting for another location in the Lakewood/Golden area. So while the world is talking about the struggles and especially the women-owned businesses who did not survive, I wanted to shed some light on this amazing Village… The Village Workspace!