Business: One Roof
What: Co-working and event space dedicated to women-led businesses
How did the idea for your business first come about?
I was running networking events and focus groups for women. I wanted to bring women to together to create a platform for inspiration and connection. And I really wanted to know what women felt were the key barriers holding them back from succeeding in business. I garnered a lot of insight through my own research and hosting these events and focus groups. Women kept saying they want a space where they feel comfortable, part of a community, where they can make solid connections, attend events and learn fundamental business skills. And so I came up with the idea of One Roof - a physical hub that provides everything women need to succeed in business all under one roof. While I thought it was a genius idea, I really didn't know whether anyone else would buy into it and so I knew I needed to test and validate the concept. For one week I took over an Airbnb home in St Kilda and converted this woman's beautiful 2 story mansion into a pop up co-working space. So if you can imagine her bedroom became a meeting room, the kitchen a workshop space, the living room was for co-working and the backyard for events. I put a lot of effort into curating and programming the week so that every morning there was a meditation, every lunch time a meet and greet, every afternoon a workshop facilitated by an expert and every evening an event. In one week, over 400 people came through doors. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I knew I was onto something.
When did you have a ‘f*ck-it moment’ and decide you were going to go all-in and start your business?
I started my career in corporate law and very early on in my career I had a realisation that there are massive gender gaps in business and leadership. There was a particularly defining "f*ck it moment" - a moment where I was the only woman sitting in a meeting and was asked by one of the men, in front of everyone loud and clear, whether I was in the meeting simply to take notes. I walked out of that meeting angry, frustrated and determined. I told myself from that moment on I would do whatever it took to ensure no woman every felt diminished simply because she was the woman in the room. For all the fear and discomfort I have felt leaving a stable corporate job to become an entrepreneur, it is this passion that keeps me going every singe day.
What were some major challenges you had when starting your business? And how did you overcome them?
I tried to go too big too quickly. In the first year I had set up One Roofs in 4 cities across 2 countries - Melbourne, Sydney, LA and NYC. I thought going big from day one was the best way to go. But the reality was it was too big and too distracting. The story was great. People loved the idea of One Roof being global but it was hard to remain focused. I quickly scaled back when I realised just how challenging this was. I now know that it's important to be focused and to work on tightening the business and financial model before saying yes to too many opportunities and letting things get out of hand. I let what I thought was opportunities become distractions.
What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
One of my biggest pinch me moments was the day I signed the lease on our current home in Southbank. With no funding and no experience in setting up co-working spaces, I never imagined in my wildest dreams being able to run what has become the leading co-working space in Australia for women-led businesses and in such a central location with so much space. Honestly, the greatest"pinch me" moments happen when our members have amazing success stories like raising capital, winning awards, getting on to shark tank or hitting 1 million users globally. Its the wins and success stories of our members that gives us the greatest motivation to do what we do.
Starting a business can be gruelling - what keeps you motivated, and keeps you going?
I kind of answered above but to add to this - There is a persisting gender gap in business and entrepreneurship. Not enough women are starting and growing successful businesses and startups. We do not create a level playing field in Australia for women to succeed. I see this reality play out every single day. I am on a mission. By creating at least five world class co-working hubs dedicated to women-led businesses around Australia, One Roof will put Australia on the map as the number one destination in the world to be a female entrepreneur. One Roof is all about creating an environment that gives women-led business the greatest chance of succeeding. We are currently home to 85 of Australia's best and leading women-led small businesses, social enterprises and high growth tech startups, that's about 150 people. And more than a co-working space, One Roof provides a hands on and tailored 'incubator style' program to ensure our members have everything they need to succeed in business all under one roof. The connections, collaborations, introductions, confidence, support and community amongst our members that keeps me and my team motivated. Running a business is hard. There are so many challenges and uncertainties. But no matter what I maintain my motivation because I am focused on ensuring One Roof is the driving force that makes Australia the best place in the world for women to start and grow successful businesses.
How do you create a work-life balance?
I think the work life balance concept can be really misleading. Running your own business doesn't necessarily mean you can nail the work life balance thing. Well I definitely haven't 'achieved' it. But I am not on a mission to achieve a work life balance. I run my own business and I love what I do. But I work incredibly hard to keep everything running. I might work harder now than I did in corporate but I definitely work on my own terms and in a way that works best for me and my lifestyle. Exercising, a lot of walking, journalling, listening to podcasts, reading, cooking and eating well, socialising with friends and family, hikes, camping, weekend getaways and travel are all important to me.
Brene Brown's quote "You can choose courage or comfort but you can't choose both." I believe that for me choosing courage despite the fear, uncertain and self doubt has been the secret sauce that has helped One Roof to get to where it is today. My personal mantra is to feel the fear (as I always do) and do it anyway.