Many people dream of opening a space to call their own. It sounds fun, even glamourous — getting the creative license to make a space exactly the way you want it. But if you talk to anyone who actually owns a brick and mortar business, they’ll tell you it’s a whole lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hard work.
As a company whose goal is to support small business, we wanted to get a better understanding of what it takes to actually open one. What are the challenges and joys that go into starting a space from the ground up? To find out, we talked to two ladies (and future Peerspace hosts) who are opening New Women Space, a community space for women in Brooklyn.
They agreed to let us follow along their journey from the beginning stages of coming up with the concept, listing the space on Peerspace, to eventually hosting their first event. We hope to learn from their experience, to better connect with our hosts, and provide resources to those who dream of starting their own business someday.
Get an inside look into the makings of New Women Space and the highs and lows that come with opening up a space and starting a business for the first time.
Chapter 1: Summer — The Beginning
What is your vision for New Women Space?
We want NWS to be a true community space for women. We hope to have consistent programming — regular instructors who teach classes and workshops on topics in professional development, wellness, and skill-building. We want it to be a home for anyone’s budding idea, side project, or main hustle. We want NWS to be a place where women feel comfortable (the word “cozy” came up a lot in our feedback sessions!), like they can be themselves and celebrated as such.
How did you both come up with the concept?
Sandra had been running GIRL PARTY, making space for women through unconventional gatherings, for a year and envisioned having a space house her robust calendar of events. My organization Up Speak was focused on the power of bringing a small group of women together to build trust and community through continuity. We both recognized that space continues to be an obstacle and barrier for women to truly thrive. And so we wanted to provide that critical resource: space.
Why women? Why events?
Women are awesome! Being able to carve out a little space to nurture your ambitions alongside other women can be priceless. We wanted to bring together women in person for events, classes and workshops because we feel that it’s the most surefire way to make them feel seen, heard, and supported. People want events — they want to come together in real time to get off their phones and connect authentically with others. We want to be a go-to space for women to unplug and simply be themselves and make new friends.
Running the numbers:
Budget: Any unexpected expenses? Since there are two of you, how are you keeping track of finances?
We haven’t had any crazy unexpected expenses, but I imagine there will be some in the future…We’ve actually had a few unexpected finds – i.e. working speakers we found on the street, friends who donated things like couches, yoga mats, a projector.
We both put in the same amount of money into the project and are aspiring to keep finances 50/50. We had read advice for and against a 50/50 split and decided it just felt right to us to keep things as even as possible. We felt comfortable doing this after putting together a partnership contract which includes a decision making clause: if we disagree on a big decision for the business, we will have three people who can help make the final decision.
Monthly Costs: Financial Breakdown Estimate:
|BofA checking account
|Coconut Water / Kombucha/ Juice||DONATIONS & SPONSORS
|Salary for co-founder
|Salary for co-founder||$2,000.00|
|Total Costs / Month||$7,555.00|
Let’s talk business:
How are you getting the word out? What marketing efforts are you focused on?
We have solicited input from our personal network on the directional focus of New Women Space. We have been so touched by the amount of help we’ve received! We each had our own networks from our respective women’s organizations and have a sizable list of women’s groups that can spread the word about NWS (i.e. Facebook groups like Fempire, WE NYC, and Dreamers // Doers).
We have also launched a Kickstarter campaign and already reached our funding goal of $15K funding goal with 12 days to spare! After working at Kickstarter for two years, this is my first actual campaign. I’m hoping it will be a great way for us to not only raise funds for our space renovation, but also to share our story in a compelling way.
Opening a new space sounds so exciting, but it can’t all be fun, right? What are some of the day-to-day business operations no one talks about when running a business?
I think by now that everyone understands that opening a business is a lot of work. But it is definitely one thing to hear about it being a lot of work, and it’s another thing to experience it firsthand. I feel fortunate that I have a strong awareness that self-care is imperative during busy times. Finding time to journal, do yoga, or go on a run is not always going to be easy – but I can already feel that I need a couple hours to myself to reset in order to go back to the space and pour myself into an event. Being in a social business is great because you really do blend your personal and professional worlds. However, you have to work harder to set boundaries for yourself. Sandra and I are still working on it!
Other less exciting things include mopping the floor and reconciling transactions in Quickbooks. But, so far, even these seemingly mundane tasks feel exciting (or less painful) when you’re doing it for your business.
What licenses did you have to secure?
Our space is permitted as “community”. So we really just had to get insurance for the space for basic event coverage. It’s not a license per se, but we did get advice from our accountant to make a special election to be taxed as an S-Corp. This makes it so that we are not going to be taxed as individuals for the income we make through the business.
Can you tell me about your first town hall meeting?
Our first town hall gatherings were intended to engage our network of instructors/specialists the first day and our network of makers/creatives the second day. We wanted them to get to know each other, see the space, help each other design workshops, and to openly discuss the way that New Women Space could help them. It was thrilling to see how our attendees physically navigated the space! We could really envision the hosts of other groups in the future that will make connections in the rooms we had designed with them in mind.
What’s been the biggest challenge(s) so far? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Our biggest challenge right now is determining a dependable revenue model. We were fortunate to have several ladies in our network offer to help us put together Profit + Loss statements and to try to help us work through a revenue model. However, the challenge for us is that events can be so variable. There’s the size of the event, the ticket price, the length of time, and all the raw costs of producing the event. For anyone who has put on a sizable event before, you can imagine how daunting it would be to put on such an event twice a day.
We’re still working out what our compensation model for instructors will be, and have to trust that the first opening months will help us see what’s possible for Sandra and myself bandwidth wise and what our instructors feel is fair. The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of inspiring women who want to host events at New Women Space.
We’re also planning to rent our space out on Peerspace to help bring in extra income for the times when our space would otherwise remain unused. We just need to get the space looking good enough to take pictures and create our official listing. We also think Peerspace bookings can help us market to potential future New Women Space community members. Attendees that come to our space via Peerspace could also be interested in joining in on the other women-oriented functions we host.
You’re opening the space in Fall, what else needs to happen before that? What are you planning to do for the grand opening?
We are planning our launch party at the end of the month. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we’re thinking of a “Self-care Fair” and a music and dance party at night. Before that happens, we’re hosting GIRL PARTY events in the space every Wednesday. We’re also spreading the word about our Kickstarter campaign and finishing up Phase 1 of getting the space ready. The smoothest events are often the result of careful planning. We know that we need to aim for quality vs. quantity for our first month of events, and that putting processes in place now will help us gradually expand our reach.
For anyone who is interested in working or partnering with us, we’d love to meet you! If you’re not in the NYC area, we’d be honored if you would support and/or share our Kickstarter campaign so that we can provide a good looking space for women and keep our programming calendar growing.
We’re excited to see what’s in store for NWS and to continue to follow their journey. If you’re a small business owner who is looking to earn some additional money, learn how you can become a host on Peerspace and connect with the community.