In the past few years co-working spaces have become a big hit, especially for small business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs. Any creative working in the UK will know that hiring private space can be expensive, working from home can be isolating and that planting yourself in an environment where there isn’t room to grow, or at the very least be yourself, can undermine your process and your goals. Now, in 2017, co-working spaces are a normal and viable option for many people and are talked up by single workers and business owners all over the world due to the supportive, collaborative and more sustainable nature of each space compared with more traditional rented spaces.
I’ve parked at plenty of co-working pop-ups and areas; from dingy ‘upcycled’ corporate spaces where I’d be expected to take a break from interning to clean the toilet ‘for the greater good’, to inspiring open-plan lofts filled with amazing makers in the heart of London. I even opted to host last year’s big community talks event YOUNG GOLD TALKS at Google Campus, one of the city’s most famous, inclusive and successful co-working spaces.
Today the very idea of these spaces is something run-of-the-mill and now that we mostly know what to expect from them, we’ve begun to see them evolve, shifting to better serve the people using them. One example of this change is a focus by some on exclusively supporting particular groups of creatives and entrepreneurs, for example solo workers, young people or women. I sat down with Lola Hoad, the Founder of One Girl Band and the One Girl Band space in Brighton, to get an idea of how the creative community in the UK can benefit from using these more focused spaces, what they bring to the table and what the One Girl Band space offers.
She says, ‘The main purpose for these sort of spaces is to give women an opportunity to access a safe and comfortable environment; to get away from ‘office banter’, and to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who just get it. It’s definitely not about banning men or making sure that guys never enter the space, it’s about having a space for the magic that only happens when you get together with relatable women. We’re all about community over competition.’
Lola’s OGB space in Brighton acts as a safe base for female entrepreneurs whose businesses are creatively led. The building essentially acts as a tangible and burgeoning extension of her online support group and mentorship business One Girl Band. Lola began her career as a designer and soon became a small business owner, creating hand-lettered paper goods and hosting workshops around the UK. Having faced a number of challenges along the way, she decided to share her insights and offer advice to women in similar situations, growing an open network and soon becoming a working mentor. Many of the issues she has faced herself are addressed in the way she runs the OGB space.
‘It’s for women who are tired of working from home and alone, and crave some interaction from someone other than postal workers. It’s for freelancers, designers, writers, developers, start ups, basically anyone who can work remotely.’ Lola says, ‘As well as desk space we have our OGB monthly meet ups and Expertise Sessions there, as well as workshops and events hosted by other female movers and shakers. It’s a lovely creative atmosphere, with a pretty powerful energy running through it.’
So why found a space dedicated to championing female creatives and entrepreneurs and what are the benefits of a women-only space? Many working women, Lola included, agree that social interaction, being able to relate to those around you and feel supported is key to developing confidence and working productively. Women working in the creative industries by no means experience identical challenges each and every day, however, being part of a team that will offer advice without judgement and help or encouragement if you ask for it is deeply valuable.
‘I felt that Brighton needed a dedicated home for female-identifying creatives to feel comfortable, supported and empowered. They needed a chance to move their businesses out of their homes to a place that was reasonably priced, and didn’t take all of their income’ says Lola. ‘They needed the opportunity to meet women just like them, to see that others are in the same boat. Most importantly, I think working women deserve to create the life that they desire, and they deserve to do that in a calm environment with a sense of unity, support, safety and community.’
Women-only working spaces are now popping up in the US and in Australia but Lola believes the UK needs more. She goes into detail about this, explaining the power that simply feeling comfortable in a workspace can have on a person. ‘The UK needs more of these inclusive spaces welcoming trans, cis, non binary, WOC and everyone else who doesn’t identify as a cis male. I feel this incredible power and invincibility when I come out of a room that was filled with powerful, exciting women, and I just want to re-create that for others. You get a real feeling of community, empowerment and support, and think every woman deserves to feel that.’
In the most simplistic terms, spaces like the One Girl Band co-working space offer an opportunity to feel comfortable, valued and encouraged. Of course, this atmosphere is something that all co-working venues attempt to provide, however, there’s no one size fits all. Different people work differently and we all respond to varied environments. If working with like-minded women each day to create something you’re passionate about works for you and pushes you forward, it’s absolutely worth making use of spots like the OGB space and what they offer. We’re just glad they exist.
Would you consider taking your project into a co-working space for women? Lola’s One Girl Band space is based in a renovated warehouse on Vine Street, Brighton, and desk space is available for part-time or full-time rental on a monthly or daily basis. If you’d like to get an idea of the space for yourself, drop by for a visit or book onto an upcoming workshop to meet other people who use the building. If you’re not based in Brighton but are looking for tips, support or ideas for a new place to work, tune in to the One Girl Band podcast here or follow One Girl Band on Instagram.