By Paul Liberatore
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Like most major cities, San Francisco has a wide range of trendy co-work spaces, but there are only a few in suburban Marin for the many telecommuters and freelancers. This vacuum is being filled by several entrepreneurs who are creating more co-working spaces. 41 year old Grace Kraaijvanger has specifically created a co-working space designed for WOMEN.
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
Virginia Woolf longed for a room of her own. Ernest Hemingway famously wrote about a clean, well-lighted place. In Marin County and across the country, entrepreneurs are opening clean, well-lighted co-work spaces for people to do their jobs in rooms of their own or in collaboration with others.
Marin’s newest entry into this growing market is Mind Tank, an upscale co-work club that entrepreneur Sally Newson opened on Aug. 1 in a former hair salon in the old Ross Garage building at 23 Ross Common.
“There is such a need for this type of space,” she said one recent afternoon. “I worked at home for 20 years, and sometimes I needed human interaction. I was really missing that connection. I have a digital creative marketing agency and sometimes I’d think, wouldn’t it be nice to tap someone on the shoulder and ask, ‘Which creative concept do you like better?'”
Newson, who’s in her early 50s and lives in Ross, came up with Mind Tank’s “industrial chic” look herself using handsomely re-purposed furniture in an open work environment that includes a kitchen, a tech area with a printer and copier and a conference room with an Apple TV on one wall and a sign on another that says in large, bold letters “Make it happen.”
Mind Tank presents bi-monthly lunchtime talks, monthly beer garden mixers in the building’s rustic courtyard and member dinners at Marche Aux Fleurs restaurant next door.
Chris Kawaja, a 40-year-old real estate investor and entrepreneur who lives in Ross, was one of the first to join.
“I’m a huge believer in co-working,” he said, sitting on a leather couch in Mind Tank’s common lobby. “I’ve been doing co-working for the past two years in San Francisco, so it’s nice to have a place closer to home.”
When Kawaja makes business calls on his cellphone, he often walks on a shady path that runs behind Mind Tank’s rustic brick building, checking his mileage on the Fitbit on his wrist.
“I can pick up 6 miles a day,” he said with a chuckle. “And this is a great place for meetings. It’s fun, it’s hip, people like coming here. I used to use a hotel in the city for meetings, but it’s such a hassle. I’ve had a couple of meetings here and it works really well.”
Like most major cities, San Francisco has a wide range of trendy co-work spaces, but there are only a few in suburban Marin for the many telecommuters and freelancers here, a vacuum that Newson is attempting to fill with Mind Tank. There is a particular need in the Ross Valley, she believes, especially since the Marin Business Sanctuary, a zen-oriented co-work space in Fairfax, closed a few months ago.
“We already have 17 members, and we’re getting new members every other day,” she said. “Half our members are CEOs and founders of companies, financiers, attorneys, filmmakers. It’s cool to see when they collaborate. It’s a club.”
Prices range from $375 a month for unlimited weekday access to $95 for community memberships.
Grace Kraaijvanger, a 41-year-old retired ballet dancer and mother of two, opened the Hivery in Mill Valley in the spring of 2014 as “a women’s inspiration lab and co-work space.”
“When my members come here, they tell me the reason they came is that they felt distracted working at home or in a cafe,” Kraaijvanger said. “But the deeper sense is that they want a feeling of support, of belonging to something. So this becomes much more than just a place.”
After subleasing a co-work space in Sausalito, Kraaijvanger took over a former performing arts academy on the floor above the Balboa Cafe at 38 Miller Ave. in downtown Mill Valley. It’s a bright, airy space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking some of Mill Valley’s signature redwood groves and its humming downtown plaza.
She launched it as a kind of experiment, to see if other women were as hungry as she was for a beautifully appointed and supportive co-work environment.
“The response was overwhelming,” she said. “I realized that this was indeed a problem that needed to be solved.”
The Hivery, its name inspired by its atrium’s honeycomb ceiling and the buzz of activity that goes on within its art-filled walls, now boasts more than 200 members from Marin, San Francisco and the East Bay. They range from millennials to baby boomers to empty nesters.
“We’re embracing women who are coming at all stages of building something, at all stages of growing, at all stages of change,” Kraaijvanger said. “And that’s my work, bringing people together.”
Notable members include fashion designer J’Amy Tarr, writers Melissa Cistaro, author of “Pieces of My Mother,” and Tara Mohr, author of “Playing Big”; Janet Crawford, TED speaker and neuroscience expert on gender bias and equality; Hairprint CEO Jasmine Scalesciani Hawken; painter Amanda Reeves and artist Kirby Woodson, founder of Petite Alma design studio.
Memberships, from $380 to $75 a month, include workshops, special events, creative retreats and networking opportunities.
The Hivery opened in Mill Valley after it outgrew its original location at Studio 333, an art gallery and shared work space in Sausalito.
A decade ago, when co-op work spaces were just beginning to take off in San Francisco, Christopher Holbrook opened the first one in Marin in an upstairs loft above his art gallery at 333 Caledonia St.
“We now have about 25 members,” Holbrook said. “A lot of them are in the tech industry. There are also authors, and a couple have online businesses. They say it’s nice for them to come into a place that’s not only a work space but also an art gallery. When you’re surrounded by art, you feel a little more creative. When they have clients come in to meet with them, they walk in and say, ‘Oh, what a cool place to work.'”
Studio 333 has 25 work stations and a garden courtyard with a pool table and vintage arcade games. It offers classes and events for members, who pay $300 a month.
“It’s more like a family here,” Holbrook says. “We do a lot of things that make you feel like a family and a community.”
A more traditional office complex at 100 Shoreline Highway in Tamalpais Valley, Office Evolution has 17 executive suites, a drop-in lounge, large and small conference rooms, a kitchen, break room and other amenities. The front desk is staffed weekdays during business hours. Suites are $1,100 a month.