By Sarah Feldberg San Francisco Chronicle
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The members at "The Hivery" include entrepreneurs, artists, consultants and writers. As Sarah Feldberg reports, "A common thread that connects them is that most are experiencing a change, a new phase of life or work."
San Francisco Chronicle
When Grace Kraaijvanger opened a female-focused workspace in a Sausalito loft in 2014, she was a pioneer.
The former dancer-turned-tech marketer had been working from home, feeling disconnected and yearning for a creative outlet, a community with which to collaborate and a physical space where connections could thrive.
"I felt a very strong need for this type of space, and I wanted to answer the question if others felt the same," Kraaijvanger says. The answer was a "resounding yes right out of the gate."
Within a year, the Hivery, as Kraaijvanger called the co-working space, had expanded to an airy 4,000-square-foot spot in downtown Mill Valley. Today, its network has grown to 400 active members and hundreds more who have visited the office for classes and events.
"We were definitely a leader in this space. We were one of the very first female-focused -- female-fueled is what I like to call it -- co-working spaces in the U.S.," Kraaijvanger says.
But five years after the founder and CEO imagined a safe, supportive environment for women to meet, work and collaborate, women's co-working spaces have proliferated in the Bay Area and beyond. In San Francisco today, women can join the Assembly (where fitness classes are included in membership), the Ruby (which hosts regular author readings) and New York-import the Wing (which boasts an in-house cafe and an abundance of Instagram-ready Millennial pink decor).
Now, the Hivery has joined them, opening a second location in San Francisco at Fort Mason on Nov. 1.
"I'm all the things right now," says Kraaijvanger. "I'm excited, I'm stressed, I'm overwhelmed, I'm thrilled. I was having that female founder moment this morning, where I was really like, 'Wow, this is big and it's a lot.'"
It is big. The Hivery's new space covers 5,000-square-feet inside Building D at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, where fellow tenants include Magic Theatre, Flax art store and Greens Restaurant. There are floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, an outdoor seating area overlooking the water and a main workspace with 25-foot ceilings and art-covered walls. There are phone booths for private conversations, meeting rooms for small groups and larger gatherings, a "creative studio" for workshops and classes, and a Zen lounge dedicated to nursing and meditation. Members can hang out in the kitchen and sell their work in the retail shop, stocked with books and products from members and friends. "And, of course, we'll have blazing fast Wi-Fi," Kraaijvanger adds.
While she gushes over the views and architecture, the Hivery founder also emphasizes that it's not just about being beautiful.
"My belief is deeply rooted in that it's not about how spaces look; it's about how they feel and how they make you feel," she says.
The members at the co-working space, she says, veer across industries, including entrepreneurs, artists, consultants and writers. A common thread that connects them is that most are experiencing a change, a new phase of life or work. To do so confidently, the Hivery has to be a place where "people feel welcome and that it's a safe space to explore a new chapter of work, or step into a new role or start a new business. A safe space to be vulnerable around the things you don't know," Kraaijvanger says.
That can't be achieved with architecture and decor alone. A lot of cultivating that atmosphere comes down to the Hivery membership, the co-workers who share a co-working space and how they interact -- or fail to.
How does the Hivery create a productive environment? "It might sound counterintuitive, but the way we do that is by having absolutely no gate," Kraaijvanger says. "We have always been, from the very beginning, a completely inclusive space where there is no application. We don't vet our membership at all. I think that's one of the things that makes the magic work."
The lack of vetting extends to gender. While the Hivery is certainly geared toward women, it's open to men and people of any gender identity who align with the vibe and purpose. Memberships range from $225 to $400, depending on how often someone wants to use the office, and there are discounts available for nonprofits and members who sign up for longer commitments. While opening in San Francisco means being in the same direct market as other spaces like the Wing and the Assembly, Kraaijvanger isn't worried about filling all those freshly installed desks.
A quarter of the Hivery's current membership has been commuting to Mill Valley from the city, and with a word-of-mouth boost, she expects the Fort Mason location to grow quickly. Events and classes that are open to the public (but often discounted for members), help bring prospective workers to the space, and the San Francisco location's calendar already includes a daylong event with designer Diane von Furstenberg on Nov. 11 and a clean skin-care workshop on Nov. 13.
Rather than view San Francisco's other women's co-working offices as competition, Kraaijvanger sees them all as chipping away at "an abundance of need" for spaces that empower and support women in doing their best work.
"The fact that there's other spaces out there, in some ways that's none of my business," she says. "My job is to stay true to serving this community, and my job is to remember that spaces that elevate women are important and needed. There's no scarcity in that."
Sarah Feldberg is assistant features editor at The San Francisco Chronicle. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.