The Co-Working Space Committed to Helping Female Founders Thrive

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One Roof gives women a mighty leg up.

“The reality is that even though Australia is the second-best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur, no country in the world has come remotely close to achieving gender parity in entrepreneurship,” explains Sheree Rubinstein (pictured above). “Key barriers include access to funding, networks, mentors, a confidence gap, unconscious biases and structural inequalities. We need to stop trying to fit women into traditional paradigms that have typically excluded us and create an entirely new paradigm.”

That’s where female-led co-working space One Roof, created by Sheree and cofounder Gianna Wurzl, comes in, with their core values of community, innovation and support.

“One Roof puts women at the heart of everything we do. It’s about understanding and addressing the unique challenges, motivations and needs of women. One Roof creates a space and environment that ensures women feel confident, included and supported.”

The Southbank space doesn’t disappoint on the supportive front – along with the prerequisite desks and reliable WiFi, One Roof encompasses a whole range of services that empower and ignite potential, from yoga and meditation classes to free one-on-one consultations with industry experts in everything from marketing, branding and software development to accountancy and research and development.

It was Sheree’s career in the corporate world that highlighted gender-specific obstacles for women occupying leadership positions, which gave her and Gianna the courage to consider a way they could bridge the gap.

“Without knowing whether this was a great idea or whether we were just drinking our own Kool-Aid, we ran an MVP to test the concept,” Sheree explains. “For one week, we took over a [two-storey] Airbnb home in St Kilda… and converted a woman’s house into a co-working space. We turned her bedroom into a meeting room, her kitchen into a workshop space and her living room into a hotdesking area. We hosted meditations in the mornings, workshops facilitated by experts in the afternoon, and events every evening.”

The founders knew they were onto something when they crunched the final numbers. “In one week, 400 people came through the doors,” she says. “From that moment, we knew we had a good idea and an official business.”

What followed was an extensive, two-year-long testing process that led the hard-working women to Melbourne, Sydney, New York and Los Angeles, building out an army of interested entrepreneurs. The business continued to grow – literally – once a permanent home was found in Southbank, Melbourne.

“In just four months, we went from 500 to over 1000 square metres of space,” Sheree says. “We are now home to over 80 women-led businesses. These are businesses with a female founder, cofounder or CEO. They include startups, social enterprises, not for profits, creatives and freelancers. They are industry-agnostic and really diverse in terms of size, stages and industries.”

Businesses that brainstorm in the One Roof sphere include Australia’s first and leading female rideshare service, Shebah, and Finch, a fintech start-up that recently closed a seed-funding round of $2.25 million.

Building their dedicated community wasn’t just a matter of gathering a bunch of bright stars into a room, however – Sheree and Gianna utilised other means of mobilisation in the early days of One Roof. When the founders went on the hunt for a platform that gave them the freedom to create a “quick and easy” MVP for launch, for example, they landed on Squarespace.

“We used Squarespace from the very beginning,” Sheree explains. “Right from the beginning, we had an ecommerce platform that allowed us to sell passes to people. It was also very important to us to have a platform that we could continually work on and improve without having to wait for assistance.”

The close-knit networking of the in-built One Roof community also found a friend in the Squarespace-powered site.

“We have a directory of all our members on our website,” Sheree says of her “highly engaged database” of dedicated members. “Each week, we focus on key themes including events and programs happening at One Roof, profiling members in the spotlight, sharing success stories and blogs about lessons we have learnt in observing, working with and supporting our members. These are all key means through which we have forged a strong, formidable and loyal community.”

That loyal, supportive and empowered community is the root of all good ideas at this unique co-working space.

“All our members understand and subscribe to these values. It means that we see members supporting and mentoring one another, we see partnerships and collaborations taking place, we see members giving back to the community and sharing in resources and knowledge.”

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