The first “women-led, women-focused” coworking space in Lexington County has a podcast studio, a video recording room, a play area for children and swings (mainly for adults) tethered to the ceiling.
It’s called CoCreate. On a Thursday afternoon, owner Kiri Rawson and her sister, Kati Horton — also known as blogger Lexington Mommy — are unapologetically barefoot in the 11,000 square-foot space in the town of Lexington.
Several women sit at desks, working, talking, reading. One of them, Teresa Stone, is a nuclear engineer who, on the side, runs a food business and a nail polish brand. She’s a mother to six kids, all between the ages of 10 and 14. Her nail brand, The Blended Mama, is housed in a private office space at CoCreate.
She said coworking as a remote worker has kept her motivated to complete her to-do list and not be alone.
“It’s definitely more than just a place to come sit,” she said.
Coworking spaces have become more popular in recent years as more people work at home or start their own businesses. Buying into a coworking membership can often cost much less than renting an office, and many spaces provide flexible plans that let members sign up for one visit a month to five or more days a week.
Another CoCreate member is a physical therapist. She has a suite where she sees patients, but now she’s sitting at a desk in the common space with her daughter, an artist and illustrator.
A travel agent, a clothing retailer, a professional organizer, a sex educator, a direct sales representative and a woman who writes mathematics curriculum are all CoCreate members.
Before becoming a stay-at-home parent, Rawson worked many different jobs, mainly in team building, training and strategizing. She cared for her two children at home for a decade and she hated it.
“It was straight-up bad,” she said.
Rawson said she felt isolated, perpetually distracted and behind on all of her goals. Everything “snowballed” into a feeling of failure. She didn’t have a network of support or boundaries between work and home life. Children and laundry and other responsibilities were constantly demanding her attention when she should have been working, she said.
So Rawson went back to school and taught special education for three years, hoping for a change of pace. Then, in early 2018, she learned about coworking.
“I knew that’s what I had to do,” she said.
Coworking spaces have exploded onto the professional scene over the past decade, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The largest coworking company, WeWork, has more than 400,000 members around the world. The Wing, an all-women coworking company with multiple offices in the U.S., has been extremely successful.
Census data shows thousands of small, one-employee businesses in Lexington County, and Rawson wants CoCreate to be an incubator for some of them.
“It’s a place where it’s safe to say your goals out loud,” she said.
Rawson and Horton said they target women entrepreneurs and remote employees because they’ve seen how women often have difficulty investing in themselves.
So Rawson jumped in a year ago, invested in CoCreate by herself — a move that she said shocked many people, who expected her to have a male backer or partner — and built out the space with her sister, who is the community manager in charge of tending to member needs.
Members can support one another with more than just words and mugs of tea. An eclectic collective skill set means they can get financial advice, creative input, useful contacts and constructive criticism from someone usually within walking distance.
Rawson and Horton have also built out webs of support for members beyond just a communal space. At events, various speakers teach members how to create a business plan or a content calendar, how to make financial plans and calculate taxes.
In the kitchen, members can drink complimentary coffee, tea and water out of mugs or glasses with their names on it. They can bring food, snacks, and even cook a meal in one of the slow cookers. They can plop down on a bean bag chair and read a book from the community library with a glass of wine. They don’t need to take their laptops to the bathroom with them (a la coffee shops, where theft is a concern), Horton said. They can bring their children and entertain them in a play area, or allow clients to bring their children.
When they feel overwhelmed, members can take it out on one of the blue swings in the space.
“We’re trying to create the space that we needed at many different points in our lives,” Horton said.
CoCreate offers different tiers of membership, ranging from $30 for one day a month plus perks to $525+ for a unlimited, 24/7 access to a private office and amenities.
For more information on how to become a member, schedule a tour on CoCreateLexington.com.