In January’s Hustle Profile, I talked to a kickass woman who actually runs her own co-working space! I first connected with Rachel almost a year ago when she was gearing up to open the Make Lemonade office and it has been my pleasure to follow along and see how the business has completely taken off in that time. If you’re ever in Toronto, get your booty over to Make Lemonade for a day of working in a fun and beautiful co-working space. Here’s my conversation with Rachel…
Tell me about yourself and your business.
I’m Rachel and my business is Make Lemonade, which is a co-working space for in the heart of Toronto. We offer day passes, different memberships, we rent meeting rooms, and we have different types of workshops and events that we host to bring the greater community together in Toronto. Our main focus is just helping women in business get their shit done, whether it’s women who own their own business or just women at whatever stage they’re at in their career. Anyone with a laptop and a dream can come and hang out at Make Lemonade.
What made you want to start this business?
I was freelancing for a couple of years and it was fun. But there were a couple of constants that were still kind of in my life. One was that I was either working from home or I was working out of coffee shops and with that setup, I just was growing super lonely. It was fun to explore the city and have more freedom with my schedule. But I started to miss seeing people on a regular basis and I was a little bit envious of people who worked in offices.
So I wanted to create a community and I love the good design of coffee shops and there are some really cool ones in the city, but they weren’t practical for actually getting your work done. So I kind of wanted to tie the two things together. To create a community and make sure it was practical for actually working.
Eventually, the romance of working from home dies. Being able to wake up when you want and wear your pajamas is all fun and fine. But eventually, you just start to feel lonely.
At what point did you say, I can call myself a business owner or an entrepreneur now. Was it when you were freelancing or did it take kind of opening that space to make you feel more legit?
It’s funny. I think I’ve been an entrepreneur for longer than I would define it as an entrepreneur. I used to run some events for a friend and had a really fun blog with my friend and we would host yoga classes at breweries and do different beer tasting events in different breweries as well. But never during that time did I think I was an entrepreneur because that was kind of a side hustle or a passion project. But it wasn’t one day I was like, I’m an entrepreneur now. I don’t really care about the term entrepreneur. This is just my job, this is what I do right now. But my bigger thing is that this is just one part of me. This is not all of me. This is something that I do, but there’s a lot more to me than just Make Lemonade.
How did you find that balance of growing your business with other parts of your life?
Yes, I need to be here, but at the same time, no I don’t because of the systems and processes that I’ve built. We have other people here and when I created it and built it my vision was never that I need to be the person who’s gonna be here all the time. That’s not a version of my reality that sounds really nice. I try to find balance in my life. Balance is something that I’m just realizing is one of my core personal values. So it’s about setting up structures to support that. When opportunities come up, I can ask, Does this actually fit into the core values of what’s important to me? Just understanding my core values and the values of Make Lemonade. Anything else that of comes to the table, if it doesn’t fall into those values, it becomes a lot easier to say no to all the things that don’t make sense for me.
What are some indicators that you are stretching yourself too thin and what do you do to make sure that you don’t get to that point?
That’s something I’m working on all the time. I think the biggest thing right now is to understand my values and what’s important to me. But it’s so easy to get sucked into all of the other noise and stuff going on. I think at the end of the day it just comes back to balance. I don’t go home with my laptop anymore and I try not to check my emails after a certain time. There are just certain rules that I set for myself. I think that’s the bigger challenge that I understand the bigger goal fundamentally, but sometimes in practice, it’s really difficult.
What are the major differences between Make Lemonade and your previous digital service based work?
It’s totally different because I was actually working for other people. I never even considered myself a company. But Make Lemonade is all the fun things I could ever think of and instead of worrying about any client or any former employer’s opinions, I get to make all the decisions and I get to talk to our members to find out what they like and don’t like. Everything before was so much red tape.
What is the one thing you want women to get from Make Lemonade?
Anything you can dream up, you can make it a possibility. At the end of the day, we just want to help people, connect them, offer them tools and resources to help set their business in motion.
How do you interact with other entrepreneurs to offer them support or to get support from them?
Like anyone else, I come here to do my work. I’m a co-worker here as well. But I’ll go that extra mile as well to make sure that the space is operating nicely. We have a Facebook group so we’re active in that and sharing information and resources. It’s also helpful when outsourcing. To be able to just ask someone else, “Hey, can you review my email?” Just those simple things. And whenever I’m at an event I try to ask a question that may seem like the silliest or easiest question ever, because I find sometimes people have a question but they don’t want to ask it because they’re a little embarrassed. I always just try to do that as a support thing as well.
We’re at the start of 2019, what do you hope to see for Make Lemonade this year?
2018 was our first year and it was really trying to figure everything out. We opened last year and it was like Oh my God, now what do we do? So 2019 is all about refining some of the systems we have created. We hold master classes once a month and this year we’re going to be doubling up on those. The master classes have turned into a key fundamental part of what we do here.
We’re making a change in our physical space as well. We have this sign that says “she believes she can, so she does” and we’re actually going to change that to “we believe we can, so we do” because we are really speaking to a broader audience. We want to be more inclusive to every type of person, not just for women. I think we’re getting deeper into our mission and our values, which includes refining our voice.
Is there any advice that you would give someone who is hoping to or planning to start their own business?
It takes twice as long and costs twice as much. I think it’s also about persistence. Persistence is so key to all of this but you also have to be able to adapt. Roll with the changes but commit to the decisions that you made. There’s a Pablo Picasso quote that I love, “everything you can imagine is real.” Which to me means if you can dream it, you can really make it happen.
What’s something you wish you had known before you started your business?
You’re going to get a lot of advice and some of the advice is going to be really great and some of the advice isn’t. You have to grow stronger and get better at silencing the outside noise. That’s something I wish I had known. You have to develop a filter and decide what’s important and what’s not. I don’t think anyone ever really tells you that.
Check out past Hustle Profiles.