Felena Hanson, 40, is from San Diego, USA. She started her workspace business, Hera Hub, in 2011. Hera Hub is a shared, flexible work and meeting space where entrepreneurial women can create and collaborate in a professional, productive, spa-like environment. After building three successful locations in San Diego County, her next goal is to support over 20,000 women in the launch and growth of their business via 200 Hera Hub locations over the next 5 years.
Starting the Business
Q: Where did the idea for your business come from? Where were you in your life and career?
A: Hera Hub really grew out of my need. I worked from home for eight years and, while it’s great for the convenience, and is of course cost-effective as a small service-based business, it has its downfalls. It can be distracting and isolating working from home. The laundry and dishes nag at me, the dog whines, the doorbell rings, anything can take my attention away from what I NEED to be doing! Privacy and the desire to appear professional were also major concerns when I was working from home.
This day-time challenge was coupled with the struggle to find evening event space for several professional women’s organizations I was running at the time. We needed space for meetings and workshops we would host on a monthly basis. Hotels and restaurant private rooms were always too expensive and community centers were closing left and right.
I truly feel everything I’ve done in my life led me up to the moment of launching Hera Hub. It’s a natural extension of the collaboration I have fostered throughout my entire career. We now have three successful locations and are expanding globally through a franchise model. My next goal (our vision) is to help over 20,000 women launch and grow their business through 200 locations globally over the next 5 years!
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?
A: The commercial real estate process was much more complex and challenging than I ever imagined. I had two strikes against me – new business and new concept, and no one wanted to take a risk. After six months of negotiation and two failed lease negotiations (both in the eleventh hour), I’m happy to say that the third time really is a charm! Through the help of my network and my tenacious broker, Misty Moore, from Jones Lang LaSalle, I was finally able to secure close to 5,000 square feet in a very desirable location. It was double the size and twice the risk but I felt confident that the gamble would pay off.
Q: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started the business?
A: I wish I would have built my advisory board sooner. This is a significant venture in a young industry. I made a conscious decision to not take on partners, thus having trusted advisors close-at-hand has been critical. Although it’s taken me a while to pinpoint the “right” women for my board, I’m proud to say we had our first meeting in January 2014.
Q: What would you consider your first big success in the business?
A: Reaching 100 members in our first location, which came about 9 months after launching.
Q: What is the toughest thing about getting to the top / staying on top in your industry specifically?
A: There is no roadmap on how to build a successful coworking space… I’m building the model as I build.
Q: Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5 years?
A: Since it’s predicted that 60% of the knowledge-based workforce will be independent by 2020, I see coworking spaces continuing to develop. I think more niche markets will emerge in the industry, like ours.
Q: What do you plan on doing / changing in order to keep growing in this time period?
Q: What does ultimate success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
A: To build a global community of like-minded business women by supporting over 20,000 women in the launch and growth of their business via 200 Hera Hub locations over the next 5 years.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs in the near future?
A: Finding the support they need to grow.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry and wanting to make it to the top?
A: Ask your customers what they need – and deliver it.