At the Gladstone, we champion inclusivity and supporting emerging and local businesses and artists in the events we host and partnerships we build. So, we’re thrilled to be partnering with Shecosystem as their pop-up coworking space throughout the month of August.
Emily Rose Antflick is the founder of Shecosystem, a coworking + wellness meet-up group, and soon to be physical space, for female-identified folk and allies, to create what Emily calls a “feminine paradigm for the working world.” The organization was founded only a year ago, but in that short time it has grown into a thriving community.
We sat down with Emily to talk about her philosophy around changing the world of work and entrepreneurship for the better.
What’s the story of Shecosystem?
I moved through a lot of different jobs in my 20s, but I never found a workplace that was a perfect fit for me. Starting Shecosystem was really the culmination of a personal journey. Last year I took a contract teaching at a high school. I knew it was a bad fit but the teaching market being what it was, I was like, alright, it’s a job! Meanwhile in my personal life, I was struggling emotionally, but still showing up smiling to a job that I hated every day. I couldn’t be real at all about who I was, and it began to feel like that was what was depleting me the most. I started to dream about what it would be like if I could show up at work more authentically, and what a space where I would love to show up to work every day would look like. So that planted a little seed.
Why a meet-up group centred around women?
During that same time, I was steering this committee of women, entrepreneurs who were doing their own thing and pursuing their dream careers. It was my first time getting insight into a community like this, seeing how awesome and badass these female entrepreneurs were. I also noticed how happy they were to be connected in the same space, and how rare that was for them. I wondered why are these women always working in silos?
And so Shecosystem took root!
Yeah. I realized, there’s a better way to work with others, and a better environment to work in. I quit my teaching job and decided to start creating something. Having insight into this community of passionate, entrepreneurial women, I knew it had to be something around bringing these individuals together.
Can you tell me about some of the barriers that female entrepreneurs are up against?
The main structural ones I hear about often have to do with childcare, family and access to capital. Then internally, there’s the fear of being vulnerable, not having a lot of female role models in entrepreneurship, and having a preconceived idea of success, like, your company has to be hugely scalable, and you’ve got to be a unicorn. Women need to see alternate models of success that can be smaller, more attainable, more within what they’re interested in.
For me, inclusivity is about lowering the barriers to how people can access entrepreneurship. There’s a stereotype about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, which I think hinders a lot of women, and others, who don’t identify with that aggressive shark image. At Shecosystem, you don’t have to feel like you have to fit in to any sort of mould or image. It’s a place where people can bring their whole selves to work.
What’s required for a healthy work ecosystem for women and female-identified people?
I started hearing this word ecosystem all the time in start-up communities. In nature, two huge factors in the resilience of an ecosystem are diversity and interconnectedness. With Shecosystem, I’m talking about diversity in terms of the fields people are working in, their experience levels, cultural backgrounds, ages, all of that. When you have so many different perspectives and skills, the magic starts to happen. It’s easier to share resources, build mutually supportive relationships, and less external inputs are necessary, which makes the system less vulnerable.
What do you think women have to offer to the world of entrepreneurship?
The entrepreneurial women in my community focus on building multidimensional relationships. They are going beyond ‘what am I going to get out of this, what can you do for me, I’ll send you a quote.’I think that women tend not to compartmentalize themselves, so they’re actually getting to know each other on a holistic level.
How has the organization changed since you started it?
It’s changed to be less about providing workspace and more about showing people that there’s a different way to connect with people in your working life. I keep on hearing people say, “I feel like I finally found my tribe,” which doesn’t happen a lot in business world.
Could you describe a typical Shecosystem meet-up?
So we always do a quick check-in at the beginning where everyone shares and introduces themselves, and sets their intention is for that day or that week. It’s not like your typical networking event. It’s not like, “Hi! I’m so and so and here’s my all data pitch.”
Somebody from the community every week will step up and provide mentorship on whatever they feel qualified to mentor in. And then they are on call to the people who attend. This is part of the culture of accessibility and inclusivity I was talking about. A lot of people don’t know how to reach out. But this is like, “Look, there’s a person in the room who wants to talk to you.”
Also, at the end of our sessions, we always have some sort of wellness session. Last Tuesday, we did a little dance break at 3 o’clock, just boogied for 5 minutes. It’s like, “How can I get out of my head for a couple of minutes and just do something?” I want to show people self-care needs to be part of your working life and it’s not that hard to do. Whether that’s some meditation or a quick stretch.
Why was mentorship something you felt as important to offer in this space?
I’m trying to promote the idea that mastery is accessible. Everyone has something to offer, and you don’t have to have been in business for 15 years. Some of the women who have come in as workshop facilitators just had a kernel of an idea. Then they’ll try it out with the group, get feedback, and it might give them confidence to put on a workshop someone else. That’s amazing!
What’s next for Shecosytem?
I just signed a lease to a new space which will be opening in the Fall at Bloor and Christie. I want to give people a sense of ownership and input into that space. I have all these dreams, like little worker bee parties and ways we can get crafty together and physically shape the place. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to people who want to connect and bring their stuff in, whether that’s coaching or carpentry. We’re also having the 3-day pop up at here at the Gladstone later this month to give people a taste about what it will be like at the new space.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Move beyond networking and find a community. Even though I’m still the only employee of Shecosytem, I feel so supported by the women of the community, who are giving me suggestions, who have stepped up to be facilitators, who’ve done all kinds of events with me. It gets me out of my home office, and stops me from turning things over and over and over my head for a month and not doing anything about them. My community is constantly asking me, “How can I help? What can I do?”
Shecosystem meet-ups will be happening in the Melody Bar from 10-12 on Tuesday August 2nd and 9th (More info HERE).
From August 16th-18th, we’re planning a 3-day pop-up with amazing co-working programming from 10am-4pm, featuring wellness sessions, on-site mentorship, networking, a small business mini-market, and more! You can find more info HERE and reserve tickets HERE.
Unprogrammed coworking happens in the Melody Bar every day before 5pm. We have free wifi, A/C, chill and quiet tunes, fresh coffee and tea, and delicious lunch! If you’re an entrepreneur looking for flex office or meeting space, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.