It was summer 2018. I was walking a client up the stairs from my basement home office, and decided enough was enough. It was time to start looking for office space. The only problem was that my business was still just a start up and a side gig, so I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg to get started.
So I started looking, and looking. I asked around. I toured a couple of spots, but everything was a blank slate, something I'd have to start from scratch to build out, furniture, office equipment, etc.. I looked at co-working sites and found hushed and quiet spaces with a lot of people with headphones on or doors shut. And I'm a talker. That wasn't going to work.
Then I mentioned the search to one of my clients, and she knew exactly what I meant. She was looking for the exact same thing. So we decided to work together. We started looking for a spot we would share. We both were going to use it so rarely, that sharing a space made perfect sense!
As we narrowed in on a small spot, a mutual friend of ours heard us talking and then there were three of us. We rented a great corner office, moved in and had a blast. Then her business grew. Then our businesses grew. We kept partnering together and sharing tips and tricks and laughter. And then the businesses all kept growing. Soon I'd show up to work and extra employees were in our seats. We outgrew the space. So then way back in July of 2019, we went out to dinner at On Broadway (where all good ideas brew!), and decided, we've got something here, and we all knew of women who were asking to join us!
So the three of us decided we'd need help. So the three became four. And I knew that wasn't enough, so four became five.
And then we had The Virago Collaborative. We were all crammed into an office built for two, but we knew that was only the beginning. So we went looking for spaces. And there were some great options out there. We thought we had narrowed down until one of our bosses ran into Megan from Mae & June, and of course she said, "Why not the sixth ward? I know of an empty space!" We went and toured it and it was a hot mess. It was bare boned, it was filled with garbage and construction equipment and more. AND IT WAS PERFECT!
We shook hands and said this is the spot we want, and the landlord started some of the renovations he had planned. Electrical went slower than expected, so did HVAC, so did plumbing, and flooring and every...single...aspect...of the renovation. (Not to mention, a pandemic?!) So a couple of months turned into a year, and we upgraded our small space in The Top Floor into a bigger space to tide us over.
But a couple of months later and the space was ready, we could come paint it, and start moving furniture in. Then the question became, do we build this big enough for where we are now, or plan for bigger? We planned for bigger, just knowing this would take off, but are already asking each other if we were dreaming too small!
Now we are opening the doors, and our members and renters are pouring in, begging for a space where it's OK to laugh out loud. Where bringing your kids along with you really quick doesn't make you less of a professional. And where the tampons are as readily available as toilet paper.
So what's next? Well, come join us. We know you will find your space, and your people in The Virago Collaborative. We want to cheer you on and provide that support we all found in each other to grow our businesses, tame the chaos of work-life conflicts and be surrounded by other powerful women.
And then who knows, if we run out of space for desks here, you can be a part of the transition as we look for the next annex space!
Author: Stacey Otterstrom