"How did you come up with this idea?"
I get asked this question all the time. Four years ago when the idea of starting a company started brewing, I would have never predicted this is where I would be.
What a wild ride I have been on since October 2012.
At that time I had been a teacher for 12 years, and collected two masters: one in Administration and the other in School Counseling. Neither was the right fit. I was nearing my mid-thirties and really reached a point in my life where I needed a change. I didn't hate teaching; I actually loved aspects of it, but I just wasn't passionate about it.
What I knew I was passionate about was helping young women navigate the crazy terrain of growing up and going after their dreams. I felt the most alive when I was helping young people figure out who they were and what they wanted from life.
A tragedy at the school I taught at was the motivation I needed to take a leap of faith and start my first company in January 2013, while teaching full time, called Girls Dreaming Big. I had no formal business training but knew there was a need for a company to support the everyday girl on her journey. I spent countless hours talking to these young women I wanted to work with asking them what they would need and want to truly engage and benefit from my company. I shaped my entire business around their feedback.
Girls Dreaming Big was off to a strong start. I was featured on Cheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org site, held a mother-daughter workshop, took a group of our teens on a study abroad trip to Bali, and had a growing client list.
At the end of the school year, I left teaching and decided to fully focus on my new company. What a shock I was in for. I wrongly assumed that when I was no longer teaching full-time and working from home, I would be so much more productive. Look at all I accomplished while having a job! Surely I can do even more once I have more time! Boy was I WRONG.
I hit a brick wall and was truly struggling. I learned that I didn't enjoy working from home and really craved having colleagues around me to connect with, bounce ideas off of...heck, even get dressed up for! I had taken for granted how much my classroom was my office and it played an integral role in my initial success.
During that time I also started interviewing smart, strong, successful women who could better shape my message to the young women I worked with. After interviewing more than 300 of them, I realized I was not alone in my struggle working from home. Like me, many of the women I met with would also work from local coffee shops and have to experience that awkward moment when you had to decide which of the strangers around you looked the most trustworthy and ask them to watch your things while you go to the restroom!
Perhaps more importantly - and perhaps this is something other entrepreneurs can relate to - while I was so excited to pursue my dream and bring this new venture to life, it was also utterly terrifying and I craved a community of encouraging, supportive, like-minded individuals.
Then one day, I had a meeting at another local coworking space and completely connected with the concept. What an amazing space, but sadly it didn't work for me due to the location and where my clients are. There are several other amazing coworking spaces here in St. Louis that I craved to be a part of but they too weren't the right fit for me.
So....I did what any sane person would do...I started a second company to be able to create the community and space I so desperately needed along my journey. It would not only meet my needs as a professional, but also give me an opportunity to connect young women to all the amazing women I had met along the way that were also craving the opportunity to give back to the next generation.
When I started RISE Collaborative Workspace and had a big launch party last September, I had no idea what it was really going to take to make this a reality (which is probably for the better). I was so naive and thought I would have it open in no time. What I failed to realize is how much time it would take me to learn how to raise capital, actually raise the capital, and then find the right space that would meet the needs of the women we wanted to serve.
Along the way I've been so lucky to have found awesome people to help me. Truly I am here because of the help of so many people who through collaboration have caused me to RISE. I have seen and lived the power of what we are trying to create. With the right community or tribe behind you anything is possible.
RISE Collaborative is a workspace but it is so much more. It is a group of people who believe in the beauty of their dreams and want to get to the top surrounded by amazing people who make you better by just being around them.
My favorite quote which drives everything I do and I heard it for the first time from Scott Dinsmore, a blogger I stumbled upon when I first decided to start a company is "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." By Jim Rohn.
I think about that daily and know that by opening RISE Collaborative I will get to go to work everyday around some of the most inspiring, brave women. That excites me and shapes everything I have done to get RISE Collaborative open.