Jumpstart Magazine: Coworking for Women in Singapore

This article was written by Woolf Works founder, Michaela Anchan and was originally published in Jumpstart Magazine.

 

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a major hub for expat workers and the city consequentially finds itself a hub for their accompanying spouses. Often these spouses have left high powered jobs and rewarding careers themselves, to allow their partner to take up a dream international posting.

The role of the depressingly named, ‘trailing spouse’, can be a blessing and a curse. For many, it’s a chance for reinvention: to study, start a family, take up freelance work or volunteer in the region. For others it’s a catapult into a world of lost identity, homesickness and complete isolation. For a third group it’s a time stretch some entrepreneurial wings and to take advantage of Singapore’s relatively transparent business laws, steady economy and high disposable income levels.

Women-led start-ups are thriving across the world as the growth of digital technology fuels new business models and flexible work environments. Mothers can especially benefit from being able to reenter the business world on their own terms, outside the box of 9-5 corporate life.

Coworking spaces are booming across Asia and the world, as this new work era demands flexible workplaces and fluid community interactions. In Singapore we have workspaces for social entrepreneurs, high powered small business teams, artists, designers and tech start-ups. Woolf Works is a coworking space for women.

The coworking model is ideal for women who are often struggling with the balance between raising a family and growing a business. The idea of home businesses run by ‘mum-preneurs’ is inherently fraught – the home is a minefield of distractions and it can be impossible to be mentally engaged completely in the business. Working from a coworking space allows a real mental switch off between work and home, resulting in more productive work hours. It also helps against the dreadful isolation and ‘sameness’ of working alone at the kitchen table every day.

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Woolf Works aims to help women put themselves and their business first. We found that women, and especially mothers of small children, habitually put themselves and the needs of their business way behind the needs of other family members. Working from home really adds to this and Woolf Works aim is to provide a space where women can focus one hundred percent on their business. To achieve this we focus on three essentials for our members:

– A calm, quiet office in which to work productively
– A community of supportive, professional women
– Business opportunities within our network

Our members are a mix of freelance editors and writers, remote corporate workers, and small business owners. We have a range of women from a diverse number of industries. A few examples of the interesting businesses who use our space include:

Woomentum is a global crowdsourcing platform for women entrepreneurs to access business advice, mentorship and funding. Woomentum aims to be the most community-focused knowledge and experience-sharing platform for women in Asia and globally; as well as being the largest reward based crowdfunding platform in Asia, providing women with access to critical capital, particularly at the early stage of their businesses.

Attaby is a three year old fashion design label. Attaby clothing is feminine, easy to wear and designed with the Singapore climate in mind. Attaby clothing is sold globally through their e-commerce platform.

Tekkie Help is a family run business which focuses on getting people’s technology working how they want it to, both at home and at work. They have a growing team of tech specialists and are exploring moving into other markets in the region.

We also have a growing group of writers in our midst, both doing journalistic writing and fiction writing. One of our members, Shasta Grant, recently won a US Short Story competition, which was judged by acclaimed author Ann Patchett.

The role of ‘trailing spouse’ can be lonely and unfulfilling. Coworking spaces for women can provide community and support to expatriate women as well as networks and business opportunities. Woolf Works’ bigger vision is to provide space and community for all women who want to prioritize themselves and their business outside of their role as a parent and a partner.

 

 

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What is co-working, anyway?

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What is co-working? Co-working spaces are shared offices.

Many co-working spaces are focused on collaboration, community, and innovation. Some are run more like traditional co-ops than businesses, with members playing a large part in day-to-day operations, while others are run purely as real estate and are usually called serviced offices.

The term ‘co-working’ was first used in 1999 by a man called Brian DeKoven to describe as ‘a method that would facilitate collaborative work and business meetings, coordinated by computers.’ The first few spaces opened in the US and Europe around 2004-2005 and the movement began to pick up steam around 2008. In Asia, it was only around 2011 that spaces started to open. Today in Singapore, there are a lot to choose from, catering to a variety of niches.

Woolf Works JooChiat was opened in mid 2014. We provide a relaxed work space for women who are currently underachieving in their home office and need a new space and a community to help drive productive work and new business opportunities.

We follow the five co-working values that were put together by the international co-working community a few years back:

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Collaboration

The co-working community works best in an environment of trust and openness. We collaborate and support each other where we can, with a basis of trust and respect.

Openness

We believe in transparency and the freedom of ideas, both within the space and with the space itself – open-plan working and the freedom to play around with things as you like.

Community

Us. The people of the space. Learning together, supporting each other, playing, and celebrating together.

Accessibility

We are accessible to all women, all strata of business, and all stages of life.

Sustainability

Our space is environmentally conscious and responsible. Our community is respectful and authentic with each other.

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One of the biggest struggles women (especially mothers) who work from home face is the balance between work and life. Mums working from home often find themselves only giving 50% to both the business and the kids, as they can’t focus on either. By setting clear work hours and leaving the house to work in a co-working space, boundaries are established; this allow women to be 100% business owners and then go home and be 100% mothers.

Working from home can also be lonely and pretty uninspiring. Working from Woolf Works means being surrounded by like-minded women to chat with over coffee, to collaborate with and to refer business to. Our member lunches and social evenings give members the chance to bond and discover deeper ways to connect.

At Woolf Works, we want women to value themselves and their work. We found too many women putting their needs and aspirations behind the rest of the family’s needs. We see co-working as a tool to push women into making themselves top priority and aim to be a hub for women who are passionate about reaching their goals.

This digital age is creating a seismic shift in the way we work. The 9-5 PM corporate job in the CBD is being replaced by flexi-workers who are defining their own times and working on their own terms. Entrepreneurship is booming and the connectivity and flexibility that technology provides us means co-working has a clear place in the future of work spaces.

 

This article was written by Michaela Anchan, the founder of Woolf Works and was featured in  Executive Lifestyle.

Chat with Woolf Works Founder

Woolf Works founder, Michaela Anchan was interviewed by Pallavi of My Singapore Diary.

“It’s the best of east meets west for us – and as we are a mixed-culture family that is very important for us and for the kids. It’s easy to be a global family as there are so many other global families here…”

Read the full interview here

 

My Singapore Diary   A Lifestyle and Travel Blog

Woolf Works’ Member Spotlight: Mouna Aouri Langendorf

mouna

Mouna is a very busy woman! She is a Lite-Timer member of our space and finds our location very convenient when she wants to stay out of the CBD. She also uses it for meetings with other East Coast women and has held workshops for female entrepreneurs in The Den (our upstairs workshop space).

What’s your business?

We aim at building a collaborative community of women entrepreneurs & professionals. It started in January 2014, so a year ago. Woomentum gives female entrepreneurs access to the funds and resources they need in the early stages of their businesses through crowdsourcing. We are the first crowdsourcing platform in SE Asia that covers both business support (hercolab) and funding access to women entrepreneurs (crowdfundherlive).

What ignited the spark in you to start on this venture?

I wanted to create a collaborative space where female entrepreneurs could connect with female experts and solve challenges together in a supportive environment. Have you ever noticed that women are much less likely to ask questions or give advice on platforms like LinkedIn or Quora? It’s not because women lack the necessary expertise; it’s just that sometimes, they lack a little bit of confidence. This is where HerCoLab comes in. I want HerCoLab to become a trusted community where women can share their expertise and learn from one another.

HerCoLab is actually part of a larger crowdsourcing initiative called Woomentum, which gives female entrepreneurs access to the funds and resources they need in the early stages of their business. Women are very good at building communities and encouraging one another, so crowdsourcing is the perfect opportunity to bring all these smart, talented and generous women together.

Describe your typical working day        

I start my working day with reading the latest news, reply emails and go through my todo list. I always have meetings with Woomentum’s community and regularly check on their progress. I spent a significant amount of time listening to female founders and help them solve their challenges. 50% of my time goes on Slack and Skype managing the virtual technical team. Being in a coworking space helps me exchange ideas and get tips for my business! The support that community provides is so precious. It’s all about collaboration!

What would be the three top skills needed to be successful in your field?

  1. Marketing
  2. Community building and
  3. Front & back end development (technology)

What motivates you?

The impact that Woomentum will make on societies! To see more women benefit from the products and services we are offering – to see our collaborative community grow and help each other is to me the major motivation.

How do you maintain a healthy life-work balance?

I exercise regularly and I drum a lot. I am a passionate drummer and music heals my soul and tired brain – takes me into the offline world and to the world of self-expression. I must admit that keeping work-life balance is challenging because I work nonstop and manage and operate my business 24/7. As an entrepreneur I work much more than I did previously in my career working for corporate.

Where did you work most often before you discovered coworking?

From home, Cafes and national libraries – co-working spaces changed my life!

What do you love about being a member at Woolf Works and how has it helped you in your business?

There are many things I love about WW – First and foremost the energy and the spirit of her founder is transmitted in every corner of the space. It’s a very pleasant, well thought through design with a deep understanding of the need of WW community of women – which is in my view the heartbeat of every co-working space. Being surrounded by women creates that powerful energy that only women together can create. It’s a quiet space and yet members are still accessible and there is a room for collaboration and support. Diversity of professional backgrounds, ethnicity and family backgrounds – that diversity brought in one space is very magic and WW has successfully achieved that. WW hosts several entrepreneurship events, art and even fitness, everything I need in one place! Last and not least, I am very productive when I work from WW – that is a very important thing when running a startup!

How can people connect with you?

fundher

hercolab

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Email: mouna@woomentum.com

Websites: www.woomentum.com    www.hercolab.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/woomentum

LinkedIn: sg.linkedin.com/in/mounaaouri

 

 

Woolf Works is a women-only work space located in a renovated shophouse on Joo Chiat Rd. Our community includes writers, entrepreneurs, photographers and consultants. Come for a visit and see for yourself! To find out more about membership at our space please click here(https://woolfworks.wordpress.com/membership/). You can also check our website(http://woolfworks.sg/and get in touch at info@woolfworks.sg.

 

Woolf Works’ Member Spotlight: Rachel Meisner

Rachel

Rachel is a Dedicated Resident at Woolf Works – this means she has her own desk and lockable storage, handy as she is in and out with frequent business trips. Rachel takes advantage of our all hours access as she works across time zones and often needs to work late (or early morning, before heading to the airport!).

What’s your business?
Wine, since 2005. I was in FMCG for a long time – 10 years in L’oreal.

What ignited the spark in you to start on this venture?
Love of the product! Also, I have travelled a lot, and wine country is the most beautiful, and wine “towns” are great.

Describe your typical working day        
Currently 75% would be overseas in an Asian market, speaking with distributors and restaurant customers. About one week a month in Woolf Works. Even then, I have a lot of appointments with F&B directors e.g. of Marina Bay Sands or the American Club, so am in and out a bit.

What would be the three top skills needed to be successful in your field?
Need to truly love and know your product, be good at making connections and be very persistent.

What motivates you?
I am results driven for sure. And knowing a holiday somewhere new is coming up soon!

How do you maintain a healthy life-work balance?
I try to run, and go to the hotel gyms when overseas. My job means a lot of eating and drinking, so when in Singapore I try to be extra careful.

Where did you work most often before you discovered coworking?
I have always been in a regular office. For this job for the first time, I am the only one in Singapore. I bumped into Michaela at an event and I thought this would be perfect for me.

What do you love about being a member at Woolf Works and how has it helped you in your business?
When I get back to Singapore after travelling, it is lovely to come back to Woolf works, chat with some of the girls, but then have a great work space that helps me get a lot done. It’s important for me to have a solid base when I am in town. It is also good to meet people doing other things – get’s one thinking.

How can people connect with you?

Rachel

Email: rachel.meisner@yahoo.fr

Website: http://www.jacksonfamilywines.com/

 

Woolf Works is a women-only work space located in a renovated shophouse on Joo Chiat Rd. Our community includes writers, entrepreneurs, photographers and consultants. Come for a visit and see for yourself! To find out more about membership at our space please click here. You can also check our website and get in touch at info@woolfworks.sg.