Sarah Aschkenas opened Coworking Bravely, a women-only coworking space, in August 2019 in Broken Arrow’s Rose District. She says the bright, open facility has members from a wide variety of industries.
What was your vision for Coworking Bravely?
When my son was born, I was looking for work options that would allow me to stay at home with him while he was little. I was able to get a part-time job with a nonprofit based out of California, so I was working remotely. It was great when he was a baby-baby.
And then, you know, about that 6-month mark and on, when he required a little more attention, it got more difficult to balance, and I was doing a lot of donor relations, phone calls, things like that. So I couldn’t necessarily have a crying baby in the background, or even a happy babbling baby in the background. And so I was starting to look at places I could go to work. Things like coffee shops weren’t a great option because you don’t know how loud it’s going to be, how crowded it’s going to be, that kind of thing. So that’s when I started looking into trying to find a coworking type of environment.
At that time, I think 36 Degrees North was really the only option here (in the Tulsa area). And for me, I live out east. That commute (to downtown Tulsa) didn’t make sense with childcare — to drive all that way. I just started doing research in my spare time. I found women-only spaces in other areas. I was really drawn to the idea of a women’s space because I had already connected with a lot of female entrepreneurs in the area, and I knew there was just that great community there. I think a lot of times coworking spaces have a more corporate feel or a more tech-heavy feel. And I just knew there are so many layers to female entrepreneurs and where they’re at in their journey — whether it’s a full-time gig for them, or just starting out. There’s just so many different layers to that. And for most women, honestly, a traditional kind of 8-to-5 coworking isn’t a great option for them.
So I started pursuing it about the time I transitioned out of the nonprofit. It was perfect timing to step into seeking out opening, what would be Coworking Bravely. And so once I did that, I knew one of the biggest things I wanted to be able to offer was flexibility so that no matter where a woman was with their job, or their side hustle or passion project, there would be an option for them. And so that was something I made that was unique as far as our options for membership.
How does membership work?
It (membership) is a month to month thing; it’s not a long-term contract. So again, this gives people flexibility. As they’re growing, they can increase their time here, or some people have busy seasons and less busy seasons. So again, the membership can flex with them as needed. It starts at “Flex Two,” which is two coworking days a month and two conference room hours a month. And then we offer all the way up to an unlimited option for somebody who can utilize the space on an ongoing basis, for ladies who maybe have child care for their kids, or they have a full-time job and are working on something on the side. It gives them options that are financially feasible for them instead of just having to jump all in. And that has been great because I’ve been able to see women come in from all different backgrounds who maybe wouldn’t have had that option if it was a more traditional membership style.
We’re open weekends and daytime until 10 p.m. So really, like I said, it’s very flexible for them, especially if they have kids and depending what their childcare options are. Some are mostly just able to come at night because they have to wait for their spouse to get home before they can leave the house.
Tell us about your programming.
We do monthly events, and it varies from whether it’s members only to open to the public. One of our bigger business events is Tuesdays Together, which is the second Tuesday of every month, and that is open to the public and actually open to men and women. It’s free training for businesses with different business topics every month.
Since we have a women-only space, we have programming that’s not just business related because again, different parts of our lives are all interwoven. There’s a Propel Women chapter that meets here — that’s a faith-based group for members who are interested in that. Again, that’s open to the public. Then we’ve done a variety of things, from book clubs, to just social gatherings for the members like movie nights. We did a pumpkin decorating night a couple months ago. So we just have a range. (Coworking Bravely also hosts a limited number of private events.)
I keep going back to the flexibility, but some women only want to come utilize this space for business-related things. And that’s perfect, we have programming for that. If a woman is coming in and is open to kind of expanding their community and the people involved in her life, and wants some of the social events, she has the option for that.
That’s been one of the really great things to see, and it makes it easier to connect, because yeah, we’re talking about business, but we’re talking about all aspects of life. All of us are trying to balance home life with business. And so whether you’re single or married or have kids, there are women in here that are at those points in their lives, too. And we all understand those things are interwoven. We don’t have as much freedom to separate those things. And so that is something the space is for: to try to create that separation, to be able to be more present at home because you’ve been able to be here and have focused time, get more done in less time. So you can kind of shut that off when you go home in ways that you might not be able to if you’re just working from home. And so that’s why we try to make the program kind of all-encompassing of what we’re all experiencing in life, not just business only.
Has the pandemic changed people’s coworking patterns?
I would say we have stayed pretty stable. Being a women-only space, we do have different issues from a traditional coworking space. One of those is that with the pandemic, a lot of people lost their childcare, they lost their kids going to school. And a lot of times, we know that falls back on the mom. And so in that way, I know a lot of people have really had to adjust what they’re doing. I have had some members who actually had to step back a little bit on the days they were coming because they’re now having to juggle virtual school or no child care, or even just getting quarantined here and there depending on exposure and that kind of thing.
As far as the coworking in this space, we haven’t had to lock that down. That’s one of the nice things. Many of these women are coming twice a month, so we don’t have to worry as much about space issues because everybody’s coming and going so much more instead of having all the members here during business hours, like a traditional space might have.
With the conference rooms, we do have a virtual calendar for people to block off times for that. And the conference rooms are available to not just the members, but to non-members, as well. We have non-member pricing for that. So when people have one-off meetings or they don’t want to necessarily meet in a coffee shop or don’t have a good public place to meet, they can utilize the conference room.
Who are your members?
We have remote workers who are just here to work their regular job. We have maybe who you might expect as far as graphic designers or photographers, but we also have wedding planners. (Points to members currently coworking) Jamie does Scentsy, and Gabby does social media. It’s really a wide range of industries, which is great because we’re getting to hear what’s working in other industries, what other people are doing. A lot of times when you get kind of stuck in your industry, you see people doing the same things over and over. And so to get other ideas and perspectives has been really beneficial.
It’s also fun up here because, like right now, it’ll be quiet. And then in 30 minutes, we’re all chatting, and then you get to go back to work. To have that balance of work and community is really special, I think. To have this place be women only, it gives just that safe environment to be able to kind of get into a space of dreaming and creating, getting away from the daily grind. To have that space to dedicate to your full-time job, or your side hustle or even something you haven’t even fully developed yet, to be able to work on it and see where it goes.