Sept. 21, 2021

How to start your own Co-Working Business with Felena Hanson Ep. 36

As women, we give so much of ourselves as we move through the many transitions in our lives – off to college, first job, marriage, children, career path, divorce, layoffs, business launch, business fail, empty nest, illness, etc. Because women are often the glue that holds everything together, it’s easy for us to push through each phase with a focus on others—forgetting who “WE” really are and what “WE” really want out of life.

The path to reinvention can take many forms—from listening to an inner voice, to recognizing an unexpected opportunity, to challenging and overcoming either self-doubt or the status quo. Reinventing doesn’t mean devaluing or eliminating all that came before you. In fact, all of the decisions, insights, struggles, triumphs, achievements, and disappointments have made you the valuable person you are—and are the building blocks for the person you are to become.

It can sometimes feel daunting to take, what can feel like, a big leap into the next phase of your life, so in this hands-on workshop Felena Hanson will help guide you through a simple process to match your experiences, talents, and passions with market opportunity— so that you may take that step into the next beautiful phase of your life!

Where to Find Felena Hanson


This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 


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[00:00:00] Felena: And again, those smaller businesses where a lot of other coworking spaces, especially we work, that's not their market. They want the tech teams, they want the larger organizations and that's great, but we're helping that part of the market. That's being ignored by most other coworking spaces. 

[00:00:18] Natasha: Welcome to fascinating entrepreneur.

How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and Fascinating Entrepreneurs.

If you'd like to know how to scale and grow your business and make more profits. Sign up on my website, Natasha to get on the wait list for my entrepreneurial masters course

today, we'll hear from Felina Hanson, the founder of Hera hub, the first international female focused coworking space and business accelerator. Now let's get right into it. 

[00:01:10] Felena: I founded Hara Hub because I saw a gap in the market and a need and the market. So my background is in sales and marketing. I spent my twenties working for primarily tech startups and had the good privilege to get laid off three times by the age of 30.

And I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and I feel like at that point, my dad was. You need to go out on your own. So I started my first business at age 30 and like a lot of folks do and women specifically, I started a business that took my skillsets, which at the time was marketing. My last position was director of marketing for a technology company.

And the reason why I lost that position is the company sold to, you may remember this and certainly dating myself America online, bought the company. This is back in 2003. And so that's when I said, you know what? I need to control my own destiny. And so I launched a marketing consulting business and marketing strategy consulting business.

And again, a lot of entrepreneurs will take a skillset they learned in corporate and parlay that into a service-based business. It's cheap, easy to get started. No employees. I had contractors over the course of eight years, but no full-time employees. And I worked out of my house, which as we record this, of course, everybody works out of their house.

But at that point, so a lot of small business owners did as well, no need to have the overhead and it's convenient. Cost-effective but it's isolating. And for folks over the last 16 months or wherever we're at here, I'm sure they can relate to that. And so I started to look into this world of coworking spaces back in 2010 for my business, the trend Gratta San Francisco, as many would argue and everything I saw was mostly dudes and hooded sweatshirts and headphones and super hip and cool, and a beer keg and a ping pong table.

But at that point in my life, I was not cool, frankly. I just started to kind of look at. Again, this coworking movement. I was leading a couple professional women's organizations at the time and decided that there needed to be a space for women by women. Ultimately, before we launched, we went with the female focus model, not exclusive to women because.

You know, creating a space for women. Isn't about excluding men. It's not anti-male in any way, shape or form. It's just pro women. And when women get into environments where they feel safe, they feel comfortable, they feel like it's okay to be vulnerable and say, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I need help.

This is hard sometimes. But some of us are, but some of us aren't as willing to do that in a co-ed environment. And so that has been the focus of the brand is safe, supportive setting for women to launch, to learn, to grow, to support each other. So we launched our first location 10 years ago. Over 10 years ago.

Now we were the first female focus space in the us to expand nationally. So we've been doing this for a long time in the coworking sort of ecosystem. If you will, we have six locations currently I'm looking to grow. Um, we're poised to grow in 2021 and beyond. So far in the last 10 years, we've helped over 13,000 women, either in the launch or the growth of their business through Hara Hub and some of the other projects and programs I've done.

Like my book, The Flight Club book, and a e-course that I developed called Steps to Start Up Walking Entrepreneurs, the 17 foundational steps to get their business off the ground. Okay. 

[00:05:02] Natasha: That's a lot and I love it. I love it. The first question that comes to mind was I was one of the first members of the rework in San Francisco that you spoke of.

And I'm wondering, did rework and Rosie the Riveter. Where they bolstering your business or hindering it at any point. Was that a 

[00:05:23] Felena: health? 

Yeah. So two different equations there. You're speaking about the Riveter or the female? Yeah. So the Riveter came along much later, both The Wing and The Riveter launched in 2016, right around when Mr. Trump came into office, it was very timely to sort of say F you to men a little bit at that point. But the short answer is they were great for business, especially WeWork cause we were expecting. Now we know like billions seemingly on marketing and getting their name out there.

Because when I started, you know, we launched our first location, we did a pop-up space, April, 2011. People didn't know what coworking was, you know, I had to educate them and that's hard. So thank God for, we were, cause they spent a ton of money on it. Yeah, absolutely. They were advertising for you. Exactly.

And people would go to WeWork and then they would come to me and be like, oh, I had a woman joined today. She was in, we work in San Francisco. She's in public policy. She's doing her master's degree at Harvard right now. I mean, just like as rockstar woman, she walked in, she was like, I was at WeWork oh my gosh.

I see. Like in two seconds, the difference is an entirely different environment. 

[00:06:42] Natasha: Your environment, you and the people that go there relate it to a spa-like environment. I'm thinking. You better get yourself open up here in San Francisco or I see there's licensing opportunities. So what is the difference?

What's the atmosphere beside, I'm assuming you don't have tapped keg, which WeWork doesn't have anymore. 

[00:07:07] Felena: Yes, I understand. So yes, the atmosphere is different. I mean, it's warm, it's welcoming. You almost feel like you're in somebody's home to some extent. And in regards to just the furnishings and things of that nature.

People walk in and they're like, wow. I feel like I'm in a spa. You know? And that's the idea is to come and have this quiet, beautiful, productive workspace. And a lot of our members are helping other people, their marriage and family therapists, their hospice care companies. Lots of folks that are in that caregiving industry.

And one of my favorite testimonials from one of my members who helps folks in senior care management, she said, my client walked in and I could tell their blood pressure just dropped by whatever number of notches, because they're in a stressful situation trying to find a home and caregiver or. This woman's mother.

And just being in that environment where you feel comfortable and it's hard to articulate. It's hard to duplicate to some extent, but I feel proud that that's what our members say, but really it's the community and support. And I know every coworking space as community, but I think we define it. 15 to 20 hours a week of programming.

We have something 

[00:08:25] Natasha: That's a lot. 

[00:08:26] Felena: For everybody. 

[00:08:28] Natasha: If you haven't been in a co-working situation, you may not understand the work that goes behind programming. I know for myself, when I was at WeWork, there was some programming, but it wasn't consistent. It wasn't branded. It's kind of like, oh, this person's going to do something.

This person's going to do something. And it was nothing you can count on. I'm wondering. So many things. So in your locations, are women able to have their own enclosed office or is it all open air? Is it various levels? 

[00:09:01] Felena: Oh, yeah, so we have some private offices, but unlike we work, which is like 90% private office and 10% open space, or like 90% open space or flex space, we have private meeting rooms that folks can rent by the hour.

So in a footprint, we have smaller footprints as well. So in a typical footprint, we'll have four to six offices. So most of our members and it speaks to our target audience too. We're not incubating the next tech startup. I mean, yeah. I have some tech entrepreneurs in the community, but they joined for different reasons.

So we're not, while I say that and I have a software company that builds products for medical device industries and they have 25 members, but female leads and they'll come in for team meetings and things of that nature. But by and large, our members are solo preneurs attorneys or CPAs or folks in marketing they're nonprofit organizations.

And so they value that flexibility. On average, a member is paying about $200 a month for a membership, but it's flexible, right? So they're not here all day. Every day they're stays. They want to work from home. There's a day they want to work from a coffee shop, day they're on client site or whatever it might be.

And so having to commit to full-time space is not a fit for most of our members. 

[00:10:20] Natasha: So I'm interested on the licensing model and I'd like you to talk about the licensing model that you have and explain the difference between licensing and franchising. Yeah. 

[00:10:33] Felena: Yeah. It's a fine line. The quick of it is there's more flexibility in a licensing model.

We chose licensing because I'm not the woman to launch this in San Francisco or Washington DC. It is very much the leader of that community. And again, it's community first and space. Second, it's important to us that that woman is an entrepreneur as well, that she is walking in the shoes of her members.

And she can say, yeah, I went through that. Here's how I handled it. Right. I feel you, let me help you. Let me connect you. And that's been proven over the last six years that we've been licensing. That connection is really, really important. And again, When opportunity for a woman who is probably already a leader and a connector in her community to build that solid foundation with a brand system and model that's been built and broke and built and broke a dozen times over and then can tap their members into all of our programming as well.

Like I said, 15 to 20 hours a week. So we have. Remember affinity groups called Sub Hubs. We have daily virtual coworking. We have mentoring, we have accountability groups. A lot of it is member led, but it is very cohesive and it runs like German trains where it's like on the clock, you were there, someone's there to support you.

We do global challenges where we're helping members push through certain aspects of their business might be video or writing or marketing sales, for example. So, it is important for us to build that community locally, but then tie the community together. And that's been the silver lining as we all have a silver lining of COVID that has been one of the silver linings is pulling all that together online has, we've seen so many connections from members, city to city, and my vision is to continue expand, to create that platform for women, not only to connect city to city, but also country to country. We did have a location in Sweden. Unfortunately, our licensee, there has three children at home that she had to distance learn with for a year.

And it's impossible to run a co-working space and do that at the same time. But we do have our sights set on other countries. I got to lead just this afternoon from a woman in Mexico who filled out a form on our website. So I true. We have a niche market, right? It is women. And again, those smaller businesses where a lot of other coworking spaces, especially WeWork, that's not their market.

They want the tech teams, they want the larger organizations and that's great. We're helping that part of the market that's being ignored by most other coworking spaces. 

[00:13:18] Natasha: What does a licensee get from you? So when we talk about your venues, there's spa-like, is there color palette? Is there specific furniture buys?

What is it that a licensee gets in order to create this brand? Feel? 

[00:13:37] Felena: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it's everything from start to finish. It's how to find the right real estate, how to negotiate a, lease, how to do the, build out all the furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Yes, definitely to color palette and how to build a community.

All the marketing that goes into. Pre-launch of a space, all the systems, all the software, all the integration, everything gets set up for them and is maintained for them. So they can truly focus on community building and really connecting with the women in their city versus having to worry about, you know, software integrations, breaking and, and software updates and, you know, new processes that are being implemented. That really takes that off there. 

[00:14:22] Natasha: So if a female entrepreneur is listening to this in a city where there isn't a Hara Hub, are they able to participate? Yeah. 

[00:14:31] Felena: Good question. Yeah, we do have a virtual membership. It's just $89 a month and they can participate in all our virtual programming. They pick a home location that is closest to them and they can engage in that location when they're in town.

So for example, if a woman was in Baltimore, Obviously, she's not going to head into Washington DC on a daily basis, but she could join that location, participate in all the virtual programming, be part of the network, so to speak. And then if she does go into DC now, and again, she could utilize the meeting rooms and things of that nature.

[00:15:06] Natasha: Right? Lovely I just love the model. And as I hear more and more about it, it's more intriguing. I'm going to assume that San Francisco real estate is 

[00:15:17] Felena: just the tricky 

[00:15:18] Natasha: It's a tricky challenge.

[00:15:19] Felena: It is. And that is the tricky part. You know, we haven't targeted in New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco for that reason. Now COVID has changed the game a little bit in commercial real estate.

To be honest, we're looking at some strategic alliances with other coworking spaces, frankly, who have a sense of community and really need that support structure underneath our roof for female entrepreneurs. So we've been talking to some folks about that. And I think it's a good model of, you know, yes,

space and we create beautiful spaces, but the more important piece of the puzzle is the education mentoring and community. So how can we achieve that in a city without necessarily, you know, have to have a licensee dropped down a couple hundred thousand dollars to get a space open. 

[00:16:05] Natasha: I can't even tell you of the challenges, but I'm sure somebody will come with.

And it might even be me. I can't say that I can't start any more businesses today. 

[00:16:16] Felena: But it's a good platform for folks that maybe have an existing business. You know, maybe they're a business coach, so they're doing some sort of consulting and marketing strategist. Someone who may be as a solo preneur has a small team who does want that physical platform under what they're doing is a leader is a connector.

You know, it's that person that is. Oh, my gosh that I just met somebody new and you have to know you and then bring them together right away. You know, it's that kind of person that gets really excited about that. And it gives them not only that physical platform, but that reoccurring revenue. So it's a membership model, like all co-working most coworking spaces.

And I know as somebody who ran a marketing business for eight years, Your income is like you get a big project and then it goes away and then you get an a, you know, so it's a bit of a rollercoaster. And so this is a nice base, so to speak. 

[00:17:13] Natasha: For your team, so your employees and the people that you depend on day-to-day and working on these projects with you, what keeps them motivated and what moves the needle for them?

Is it money? Is it bonuses? Is it the conscious, I just died earlier about Conscious Capitalism and it was interesting to hear from him. 

[00:17:35] Felena: Yeah. We actually host the Conscious Capitalism group and our space for their chair and their board meetings. Yeah. Yeah. It's a great network. It's really the people that we support.

It's the stories of the women who it's Christine Higgins who was in here today. One of the lead attorneys at Sony electronics for years and years and said, I'm done with corporate. She now has a diversity and inclusion business, and she does training for corporations. And, you know, she showed up on her doorstep.

She said, I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never started a business. You know, I used to pick up extension three and had Tom come down and fix my computer down the hall that doesn't happen anymore. Like I need support. And so it's those stories and those women that we're helping build a livelihood, build their own brand, their own story, their own wealth.

And it drives me. And I know it drives the team as well. 

[00:18:28] Natasha: I can imagine that, I think feeling that you had a part of somebody else's success. I know for me, when I help somebody succeed, it feels more impactful to me than if I have a success on my own. And it's taken me some years and time to get to that realization.

It was happening before, but I wasn't really focusing on it. 

[00:18:52] Felena: Yeah, absolutely. 

So what is your growth strategy and what were you really thinking of focusing on this year to continue the growth? 

[00:19:04] Felena: Yeah, the growth strategy is through what I mentioned a few minutes ago is more strategic alliances with other larger spaces that.

That have this void. They have a programming void. They have a void in really supporting female entrepreneurs, although our programming and, you know, I do have men in my community. It's a small percentage, but we say female focused, but gender inclusive. And so for those coworking spaces, those early stage entrepreneurs.

And again, that's where we really is our sweet spot. They're hard to help. They're needy. They need a lot of support. So our events and programming and gurus and sub hubs and all the things we do really. I support that individual as they launch their business or they step out into consulting or things of that nature.

And so we're continuing, we've gotten a lot of great feedback so far and we're continuing to look for those fits, even if it's not a forever home for us, at least as a start in a particular city, it's a great way to enter a city, have a chance to connect with the community there, kind of build the brand.

And then if the licensee, at some point decides they want to. Maybe move into their own space. They can do that, but it's a really, really good way to get started. 

[00:20:24] Natasha: Speaking of needing this and people leaving a lot of. I like to on the show, show our listeners that even successful well modeled entrepreneurial endeavors are not without challenges.

So every day there's a challenge. It can be monumental and very stressful. It can be just continuous or it can just be that little thing that's nagging you. So today in your business, what is the number one challenge that you're facing as the leader of this incredible model? 

[00:20:57] Felena: COVID, people not wanting to get, you know, people being afraid to get in with groups of people.

And I mean, it's two steps forward and one step back right now, right? I mean, we're all vaccinated, I'm vaccinated and I'm sure you're vaccinated. Everybody I know is vaccinated because those are the circles we run in. But even folks that I know are vaccinated have. Okay. We're good. And then they started to pull back.

I run a physical location where people get together and we've had events, planned people started, um, I'm preaching to the choir Natasha, I mean, yeah. I mean, you know, the beginning of the summer we were like, okay, we're optimistic. And then like, oh, What's going on here. So, I mean, I see light at the end of the tunnel and we have a lot of conversations around mental health and why we need people in person and you know, why you need to be able to hug somebody every once in a while or shake their hand.

It's different. We know that. And you know that, so that's the biggest challenge. And I don't want to say the jury's out because I don't want to say that, frankly, but you know, we're still not out of the woods. 

[00:22:09] Natasha: Did COVID bring in more interested people for your virtual offerings at all. Did COVID help your business in any sense?

Great question. Okay. 

Not enough disease itself, no symptoms. 

[00:22:26] Felena: Yeah. There's movements, right? Like a movement and how we think, how we work. This idea that everybody is working from home and loads of surveys have been done about how 20 somethings and 30 somethings never want to go back to the office and they're quitting their job.

Everybody's like there's so much movement. Right. And any pandemic or any huge seismic. I know I'm repeating myself duplicative words here, but like, how do you explain the magnitude? You haven't been through this? I haven't been through this. I mean, no one's been through this. So these seismic shifts and how we work and who we work with and why we work.

How do we bring meaning to work? You know, have brought light to coworking in the idea that all day, every day in your house, isn't there. Situation all day, every day in the office, isn't the right situation. It's all about choice and flexibility. So I just wrote an article for on this very topic.

You know, we've coined in coworking, we've said the third workplace forever, but now everybody's picking up on it. And so. I think there is a big role for coworking spaces. And I think the future is bright for coworking spaces. 

[00:23:40] Natasha: Right? So you may not have felt that impact in the last 18, 19 20 and counting months, but perhaps it will lead to a big surge once we are feeling safer, which is really exciting to think about.

And there's no way to know there's no way to forecast, but I think in a couple of years, as we look back. That's when we'll know yeah. What this did to us 


[00:24:08] Felena: Yeah. For better and for worse. Yes, exactly. And the writings on the wall. I mean, I think again, coworking spaces will play a big part in just how we work in the future.

[00:24:19] Natasha: So future is bright. Next couple months, continue to like hang on. 

Felena gave us a glimpse inside her brilliant business model, talked about the various programming she creates for community and how she's scaling via a licensing call. For more information about Felena, go to the show notes for your listening to this podcast.

For more information about me go to my website, Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast. Now I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Felena HansonProfile Photo

Felena Hanson


In Felena Hanson’s high-energy presentation, Flight Club, she shares her story in an open, vulnerable style, which is both inspirational and dynamic. Felena challenges audiences with the question, “What could you achieve if nothing stood in your way?” With a call to action for a commitment to create something new, Felena relates examples from her life of challenges, to reinvention and ultimately, liberation.
As a non-repentant rebel and self-admitted rules breaker, Felena started her first business at age 8, traveled Western Europe alone, and can often be seen inciting pop-up dance parties on the streets of San Diego. A life-threatening car accident, at age twenty-two, caused her to take stock of her life, re-evaluate her direction and set big goals for herself. Felena’s early career in the fast-paced technology industry resulted in three layoffs the age of 30. Also at 30 she faced a failed marriage and business, which caused her to again re-evaluate her life’s path.
Never one to dwell on what has happened to her, but to always shift her focus forward, she eventually launched Hera Hub, with a vision to support over 20,000 women with the launch and growth of their business all over the world.