With the ability to monetize your social media channels and the constant development of technology, the number of entrepreneurs continues to grow, especially among millennials and generation z. With this growth, minorities are leading the pack and are now looking for spaces for them to create, build and network! They may not ready for an entire office space to themselves (especially in the New York area) but still need a place where they can work and have meetings. While there are coworking spaces that are available to everyone, often business owners of color/LGBTQA feel out of place. Seeing the need for designing a space where multicultural, LGBTQA, and women-owned startups could work and build a community within, Medina created =SPACE. We had the opportunity to speak with Medina about =SPACE, which not only provides resources for underserved, high-growth, minority entrepreneur businesses but supports causes on both a local and national level.
What was the inspiration behind starting a coworking space?
=SPACE was born from the pain point of seeing multicultural founders turned away from access to capital and resources to further their startup and business ventures; none more than women of color. That did not sit right with me or my cofounders. We had experienced so many obstacles being founders of color for our first company MEDINA =CITI, many of which could have been the end of our company had we not been resourceful and put in three times the sweat equity to make it a successful 11-year-old agency.
With =SPACE, we’ve built what we feel is necessary: a space that believes in your capacity to build greatness, that affirms your cultural identity with your business aspirations, curates an ecosystem of resources, encourages forward movement and a celebration of your winning. We make sure to create a reflection of our community because to aspire, you need to be amongst other hard-working and dedicated individuals as you are. It’s more than seats and coffee (which we have) it is about having a tribe.
How important is the coworking space to the community?
We find ourselves at a nexus point between community and business. We’ve become one of the first organizations that our not-for-profit partners reach out to for hosting summits with discussions on everything from Toxic Masculinity to Google Livestreaming or even how to prepare your business for the holiday season. We have a digital classroom where other skills are acquired, like how to get certified as a business and HTML coding intensives, to full out yoga sessions. We are a multifaceted entity.
We also find ourselves called upon to be more than just a coworking facility. We’ve never actually identified as one to begin with. We are =SPACE, a sharespace, which means we are creating more than a business facility, we are a culture space as well.
Why is it important for the multicultural community?
The importance is huge! We are underfunded, under betted on and that warrants a response. I find the multicultural community to be the most talent rich and we create disruptive platforms that will be so successful!
We need access and resources to further those companies, capacity building has to come from within our community and we are the majority!
Black women are bringing in billions of dollars in profits, with .2% of investment in the tech landscape. We have to step up and support these founders and their ventures. That is what drives me and =SPACE; an opportunity to further the multicultural community through our network and programming.
Medina, Founder Photo Credit: Redens Desrosiers
How does =SPACE support underserved communities?
Our efforts to support our community are focused in several ways. Our programming being the most impactful of our initiatives. Plus, we have different categories for our events.
We offer Coding classes in the morning through one of our amazing startups, Codeit. This will allow our community to access an industry that begins its starting coders around a $60,000 salary, whereas our community has an average annual salary of $28,000.
We have a series that focuses on the investment landscape, like VC Hot Seat which is an event where investors are invited to have a candid dialogue with our founders. We take the unique approach that allows the founders to ask the investors questions, questions like how do I negotiate equity stakes? What is the difference between an incubator and accelerator and the panelists answer honestly? This format opens our community to understand the game!
Again, we are about promoting access to the community and motivating them, believing in them. To that end we’ve created Free Space Tuesday, a monthly event that allows our community members to utilize our space for free. The program has been successful enough that we have added aspects to it for a more engrossing experience like themed days, such as a day celebrating black film makers ( shout out to Spike Lee) even having winter beverage themed days for those who register that day.
What type of programming does =SPACE offer its community members? We take pride in that our largest event of the year is being the creators of Newark Tech Week. This year, it’s spread over 6 days with over 16 events, with giveaways, product launches and announcements. Newark Tech Week provides an opportunity for all tech-based businesses in Newark to connect and introduce people to the innovation of our city. Newark boasts a number of tech startups that produce ground-breaking ideas. Our mission is to showcase these amazing startups & businesses and celebrate Newark’s growth. We understand the power that each tech company in Newark has individually, and now we have a chance to make Newark our stage to show everyone what our tech community is made of.
Our Women-In-Novation event is also hugely impactful. Women-In-Novation is an annual conference that celebrates the achievement of all women. Our mission statement focuses on the belief that access to resources can lead to great opportunities. We want to make sure that women all across the city and the tri-state area are well aware of the aspirations they want to reach and the opportunities that =SPACE wants to give them.
This immersive experience allows for women of all industries and generations to share best practices, to share their obstacles and how they are breaking the glass ceiling in so many ways.
These are just two examples of how we put our resources into providing access for not just our members, but the citizens of our city!
What can we look forward to from =SPACE?
=SPACE has a mission to be on the multicultural side of every major city in America. We will be empowering more multicultural founders through our brand of programming and culture. We are just opening for investment and are excited at the prospects. As the founder, I am so committed to arming my community to build and win with their businesses. The future is as bright as we want to make it.
Learn more about =SPACE.
Photos Credit: Space