Article by Willow Older
Grace Kraaijvanger spent years juggling her passion – performing and choreographing ballet and modern dance – with her work as an independent marketing consultant. After having two kids and “accidentally retiring” as a professional dancer, Grace planned to build up her marketing business. Problem was, she says, “I’d already been part of a passionate, creative arts community. Now I was working at home and feeling very lonely. I missed being part of a supportive, like-minded community.” Grace decided to join a coworking space. Her options, however, were “very male, very tech” – a far cry from the “female fuel” she was craving. So Grace did what entrepreneurs do: After identifying a gap in the shared-workspace market, she turned a problem in a business.
The Hivery opened its doors nearly five years ago with 25 members. Today, more than 400 women create, explore and collaborate in the beautiful, light-filled workspace. The Hivery has already enjoyed huge growth and success, and the best, says Grace, is still to come.
Grace, you launched the Hivery to solve a problem you discovered while looking for a coworking space. Tell us about the process of turning an idea into action.
Five years ago, coworking spaces were relatively new. As a contractor working at home, I missed being around creative, passionate people. I tried to find a shared workspace where I felt comfortable, where I felt like I belonged. I couldn’t find it anywhere.
At the same time, I’d been soul-searching about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d lost my mom to ovarian cancer a couple years earlier, and that was my wake-up call. I wanted to do something meaningful and make a positive impact. I’ve always been interested in what happens when women start exploring the next chapters in their lives. I realized creating a safe, female-focused space for education, mentorship, creativity, and collaboration might answer a lot of my own questions about “what’s next?”
I mentioned my idea to a friend, and she laughed. She said, “You told me you wanted to do this ten years ago!” She was right, but I’d never fully embraced the idea. As soon as I had clarity, all the doors opened. In a matter of weeks, I’d found a space, come up with the name and write all the copy for the website.
Looking back, I’d been scratching at the idea for the Hivery for a decade. I think fear kept clarity at bay. On a subconscious level, I knew that once I had clarity, I’d have to take action.
Fear is something every entrepreneur contends with, especially when they’re starting out in business. What were your biggest fears and how did you handle them? I had the typical fears – will anyone get it? Does anyone want this? Will anyone come? The answers were yes, yes and yes. In fact, we quickly outgrew our first Hivery space. I found a new location right in downtown Mill Valley. The lease was long-term and expensive.
When it was time to sign it, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was really afraid. Not only was I taking on a greater financial risk, now I risked failing in a very public way in front of the entire town where my family and I live.
At that moment, I had to lean into my fears. I told myself it’s okay to feel vulnerable and afraid. I also got really clear that, physically, fear and exhilaration feel exactly the same. It was a defining moment, and it changed how I think about fear. Now we’re friends!
How do you explain the tremendous growth and success of the Hivery?
I’ve thought a lot about what the “secret sauce” is that explains why people love the Hivery. It’s not just that it’s a beautiful space to work. Our members are in their mid-20s to early 80s; they’re parents, empty-nesters, professionals, entrepreneurs and everything in between. The “through-line” is they all want a safe space to explore their next chapter. Doing it alone can be scary and paralyzing. Women need a safe place to take their next steps.
You’re no stranger to working long, hard days. Who or what helps you when things get tough?
My team and the Hivery community itself could not be more supportive. I also have coaches and teachers who I wholeheartedly rely on. I FaceTime twice a month with my mentor, Anne-Marie Duchene. We meditate together for ten minutes at the start of every session. She is my sounding board for anything from staffing issues to communication strategies. Anne-Marie helps me define goals and holds me accountable for making decisions or changing my mind. Above all, she integrates the personal and the business side of my life.
I used to sacrifice my own self-care when things got crazy. That just left me feeling tired and stressed, and my creative juices stopped flowing. Now I do yoga nearly every day at 6 a.m. I have “moving meetings” – we walk or hike while we talk. Doing yoga and getting outside regularly has totally changed my ability to cope with fear, stress and business challenges.
Grace, what’s ahead for the Hivery?
So many exciting things! The big news is that Marie Forleo will be the keynote speaker at an upcoming Entrepreneur + Inspiration Lab, a daylong workshop in San Francisco. Marie is a huge proponent of creating engaging experiences for entrepreneurial women, and the Hivery event perfectly aligns with those values. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
In addition, we’ve just launched the Hivery Virtual Membership. This online offering will help us bring the magic of the Hivery to members around the globe. I’ll be sharing some more big news soon, so stay tuned!