Sometimes (most times?) your dreams and passions don’t materialize exactly the way you’d imagine, and there’s something beautiful in that.
Visions weren’t meant to be static. They push us forward, they evolve as we do and in the place where one meets another, anything can happen. There’s a balance of knowing where to dig in with determination and where to give yourself freedom of expression that Grace Kraaijvanger first learned as a professional dancer; today, she’s channeled a similar philosophy into founding The Hivery, a San Francisco-based environment that she hesitates to call co-working. For Grace, it’s about so much more than that.
“What breaks my heart is when a woman can’t see what she is uniquely made to do,” she explains, “either by her own limiting beliefs or external limitations. It’s my dream to create not just spaces, but an ecosystem where women can create, express, build, own their value and innovate while feeling supported, celebrated and connected.”
Grace elaborates more on what led her to The Hivery’s innovative take on space, self and start-up life below.
Nicole Ziza Bauer: How would you describe the purpose and aim of The Hivery?
Grace Kraaijvanger: The Hivery is so much more than a shared workspace; we are a vehicle and support structure for the individual woman to feel a sense of belonging and connection to community. We believe that when a woman feels connected and inspired, she is able to fully unleash her unique mix of talents, wisdom, experiences and the creativity required to make her meaningful contribution to this world.
Our community is made up of a wide array of ages and stages of life, but what the people in our community often have in common is that they are experiencing some sort of transformation. We know first-hand how challenging and unknown it can be to move into the next chapters of life. Navigating what’s next on your own can feel overwhelming, scary and stifling. We are here for women as they embark on periods of transformation, whether that’s changing careers, going back to work after a pause, quitting a job to start a business, scaling a business to the next level or preparing to shift their work life due to a life event, like empty nesting.
Whatever the reason for the “what’s next” in their lives, we provide our community a safe space to explore, discover, learn, mentor, grow and elevate their work.
Right now, I’m dedicating my work and all of the positive energy created by the women at The Hivery to my dear sister, Maggie, who is battling stage four breast cancer. As we honor the incredible work of women, we must remember that each of us fight the good fight in our own ways. Maggie is my ‘shero’ and I’m honored to be her sister. She is teaching me each day the core of what matters the most.
NZB: Was starting it a lightbulb “aha” moment, or more of a slow build? When did you know it was finally time to just go for it?
GK: I started my career as a professional dancer, dancing in ballet and modern companies and performing all over the world. In my late 20’s, I dreamt of opening a dance studio in San Francisco. Every time I’d visit a potential space for that studio, instead of seeing dancers dancing around the space, I’d envision a collective of women working side-by-side. That was before the term “co-working space” had been coined, so I used to call this vision a “women’s collective.”
I told friends about this dream to someday create a collaborative, art-filled shared workspace for women, and I kept that dream tucked away in my mind as that thing that I’d really love to do. Be careful of what you put in the someday bucket, as it can be the one thing that you TRULY want to do!
Fast-forward ten years, and I had retired from dance and had two kids, Jane and Ben. After dance, I segued into a marketing career, working for big tech companies in Silicon Valley, and ultimately leading a business unit for a major analyst firm. On paper, my marketing consulting career worked really well for my life. I could work flexibly, from home and could pick my kids up from school a lot. But, I missed (ie. craved) the creative community of my former life as a dancer.
One day I called my friend, Julia. I told her that I had done a ton of soul searching and had finally had the “aha” moment of what I was put on this earth to do. I described a space that I would open for women that was light-filled, artsy, creative and immensely supportive. I explained that there would be shared workspace, classes, mentorship, and most important, community. Her response? “That’s nice, Grace, but you told me about this ten years ago. The time is now.” My jaw dropped. Ten years? I’d been burying my dream for ten years? In that moment, I knew that I couldn’t wait another moment.
Three months later in early 2014, The Hivery opened our first location in Sausalito, California. In less that eighteen months, we grew out of that location and secured a lofty, visible expanse in downtown Mill Valley, and now we are working to bring The Hivery to as many women as we can, all over the country.
NZB: How easy was it to get people on board with your idea at the beginning? Going off of that, what advice would give to someone who is trying to cast a vision for either investors, co-workers or clients?
GK: It wasn’t always easy. I remember telling a friend at a cocktail party about what I was doing. His response? “Grace, no one is doing brick and mortar, anymore. The overhead will kill you You should make it a digital community.” And another woman saying, “Women aren’t going to come. They don’t value themselves enough to invest in their businesses and themselves.”
Those words were harsh and disheartening, and had the capacity to get deeply into my head…but you know what? They weren’t true, AT ALL. It was the ability and tenacity to keep building, despite the naysayers, that allowed me to create a Hivery that truly aligned with my dream and resonated with the members that make up our community.
Conversely, there are times (frequently) that actually feel easy. When we’re showing up for what we believe is possible for women, and simply and fastidiously creating the best environment for them to connect and thrive, the result is astounding and the impact speaks for itself. I rarely have to “sell” the experience; it’s the emotional resonance, the way it feels, that attracts people to the vision. When you’re creating from an authentic place, it’s highly attractive and people want to be part of it. You don’t have to sell them anything…you just have to tune in and stay true.
When you’re creating from an authentic place, it’s highly attractive and people want to be part of it.
My advice to entrepreneurs is to stop the act of constantly shopping you and your ideas around. You don’t need any more advice. You already know what you want. You don’t need to ask for permission. You have already given yourself the invitation. And you have two choices, build walls and obstacles around yourself to keep yourself small. Or, step outside of yourself to be bigger. Take up more space, be boundary-less. And when you do that from a place of truth, the investors, the real estate, the loan or whatever it is that you need, will be there. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work your bootie off for it. The difference is that you’ll want to.
NZB: Why do you believe physical space is so important to the creative process?
GK: The feeling of isolation and feeling disconnected can start to behave and manifest itself into a lack of confidence and a fierce inner-critic. When I was working from home alone, I found myself questioning my talents and potential, when the reality was that I simply felt lonely and craved the creative connection of other women.
Conversely, working in a physical space that is a metaphor for the potential of what is possible in each of us. Attributes like expansive, elevated, light-filled, highly visible and creative stir up in us a synchronicity with the space. We start to behave and believe that we are light-filled, limitless and energized. Physical space matters deeply, not just to our productivity, but to our sense of who we are, what we are worth,and what we are capable of.
NZB: What are some practical ways The Hivery helps women find their “spark”? Are there plans to expand to other cities?
GK: From the very beginning, we have focused on providing programming, workshops and events that meet the needs of the whole woman. To us, that means providing learning opportunities and mentorship around entrepreneurship, writing, creativity, practical skills, wellness, career assessment, owning our value, self-discovery and more. That programming not only creates opportunities for women to explore and hone in on their next chapter, but it also creates a unique and important opportunity for women to teach and share their expertise with each other. We have created signature programming, like our popular “What’s Next” workshop series, with the main objective being to provide practical tools, teaching and actionable support to dive into your next chapter.
We are in active expansion mode now, with a few exciting new locations being announced very soon, and plans to spread The Hivery magic far and wide. We intend to grow and expand with the same core values that we’ve started with and “walk the walk” of what we think is possible for women. We know that it is our gift and mission to bring this feeling of community, inspiration and support to as many women as we can.
NZB: How do you keep competition at bay in a co-working space? It seems like it would be inevitable, no?
GK: Co-working as an industry is on fire, so yes, the conversation about competition is raised frequently. Yet, The Hivery is so much more than a space. There is a deeper sense of connection and emotional resonance, coupled with the welcoming of vulnerability and authenticity, that sets us apart from simply co-working.
It’s not my job to look around and compare myself to what others are doing. It is simply my job to keep creating from a place that is true and in service to honoring the unique potential that I respect in every human.
To have been witness to the power that occurs when women create and build, charge what they’re worth, collaborate together and scale with intention…the result is jaw-dropping. This is what I want not just for women, but for humanity. If there are others who help to progress that same notion, I will be happy. This movement, when done for the right reasons, means that there’s plenty to go around. Feelings of scarcity rarely make for abundance and positive change. There is plenty of space for those who value human connection.
To have been witness to the power that occurs when women create and build, charge what they’re worth, collaborate together and scale with intention…the result is jaw-dropping. This is what I want not just for women, but for humanity.
NZB: Which “work norms” does The Hivery challenge, in a good way?
GK: We are doing things differently around here. We hold steadfast to our values. We honor kindness, creativity and community. If you feel overwhelmed, messy and broken one day, please show up anyway. Especially that day.
We don’t believe it has to be perfect. We believe that work and business can be created like art, AND have immense value and impact. In community, we have an opportunity to be both teacher and student. It is possible to create work that not only works for you, but also honors the meaningful contribution that only you can offer this world. When we stay true to these beliefs, we elevate each other. It is possible to achieve greatness while staying true to who you are and staying kind. We have the opportunity to redefine the old ways of linear and traditional thinking, and create a new, authentic model.
NZB: How has your previous career in the dance world factored into what you’re doing now?
GK: I am wholeheartedly convinced that everything that I need to build and grow this business stems from my experience and training as a dancer. I learned discipline, the ability to work hard for what I believe in, the humility to know that it will never be perfect and the courage to do it anyway.
We are not designed to do things that are scary. Our brains are designed to protect us and keep us from the unknown. It is normal to be scared. It is normal to protect yourself from risk or failure. However, in order to create transformation, we have to stop waiting to feel sure. You are the artist of your own life. Waiting in the wings isn’t enough; we have to step out onto our own stage. Dance taught me this again and again, and for that I am so grateful.
You are the artist of your own life. Waiting in the wings isn’t enough; we have to step out onto our own stage. Dance taught me this again and again, and for that I am so grateful.
NZB: Lastly, what would we be surprised to know about you? (Can be anything!)
GK: That I am a private extrovert. I can be around people all day, and thrive on connecting with other women. But, at the end of the day, I love nothing more than putting my slippers on, lighting a candle and watching “Super Soul Sunday” reruns. In our family, we love a rainy weekend day and have been known to declare “PJ’s all-day” rules.
Oh, and I have a crazy mini, wire-haired dachshund named Moxie, who I think that I am eerily similar to. She’s sweet yet feisty, loyal, energetic, does things her own way, loves big and every once in a while runs away for a little alone time.
Images via Jacquelyn Warner