The Gen Y Series: Sheree Rubinstein
Sheree Rubinstein is the Co-Founder of One Roof Co-Working with a mission to innovate the way we work by tailoring shared workspaces to the needs and ambitions of entrepreneurial women. An ex-lawyer, career and business coach, Sheree is passionate about enabling all women to choose and succeed in their careers.
- How did the idea for One Roof come about?
I was working in corporate law (long hours, late nights) and starting to ask questions around what success for a women in this profession looked like: where are the female role models; what am I doing; is this where I want to be? The lack of gender equality sparked a passion for supporting women and I started running a passion project called Think Big – a monthly networking event to inspire women to ‘think big’ about what was possible for them in their careers.
I finally had the courage to quit corporate law and worked part time for Fitted for Work where I really felt my purpose was to help women to succeed in life. Soon after, I was introduced to my business partner and we hit it off – we started talking about how we could support women… We ran focus groups asking women what they needed from networking or support. We came up with 'One Roof' to embody the idea of providing everything a female entrepreneur needs under one roof. We ran a one-week co-working pop up in an AirBnB, turning bedrooms into meeting rooms, the kitchen into a workshop space, and we held events every night and by the end of week, 400 people came through the doors. They loved it – and we thought wow this is something!
- What persuaded you to quit your job and make it a reality?
I never really wanted to be a lawyer to begin with. I loved the people I was surrounded by but I was struggling to understand what success looked like for a female in the legal profession and felt like I hadn’t yet found my calling. I was lucky to have people around me (my boyfriend, family and friends) who gave me the courage to take the leap and quit to follow my purpose and passions. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done, but I felt so much relief and I’ve since learnt and grown so much.
- How did you fund the idea?
We received corporate sponsorship from a few organisations to fund the pop-up and once we saw how successful it was, we stopped all part-time work and said let's give 100%. My business partner went back to LA (she’s American and was ready to head home) and I went over there too to launch the first One Roof. We self-funded the rent and ran a pop-up through an AirBnB in Venice - it was the most amazing house with a pond and a bridge and a meditation temple! We started generating revenue through membership and events. Because we were only renting on a monthly basis, we had to keep moving location. Rent was costing us $3K per month and then everything was already there - we used the furniture, internet etc. After a while, I came back to Melbs, to really focus on launching One Roof there – I won a pitching competition and $10k seed funding to set up in Aus. My Aunt and Uncle had a place in Malvern they wanted to renovate in five months so used that whilst looking for something permanent. I was paying a small amount for rent, utilities and internet so everything was easily financially managed. As a home though, it was hard to accommodate for more than 15 people in the space at one time and hard to throw events. I needed room to grow.
I was then intro’d to Catriona Wallace (CEO & Founder at Flamingo Customer Experience Inc) who had set up The Ventura, a women’s coworking space in Sydney and we hit it off. Catriona wanted someone to hand her co-working venture over to so I was tasked with building the space (60 to 70 business were already working there), the culture and community, and to find a new building! It was a great opportunity and I learnt a lot but unfortunately we couldn't find a new location in time and it was such a shame we had to close the space. We have every intention of setting up a space in Sydney again in the near future – we proved there is a strong need and interest for a female-centric coworking space. Soon after, I was connected to Central Equity, a property company in Melbourne, and pitched One Roof and they loved it! They sponsored us for a property in SouthBank at low rental and low risk. A total gamechanger. Now, three months after launching we’re turning over revenue – One Roof covers costs month on month and a wage for me and our Community Manager, Hayley.
- Tell us what a typical day for you involves?
So varied it's hilarious! I’ll tell you about three different days to show you how different they are. Yesterday, I was on camera interviewing different women entrepreneurs at different stages in different industries – from fashion to social media. We’re piloting a series of videos with the intention of getting women to have serious conversations about the things happening behind the camera we don't talk about - pressure, failing, getting stuck, anxiety, feeling stuck, undervaluing ourselves, all the barriers.
Two weeks ago, I went to Johannesburg to facilitate and support a program for women called SHE - part of YGAP – a six day intensive social entrepreneur programme for female social entrepreneurs who support women and girls in the community. I was helping them with their business models, pitching etc.
Today (at One Roof), we have a networking event about female entrepreneurship in Aus with a panel of women talking about their experiences. For the rest of the day, we’ve got a morning tea for a member’s birthday, wine down (which we have every Friday!), checking in with members, new members coming in to the see the space and a catch up with my Community Manager.
- What's next for One Roof, or for you (what's the BIG dream!)?
Expanding into the building next door! We are looking to grow our membership to a minimum of 50 people in the space without fail and get that to 100 by the end of the year! We’re also launching the One Roof PLUS accelerator program in February – a three month flexible entrepreneurship program for early stage female founders. We’ll accept 10 businesses and they’ll attend sessions each Thursday night on things like how to tell your story, how to crowd fund, what is venture capital. There’ll also be mentors and funding available at the end. My business partner is working on a digital platform to scale the community online and I’m looking at how I set up One Roof spaces across the world – whether it’s tools for others to do it or growing other partnerships.
- What excites you most about being an entrepreneur (what's the best bit)?!
The best is for me is being able to say yes to opportunities - I can say yes to anything I want and give it a go without being restricted by bureaucracy, KPIs or people saying no. AND being agile enough to give it a go and to pilot things at low risk. I test it, and if it works, great onto the next thing. I can quickly say ‘this is working’ and tweak it or ‘this isn't working’ and ditch it. I love the people I meet! So bloody awesome having conversations with people who love what they do - people who do things are so exciting to work with!
- What have been your biggest challenges so far (at work and personally)?
My biggest challenge before One Roof was not having purpose and direction in life. Not knowing what I wanted to do really affected me negatively – I suffered from anxiety and I’m SO grateful I've overcome that part of my life. I feel so sorry for myself that I went through that but sometimes you need to go through that stuff and it's fuelled fire and passion in me. I only hope others can find that too.
I’ve also found it hard to have the confidence to back myself and be okay with not knowing all the answers. Sometimes I don't know all the answers and I’m learning to be confident in saying 'I don't know' when people grill me. I constantly straddle the line between winging it and I’ don't know what I’m doing!’.
- What, or who, has helped you most to deal with these challenges?
My business partner gave me a lot of confidence I didn’t know I had - I didn’t think I could start a business and without her I wouldn't be able to do it. Knowing she backs me gives me a lot of confidence. I have a lot of unofficial mentors in my life (men and women) who I turn to them for answers. Also, knowing people close to me back me even when they're not sure about what I am doing! Key friends and family who keep telling me I can do it even when I don't think I can.
- What keeps you up at night?
How am I going to scale this business so I can impact millions of women and at the same time build a sustainable business model! Scale is a big thing, I don't know how but that's what I need to do.
11.How do you relax? I enjoy being on my laptop! But I recognise I need to switch off. I have a meditation practice I dip in and out of and I try to go to yoga 2-3 times a week. My boyfriend and I go for a walk every morning to start the day slower. He’s really good at making me switch off and saying “hey we're going hiking this weekend”, or “we’re off to Byron Bay”. Socialising is relaxing for me and drinking wine is fun - I do that often! I intertwine that in what I do a lot and my business partner has become best friend. I love that the people I connect with on a business level, I connect with on a social level too.
- What advice would you give to someone wanting to launch their own business?
Surround yourself with others who are doing it – hang out at co-working spaces, entrepreneurial networking events, taking people up on offers, going for coffee with people - that changed my life. I had coffee with Carol Scwartz (Founding Chair of Women’s Leadership Institute Australia) because I was passionate about women in business and gender equality and had no idea what I was going to say and she ended up introducing me to someone who gave me a job. From there it was a snowball effect. Every coffee I've had has been so valuable and comes back around.
- If you had to pick one, what's the one issue / challenge you wish you could solve?
That every person has a choice about what they want to do in their life without being held back by stereotypes, pressures, discrimination. Choice.
- If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
I’d use the money in a few ways! Part of it would go towards to building online platform and scale what we are doing with One Roof. Part would go to creating more spaces in different locations in cities AND rural areas and a large part of it would be used to invest in women-led businesses, early stage businesses and social enterprises. Somewhere deep down that's a large goal at some point in my life. I want to reinvest, particularly in young girls who have really good ideas so they can get their ideas off the ground!
What you're reading right now: Elon Musk. Your favourite Melbourne food spot: The DrugStore Cafe - Toorak Road, South Yarra. I can't get enough of….Hearing people talk with passion about what they do!