We believe we can so we do. It’s written there on the wall of Toronto’s Make Lemonade, a coworking space for women. But it could be etched into the skyline or slung from planes on an eternal loop circling the city’s downtown core – we believe we can so we do.
We are a city of doers. And for women-identifying entrepreneurs, Make Lemonade has become a de facto HQ embodying that ideal; a home base for women-led startups changing the world around them.
For Rachel Kelly, the coworking space founder, Make Lemonade is an answer to the loneliness that comes with being a freelancer, a solitude she experienced firsthand as she started to dive into the world of remote work.
“It was really romantic at first because I would go to all these different coffee shops and get to explore the city and I had a cute home office,” she says. “And then the romance died off when I realized I was spending a lot of money on coffees and trying to take phone calls with loud espresso machines in the background… (it) was also super lonely.”
But Make Lemonade is also a part of a wider conversation on equality. From conversations with other women entrepreneurs and her personal experience, Kelly noticed a drought in spaces designed with women in mind. She’d also seen the success women-focused accelerators were having.
“If we can eliminate the feeling that we aren't enough or we aren't qualified enough to do something, then all of a sudden we're going to have more and more women who are applying to things that they're more than qualified for,” she says. “Make Lemonade serves a really important purpose, it removes all the other bullshit that we deal with on a regular basis so we can actually just focus on the things that are important to us.”
The gorgeously-designed space – which opened in Fall 2017 – has dedicated desks, phone booths, meeting rooms and common workspaces where entrepreneurs can congregate to exchange ideas. Make Lemonade hosts events and offers free online 101 courses on finances, branding, sales, and operations for members.
“We have an awesome community,” says Kelly. It's a community made up of an eclectic mix of startups: companies like Origin Travels which is disrupting travel with women-focused retreats; Insecta Shoes which is rethinking footwear with plant-focused sustainability in mind; To:Her, a company changing the greeting card narrative through inclusivity; Make this Universe which is giving people the tools to design sustainable skincare; Wolfe Academy which is creating a new iteration of learning online; and The Content Planner which is bringing social strategy offline.
“(Whether) you're coming from the tech world or the fashion world or the food world… that’s what I’ve learned from this, it doesn’t matter your background,” says Kelly. “At the end of the day, we're all lonely and looking to connect and we all have like experiences that we can learn from.”
Disclosure: The journalist’s partner collaborated with Make Lemonade to develop a marketing strategy surrounding the space's launch in 2017.
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)