Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, February 27, 2023
by Barbara Bry
Lisane Basquiat is the owner of Carlsbad Hera Hub, a coworking space for women business owners.
She bought it in 2017 because growing up, she remembered watching her mother (after her divorce) give primary custody to her husband because she didn’t believe she could have a successful career and raise her children. “There was no support system or role models for her. I wanted to change this for other women,” said Basquiat.
I am passionate about this subject, and so my husband graciously ceded this week to me.
In 2011, I interviewed Felena Hanson, who had just started the first Hera Hub in San Diego. At the time, Hera Hub had 81 members in one location. During COVID, some coworking businesses downsized or closed. In contrast, Hera Hub has grown to over 500 members with three locations in San Diego County and four others in Washington, D.C., Irvine, Temecula and Chicago. Hanson owns three; the others are licensed locations including Carlsbad. Membership starts at $149 a month for coworking and $99 for virtual services.
Hera Hub and similar organizations are about much more than physical space. “They provide a community, a safe place where women business owners can be open and vulnerable, where you can say I need help, I don’t know what I’m doing. Sharing your challenges can be difficult in a coed environment,” said Hanson.
Twenty-five years ago, I started Athena San Diego to empower women in the innovation economy — to provide a safe place where they could share personal and business challenges. Athena continues its work with a new generation of leaders. Before that, I graduated from Harvard Business School — my class was about 15 percent women, double the percentage of the prior class. An active Women’s Student Association, still in existence at HBS, was an important support system in surviving what was often a hostile environment.
Today, I wondered: Do organizations like these still fulfill a function?
I talked with Elaine Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol, which she started in her garage. In 2016, she joined Hera Hub Carlsbad. Swann offers corporate training, courses and classes, teaching materials and certification.
“Hera Hub helped me connect with other women in business. Before joining, I was hiding in my garage. I would do a speaking engagement or class and go back to my garage and work. I didn’t have a connection with folks. Initially, I joined so I would have a place to work but what I found was an incubator that helped my business to grow. I went through a 12-week intensive program, which taught me how to scale my business, most importantly how to license my business model,” she said.
Once she had employees and a need for a full-time classroom and meeting space, Swann moved her business out of Hera Hub but maintains her membership. Today there are 30 Swann Schools of Protocol around the U.S. and two in Africa.
Jami Shapiro, founder of Silver Linings Transitions, which provides home organizing and moving management services, moved into Hera Hub Carlsbad seven years ago.
“I had heard about it eight years ago but didn’t want to spend the money. As an entrepreneur and a woman business owner, I was feeling very alone. I went through a divorce and at Hera Hub I got the support that I needed both personally and professionally. The pivotal event for me was attending a networking event with mostly male attorneys. I left that event feeling icky. I said where do I feel comfortable and where is my energy better so I increased my membership level at Hera Hub so that I could take advantage of more services,” she said.
Every Wednesday she attends the community class, and what she learned helped her grow her business.
When I started Athena San Diego 25 years ago, I thought for how long would it be needed. Wouldn’t women soon have the same access to the executive suite, and if they started a business, wouldn’t they have the same access to capital to grow their business? Yes, it’s true that women have made progress, yet they continue to face hurdles that men don’t. My conclusion: Organizations like Hera Hub, Athena and the HBS Women’s Student Association are more important than ever.
Rule No. 751: Don’t walk alone.