Imagine a space that offers the likes of Financial Vision Boarding, an Indigo and Shibori Dyeing Workshop, and an afternoon dedicated to helping you edit artist statements, all under the same roof. Imagine that this space also offers co-working and has drop-in yoga classes. It’s also affordable and lacks the pretension associated with Soho House or The Wing. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a space owned by women, for women.
Such a space exists in Williamsburg, and it’s called New Women Space. Since opening its doors this fall with a roster of events and community gatherings, New Women space has been redefining what it means to hold this space, and to do so inclusively, in an urban setting.
As an industry, community cultivation is thriving in New York City. New professional networking events, meetups, and fancy tech-oriented coworking spaces (We Work alone has 36 offices in NYC) seem to pop up every day. Sandra Hong and Melissa Wong, the founders of New Women Space, were aware of this demand. After years of working in community organizing, media, and hospitality, the two combined their skill sets to create a new kind of destination. In the website’s words, New Women Space is “a project cultivation and community event space that places the ambitions of women of all experiences at its center.”
Both founders had previously focused on bringing women together in community: Sandra created Girl Party, an organization that aimed to unite women in unconventional gatherings, while Melissa ran UpSpeak, a goal-setting workshop series that sought to differentiate itself from standard NYC networking events. A shared conviction in the power of creating a new type of community led them to talk about doing a 30-day pop-up project together. Thanks to a bit of luck in finding an affordable space, as well as a dose of inspiration from another Brooklyn entrepreneur, their friend Jen Jones of New Love City, the two decided to go for it.
In deciding what to focus their venture on, they explain that “We realized, not only in running our own women’s organizations but being a part of them and meeting other women and getting connected, that there’s quite a lively ecosystem of communities for women in New York City.” They asked a question that’s been posed many times but rarely heard with open ears from a woman’s perspective, “whether online or offline, what do women want?” Complex answers came to them, but ultimately it boiled down to one thing: repetition. “There are a few key things that are difficult in this city in particular, such as space and attention and community. So many people want more community but often don’t have the outlet or can’t find a way to change their routine to get it. Because it’s built on repetition. It’s built on going back to that same place.” And so they decided to take the concept past its original conception as a pop-up and risk finding a permanent brick and mortar.
A successful Kickstarter campaign spoke to the pair’s community organizing skills as well as the demand for their idea. New Women Space officially opened its doors after the perfect space became available near the Graham L stop in Williamsburg. The two transformed it into an inviting, yet minimal space. “We put a lot of sweat into this place, a lot of painting, and we were lucky to find a chill landlord,” they explained.
You might be asking: WTF is it, though? The flexible business model is a departure from your average co-working or events space, and the model has evolved. In addition to offering one-off events (anyone can submit, for now) they enable anyone to rent space with them instantly. These affordable room rental are geared towards helping people give your mission a home outside of having to meet in coffee shops and feel the pressure to keep purchasing something. They’ve also started drop in coworking 3 days a week. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you drop in between 10am-6pm and “work in the comfort of other industrious women.” At $20 for half day or $30 for a full day, it’s priced fairly for creatives, entrepreneurs, and anyone who’s just starting out. The regular program rounds out with community drop-in yoga classes three times a week.
As for hosting one-off or recurring events, there’s an advantage to doing so at New Women Space. Sandra and Melissa take a holistic, hands-on approach in helping to host. “We’re meeting with instructors with the mindset that we want to build a relationship, so we hope that this isn’t your one time doing it with us and that you’ll also come to events and take workshops with us,” Melissa explains, adding “you can do your workshop with a bit more guidance from us. That ranges from Sandra taking great headshots of a lot of instructors and going over their event copy and just tweaking it, using her marketing background.” The two are committed to fostering a sense of community that helps women feel supported. “There are women throughout this entire city that have ideas that have been baking forever, and they’re in their living rooms dreaming. Every idea should have a place where they can test it out,” Sandra explains.
The flexibility of the model allows them to sustain a business while hosting a diverse array of events that respond to the needs of the community. They recently held a sign making and brunch get together around the Women’s March, and have a self-care faire planned for February 11th. As a physical community oriented space, it allows for the camaraderie of digital communities such as Dreamers // Doers to enter the physical realm and sometimes witness the results of its efforts in the tactile realm.
While Sandra and Melissa are involved with several online communities, their mission is to bring this togetherness “to a physical space and translate it to in person gatherings, where community takes on a whole new shape. I think what we’re sort of asking is for groups like NYCxIST (formerly known as GRLCVLT), Dreamers // Doers, Lady Art, Got a Girl Crush, all of them, to come forward and manifest something in this space, or show us what that’s all about. Because you educate one another by proxy of being with one another and talking about it. That’s what’s missing.”