“I feel different when I’m in a room of all women,” says Melissa Wong, co-founder of New Women Space, sitting with Sandra Hong, her co-founder, in the light-filled East Williamsburg storefront they’ve dedicated to female empowerment.
The 2100-square-foot, bi-level space is calming and minimalist with plants and comfortable couches and sunshine streaming in the floor-to-ceiling windows. New Women Space offers events and workshops, each affordably priced at $10-$50, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from yoga to comedy nights to financial and career advice to collaging and other creative projects. It is, as the founders put it, “a space for women to define.”
The idea of physical spaces specifically for women is having a moment in 2016. The Wing, a women’s only social club and co-working space, is now holding court in the Flatiron District. It may also be all over your Instagram feed, too, thanks to the PR wizardry of co-founders Lauren Kassan, who previously worked for Class Pass and Audrey Gelman, a communications specialist who helped NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer appeal to a broad audience.
In Washington, D.C. and California, there’s the Hera Club, a women’s-only co-working space and business accelerator. The Wing is application-based, and those who are accepted must pay the $185 membership fee, and the Hera Club’s membership plans vary by location, but can run anywhere from $89 per month to nearly $500 depending on the size of the office space required.
There’s a considerably lower barrier to entry at New Women Space. The only application process required is for instructors and potential event organizers. Anyone who wants to attend an event needs only to pay an admission fee that’s often as low as $10. “We are here for women of all experiences,” Wong emphasizes.
New Women Space also defines itself as “gender expansive,” meaning that men, and all gender identities, are allowed at all events unless otherwise specified. “We want men to be a part of the conversation,” says Wong. “But we do want all the content providers/project cultivators to be women since that is the audience we are particularly concerned with providing support for.”
Wong and Hong were each working on women-centric side projects when they met through a mutual friend, a yoga teacher. Hong created Girl Party, a roving event series focusing on unconventional gatherings including art, comedy and yoga workshops, and Wong created Up Speak, a career mentoring and a goal-setting workshop series. “We were each excited about what we were doing,” says Hong, “but feeling like the possibilities would expand if we had a physical space.”
They planned a month-long series of pop-up events together to merge and expand their networks. Based on the enthusiastic response, they discovered that they had stumbled onto something bigger. “There’s a whole group of women that are A: interested in working with and supporting other women and B: doing full-time jobs but also doing another side project,” Hong explains.
An attendee at one of those events told them about the space they recently moved into. She owns the store next door–Slow Factory–and was showing what is now New Women Space to potential tenants for the landlord. “It felt a little serendipitous that we had access to this space that we felt was a good location people from Manhattan could come off the L, it’s in East Williamsburg, the price was decent for the area,”says Wong. “Just the fact there were two floors it opened up the place for different kinds of activities.”
Suddenly the two were leaving their jobs, pooling their savings, and launching a successful Kickstarter that raised $17,000 in 10 days to bring their brainchild to life. New Women Space opened its doors in late September.
While they are starting out by hosting events, they will soon expand with space rental, marketing consulting, and Co:Lab, their version of a co-working space. Cohorts of up to eight participants (this program is open to women only), will meet for a full day once a week fora period of six weeks, for a mix of structured goal-setting, brainstorming sessions and independent work time, with optional yoga at the end of the day.
In general, says Hong, “We have the flexibility and the opportunity to redefine a lot of conventional or traditional modes of doing things, whether it’s events or if it’s working or just coming together.”
Though diverse, attendees share a common trait in that they are “people that are down to meet new people that are active..they don’t just want to sit home watching Netflix every day of the week…and they’re not afraid of engaging with people,” says Wong. “We’ve found from going to events ourselves that we report greater satisfaction and feel more fulfilled as people when we can actually talk to someone and actually connect to the content in a way that you’re not just consuming.”
New Women Space
188 Woodpoint Rd.