Felena Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur and marketing maven. Her latest venture, Hera Hub, is a spa-inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs who need a productive, professional place to work on a flexible basis. She has three locations in San Diego County and is expanding nationally via a licensing model. She’s on a mission to support over 20,000 women in the launch and growth of their business by 2020.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
The motivation for my first business wasn’t because I came up with an amazing idea… but rather it was a way to take charge of my career path. The experience of going through three layoffs by the age of 30 (two companies sold and one ran out of money) forced me to take the reigns. Luckily I grew up in an entrepreneurial family so launching out on my own didn’t seem foreign to me.
In 2003 I launched Perspective Marketing, a boutique marketing strategy firm. I also taught college part-time and took leadership positions with several female-centric professional organizations.
I was turned on to the concept of coworking in 2010, when I hosted a networking event at San Diego’s first coworking space. The concept was new to me – working alone together. I often felt isolated working for myself and by myself; I missed having close colleagues. At the same time I found running my business out of my spare bedroom to sometimes be distracting… always a load of laundry to throw in or family matters to tend to.
I went all in, looking for commercial real estate while building the interest for a female-focused workspace. I started my research in July 2010 and officially opened August 2011. We opened the second location in October 2012 and the third in San Diego county July 2013. From there we have been expanding nationally and internationally via a licensing model.
Tell us about your business.
Hera Hub is a spa-inspired, shared workspace and business accelerator for female entrepreneurs. The coworking spaces provides members with not only a productive work environment but also gives them access to professional space to meet with clients and to connect and collaborate with like-minded business owners… thus giving them the support they need to be prosperous.
Cost-effective monthly membership options are suited for freelancers, independent consultants, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and authors. Hera Hub is much more than just a shared workspace; it’s a community of hundreds of entrepreneurial women who support one another through collaboration, resources, referrals, feedback and mentoring. We provide support such as special classes, workshops, and one-on-one coaching to serve women at every stage of business – ideation, launch, and growth. From our platform, new businesses have been spurred, funding secured and life-long friendships built.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
I’m proud of the fact that I’ve duplicated our business model several times and now am licensing the model internationally.
I’ve also been fortunate to receive recognition from several groups and publications
- “Women Who Mean Business Award” finalist – San Diego Business Journal, 2009 & 2012
- “Women Business Owner of the Year” winner – National Association of Women Business Owners, 2012
- “Women Who Move the City Award” finalist – San Diego Magazine, 2013 & 2014
- “Women Advocate of the Year” winner – National Association of Women Business Owners, 2014
- “Small Business Champion of the Year” winner – San Diego Small Business Administration, 2015
- “Fastest Growing Business Award” winner – National Latina Business Women’s Association, 2016
- “Cool Women Award” winner – Girl Scouts, 2017
Where is your business based?
We have three locations in Southern California. We have expanded to Phoenix, AZ, Washington, DC, and Sweden via a licensing model.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first step was leasing space, which proved to be a very challenging task. From there it was designing the space, sourcing all the furniture and fixtures, and then finally convincing my network to step out of their home office and give a spa-inspired coworking space a try!
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
The business has grown organically, through word of mouth. Our social media efforts are really just an extension of this. Our members are raving fans and thus love sharing the concept with their friends and network.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
The commercial real estate process was much more complex and challenging than I ever imagined. I had two strikes against me – new business & new concept… no one wanted to take a risk.
How did you overcome these challenges?
After nine months of negotiation and two failed lease negotiations (both in the eleventh hour), I am happy to say that the third time really is a charm! Through the support of my network I was was finally able to secure our first space, over 4,000 square feet in a very desirable location. It was double the size I had initially wanted, but I felt confident that the gamble would pay off.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I always remember… what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
It was May 6th, 1996 at about 9pm – I was exiting the freeway in Ocean Beach, California (via a bit of a blind intersection). A fire truck ran the red light at about 40 miles per hour and collided with my Jetta. No airbag, no lap belt, nothing. At 22 years old I came literally inches away from losing my life. It took the emergency crew well over an hour to pull the fire truck off my car with a crane and then use the Jaws of Life to pry me out. I was conscious, but in shock, the entire time. I broke well over 20 bones in my arms, legs, and face… including my clavicle and pelvic bone. The doctors told my father I would likely never run again.
It was a long road to recovery; I went through dozens of surgeries, some immediately, some in the following years. I still have residual challenges, as I have enough titanium in my body to build a small robot. I was in the hospital over a month and confined to a wheelchair for several months following. I defied the doctor’s predictions and have been running full and half marathons since 2006.
There are so many things one learns from an experience like this. The accident gave me an incredible perspective on life. This experience has given me the gumption and courage to try new things, think bigger, and live courageously. This inspired me to be venture out on my own, I wasn’t afraid to try new things anymore because I lived through the worst.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Most shared flex-workspaces fall into two categories – on one end there is the old school “business center” or “executive suite” model. Their inherent business model is privacy. Then on the other end of the spectrum are wide-open techy type coworking space. While there is a sense of community it’s not the “tribe” we serve. These spaces tend to scale young and male; some call them upscale frat houses.
Since Hera Hub is female-focused we’ve created a space that is beautiful, comfortable and feminine, yet also very professional. Our distinctly unique touches include soft lighting, tranquil fountains, candles and relaxing music.
Most coworking spaces support members via intermittent networking events and happy hours. While we like to have fun, we also have intensive education via classes, workshops and private events to be sure our members feel supported. We offer daily access to one-on-one mentoring through our business GURUS (subject-matter experts), weekly workshops for ongoing business development, and small group training programs. Finally we have two non-profit entities that provide additional resources for members and the broader business community – Hera Labs and our annual conference, the Hera Venture Summit.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
To get out of the way! With a team of five extremely capable women I’ve had to learn the hard way to let go. Given my prior business was me-myself-and-I, it’s been a process to only focus on leadership and not implementation.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
- Determination – anything is possible… at least for those that are dedicated to making it happen.
- Be passionate – nothing is worth doing if you don’t do it well.
- Be sincere – people see right through you.
- Trust your instincts – your first reaction to something is usually always right.
- Take everything head on – don’t be confrontational, but don’t avoid.
- Follow through – your word is everything.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Hands down – www.acuityscheduling.com.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We are expanding internationally through a licensing model. This has been an adventure to say the least… especially moving into markets like Sweden where the culture and political systems are fairly different. www.HeraHubExpansion.com
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We are focused on expansion in LA, OC, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.