From coworking space to online community, this B Corp stayed true to its values while navigating a capital raise, designing a flagship site, and - well - a pandemic.
In case you missed it, One Roof founder Sheree Rubinstein announced that she returned all capital to her investors so she could revisit her vision. In a world where less than 3% of venture capital goes to women, and a time when securing investors feels uncertain in itself (hello, COVID-19), it was no ordinary headline.
The story of One Roof is a remarkable one: what started as a pop-up space for female entrepreneurs quickly transformed into a co-working and event hub for hundreds of women in Melbourne’s Southbank. This year, it transformed yet again into a digital membership, offering access to an online community, events, mentoring, and more.
B Lab: There’s a big difference between using social media and actually building engaging, diverse, inclusive digital spaces that feel like a community. How familiar were you running with online communities before launching one yourself?
Sheree: For the last 5 years, One Roof has been about designing physical spaces and environments for women to thrive. I have always known that technology would be important to complement and enhance our co-working spaces, and our business model had always included the launch of a digital membership. But I had no prior experience in building an online community.
As soon as the pandemic hit I knew I needed to pivot and move fast. I launched a digital membership within 6 weeks. While “community” has always been at the core of One Roof, learning how to build and forge an online community has been a very new skill and an experience I am truly loving! I particularly love the intersection between tech and community building.
So instead of a complementary piece, online has really elbowed its way to the core of your business. Does it feel like a shift away from what you had planned to do with One Roof, or do you feel like you’re achieving a lot of the same things virtually?
I have always known physical space is limited in terms of capacity and location and that a virtual membership would allow for greater scalability across Australia and even globally. And, in many ways, our digital membership replicates everything we were doing in our co-working spaces.
At the One Roof co-working space we had a very tailored tour and onboarding experience. We now replicate this virtually with group onboarding calls and monthly business check-ins. We hosted weekly coffee catch-ups and workshops at the co-working space, and now we run a virtual coffee catch up and networking event every Monday and a virtual guest speaker workshop every Thursday. Our event topics range from Overcoming Imposter Syndrome to Hacking Happiness and How to Score Government Grants. At the co-working space, we offered in-person office hours with hand-picked industry experts. We now offer the same perk online.
We are also continuing to run our large scale events. For the last few years, we have hosted massive female founder pitch nights and struggled to find venues that can accommodate up to 600 attendees. This year we hosted it all virtually with great success. Next year we are hosting a large virtual conference on women’s taboo topics. We are now partnering with other co-working spaces to offer mailing addresses, meeting room use and to host in-person gatherings. And we have partnered with Mettle, a social enterprise gift delivery service that supports women who experience domestic violence, to design physical welcome self-care packs that are sent to our members' houses when they sign up. It’s the most beautiful way to welcome a member to One Roof.
In many ways, we are achieving a lot of the same things and now more.
Is there something that has been your ‘North Star’ for One Roof? Something that, no matter where you take it, is non-negotiable?
My North Star has always been my unwavering passion and dedication to elevating women in business. I feel so strongly about my mission that we need to level the playing field, close the gender gap and support women into positions of leadership. In fact, I knew what my purpose and mission were before I had worked out the business model.
As a result of the pandemic, we have had to pivot and shift the business model. I can imagine this may happen many times throughout my career but my underlying passion and motivation remain the same. I guess I am lucky to have discovered something I am so passionate about so early on in my career. It’s what keeps me going through the tough times and always acts as my foundation even when everything around us seems to be changing so quickly.
You’ve built One Roof by supporting women in their careers, whether that be through pitch nights or one-on-one mentoring. What lessons have you learned about how business leaders can better support women in the workplace?
If companies can harness the fact that we have been working from home for so much of this year and implement true flexibility in the workplace next year, then I believe this will be a gamechanger for women (and men!). To have ultimate flexibility to leave work early, drop off and pick up kids from school, attend to sick relatives, and take meetings while on the go would definitely help level the playing field.
Flexible working that doesn’t negatively impact career progression is a massive barrier to women’s success in the workplace.
I also strongly believe more money and resources need to be invested into leadership and career development at the early stages of women’s career journeys, not just once we have reached C Suite. Mentorship, leadership training and coaching to help navigate our career and business journey can make all the difference to achieving career progression and career success. I am launching another business in the new year based on this need to support emerging female leaders alongside running One Roof. Watch this space!
Deciding to become a B Corp so early in One Roof’s journey was a pretty big commitment. What about the movement stood out to you at the time - and why put all of that extra effort into certifying?
One Roof has always been driven by a clear mission, purpose and impact. It made perfect sense to apply for B Corp certification, not just to put a stamp on the business for everyone else to see, but also for us to work internally on our processes and values to ensure we were truly purpose-driven. The process of becoming B Corp certified really helps to embed these values and protocols.
I also wanted to surround myself with like-minded people and businesses. And it was a project a staff member was really passionate about and wanted to lead. It was great to give her the autonomy to decide what project she wanted to work on and to have achieved it so successfully for us. As the business has changed in some ways, I am actually getting excited to go through the recertification process.
For those entrepreneurs just starting their ventures and looking to embed purpose and values into their business models, do you have any pearls of wisdom?
Take the time to brainstorm and really work out what your business stands for, what your mission is, who your target audience is and the values you stand for. Then revisit this regularly and include your team in the process. If you find it hard to do this on your own, then engage experts to help. I can highly recommend Becky and Simon, cofounders of Harvey (of course a fellow B Corp team) who can support with strategic branding and marketing.
A special offer for the B Corp community
One Roof is now a digital community for entrepreneurial women on the rise. I'd love to offer the B Corp community our special friends discount. You can sign up for just $25 per month (and cancel anytime if needed). The majority of our members are women, but we also have men who love being involved in the community. The membership includes:
Welcome pack sent to your door thanks to Mettle Gifts
Access to a really engaged Member-Only Facebook group with regular Facebook live sessions interviewing experts and inspiring founders
Weekly guest speaker workshops
Weekly facilitated networking
Office hours with industry experts
Peer to peer mentoring
Opportunities to pitch your product or services and gain feedback
Visibility to our online community and database of over 25,000
Business mailing address, 2 x hour meeting room use per month at our partner co-working spaces
Weekly member-only newsletter
Online member directory