FOUNDERS | Rachel Kelly of Make Lemonade
We love entrepreneurs and we especially love this one! We’ve all heard the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. That same positive attitude is reflected through Make Lemonade’s founder, Rachel Kelly. Make Lemonade is a design-forward coworking space located in Toronto, Ontario primarily geared at allowing women-identifying people a home away from home in a safe, welcoming community to get shi*t done. Don’t worry though, male-identifying people are welcome to utilize the space as well. Members can customize their workspace needs with a variety of plans offered to accommodate everyone from the casual employee to the busy boss. Located at 326 Adelaide St. West, the penthouse office is accessible by elevator and is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Want to see what the space looks like in action during one of its Lemon Mixers? Check out the video we made for the Toronto Entertainment District!
Make Lemonade started as a women-focused co-working space, but in a short time it has become more inclusive. Why the change?
With any great initiative with the right intentions, there can always be areas that can be tweaked to better the experience for all. For us, our big change was our “welcome wall”. We transitioned from saying “she believes” to “we believe”. It’s subtle but has a massive impact. “She” assumes that everyone who enters Make Lemonade uses she/her pronouns, whereas “we” opens the doors for everyone and anyone. Also, we’re a community! It only made sense to include everyone. We say you don’t have to be a member to drink the lemonade, and, we’re a community, not a club.
When did you realize there was a need to create a workspace catering to women-identifying people? What sparked the idea?
When the idea emerged, I was part of an online community for nomads and entrepreneurs and I noticed a trend: the women in the group were the ones initiating the conversation and providing the most engagement. I realized that some of the more meaningful conversations I was a part of were online…and I wanted that to be in person. Why shouldn’t we meet in real life?
The stats are there: women are less likely to apply for opportunities that they are more qualified for than male counterparts. In fact, a local company shared this: In year one of their accelerator, the applications made by women were less than 50%, however in year two, when they made a specific call out for women applicants, the applications were through the roof. Women have had to work twice as hard to earn the same respect, rights, and equality. Spaces made for women means so much more than a nice aesthetic and rooms with fancy makeup mirrors. When an environment says “hey this has been made with you in mind” it indicates that just by being you, you can be here. Come as you are. On paper or not, you are qualified to be here.
What inspired the idea of combining a co-working space with community and educational opportunities? Why is that important?
As with a lot of business owners, the journey is so personal. So, as Make Lemonade started to grow, and the more people I connected with, the journey and experiences intertwined. Make Lemonade is my first business and there are so many lessons that I learned the very very hard way. So often I’d find myself searching for the “silver bullet” or wishing I didn’t need to read a hundred business books to understand that all the hard decisions need to be made from the gut. So, after 2 years of running Make Lemonade, I listened to what our community was asking for: tools to start your business. Business 101 is a series of 4 online classes that break down the fundamentals for Sales, Branding, Operations, and Finances. These areas are so essential to growing a sustainable business and it’s what I wish I had the foundation for at the beginning. Make Lemonade serves a lot of solopreneurs and small business owners, so it was only natural to provide this resource.
Since launching in 2017, which community event or impact are you most proud of being a part of?
This one! This started out as a community of one and collectively, online, in person and everywhere in between, Make Lemonade has grown into a community of over 20,000 people. I’m so proud that my loneliness and my craving to be part of something more than just what lived inside my imagination has transformed into this movement of people supporting people. It’s hard to imagine that merely 2 years ago, this place didn’t exist, now, we’re part of people’s daily routines. How amazing is that?
Aside from your incredible work with Make Lemonade, do you have any other cool passion projects, hobbies or interests?
I used to run a series called Detox to Retox with one of my best pals, Ashley Lewis. It was a monthly event we would host at different local breweries: yoga class to start, and an educational beer tasting to finish! Now, my life is a little different: almost all of my time is committed to making sure this business is built to last forever. I do so much personal and professional development within my day to day here, it’s hard to determine where one passion starts and the other finishes. I recently got into weight training with All Day Fit – an amazing community run by, you guessed it, a community member I met through Make Lemonade. I think now, all of my passions intertwine, and some of them directly relate to the business and others to making me happy. At the end of that day that’s all I want to be: happy.
Have you created the community you envisioned when you started Make Lemonade or do you think there’s work to be done with women supporting women entrepreneurs in creative/tech/other industries?
To be completely honest, when I was starting out with Make Lemonade, I completely forgot about the community part. I was so focused on getting the paint on the walls and the wifi hooked up that I forgot it was the people that this whole shindig was all about. So, the community is more than I could have ever imagined. Now though, seeing the impact we’ve made, I know this is just the beginning.
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