The future of business is female. That’s how Sheree Rubinstein sees it.
The CEO of One Roof, a co-working space in Melbourne for women-led businesses, is on a mission to help female founders and women in leadership roles to succeed.
During her career in corporate law, Rubinstein quickly realised how being female negatively impacted her chances of success.
“I was hugely ambitious and career-driven and was very frustrated by that reality. I wanted to change that,” she said.
She left her stable, well-paid job to explore how she could help women in the workforce.
“I had this passion for helping women. I started working on focus groups and asked women what they felt held them back in business and what they needed to succeed in business,” she said.
What came from that was the idea for One Roof.
Rubinstein began by running an MVP (minimum viable product) to test the concept and see if there was an appetite for a women-led co-working space.
She hired an Airbnb in St Kilda for one week and converted the home into a temporary co-working space.
The living room became the hot desk area, the bedroom became a meeting room and the kitchen was used for workshops.
Rubinstein also held meditation sessions in the morning, workshops led by experts in the afternoon, and events ran every evening for that all-important networking opportunity.
“The whole week was about networking, education, support and a place to come and work. We had 400 people come through the doors that week which showed us there was an appetite for it,” Rubinstein said.
In 2016, she signed a lease for a large building in Melbourne’s Southbank which has evolved into the One Roof co-working space as we know it today.
But One Roof is more than just a co-working space.
In addition to providing work space for women, it also offers events, networking, educational classes, one-on-one business coaching and meditation.
“We’re a co-working space built on community,” Rubinstein said.
“Our intention is to create the most nurturing and inspiring shared working space for women we can imagine.”
About 85 businesses work out of One Roof, and the businesses are all women-led or incorporate women in leadership roles.
The co-working space attracts women from a range of industries – from finance, to health, to recruitment and ecommerce – as well as a variety of roles. There’s everyone from the sole-trading freelancer to rapidly growing start-ups.
“Our mission is to remove the barriers for women to succeed in business,” Rubinstein said.
While women in business face numerous unique barriers, Rubinstein identified common and recurring challenges such as limited access to support and training, few networking opportunities and a lack of community.
She is constantly working to remove these barriers and feedback is regularly collected from One Roof members so that the co-working space can continually address the challenges faced by women in business.
“We run lots of community engagement events and workshops that really engage our members, whether that is drinks on Friday night or coffee Mondays. We constantly facilitate and create opportunities for people to connect,” she said.
But why is it so important to help women?
Rubinstein said beyond the systemic and cultural factors holding women back, she has noticed that women often lack confidence and are risk-adverse.
“Having the courage to leave a stable, well-paid job to do something I love was life-changing for me, and I want to see other women do the same,” she said.
“I think that the setbacks are very real and if we can encourage women and provide them with the right targeted tools and resources to thrive, it’s good for everyone; it’s good for the economy, good for society and good for the world.”
Rubinstein also wanted to create a working environment where women could easily support each other.
“You can come here and feel comfortable and at home. There is so much mentorship and support. We’ve got really strong values around support, community and innovation, and we attract people based on those values,” she said.
But Rubinstein is not satisfied to stop there.
She plans to have One Roof co-working spaces in each major city across the country and offer members the chance to move between city offices.
She’s also looking to build an investment fund focused on women-led businesses, where One Roof can be a pipeline for investors around Australia who want to support female-centric businesses and help them grow.
“Our goal is to be the number one trusted brand for women-led businesses in Australia,” she said.