In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I am Grace Kraaijvanger, founder of The Hivery, a creative and collaborative coworking space designed to support women throughout all phases and stages of their professional lives. We offer programming and mentorship designed to cultivate meaningful personal and professional relationships, instill a greater sense of self-worth and foster professional confidence. Our mission: to unleash the unique potential of every woman.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur means to be an artist of life. To be willing to take big risks, because of the deep belief in creating things that matter. The passion for building, the determination to stick it out, the creativity to think differently and be willing to pivot, and the “blessed unrest” to express who you really are. Building a business is just like art -- the only way to get there is to embrace the messy parts, show up consistently, and know that there is no other way for you to be who you are but to do what you do.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
After we’d been in business for a little over a year, and were finally starting to get our “sea legs” (i.e. profitable, with a validated concept), we lost our lease. We had sixty days to find a new home. I felt a big sense of responsibility to offer our community and members both a seamless experience and a beautiful new place to work. Real estate in the Bay Area is tough, so finding a new home in 60 days seemed impossible.
Among the first spaces that I looked at was a former dance studio with a skylight atrium in the shape of a honeycomb...a perfect home for The Hivery and the one we are in today. What initially felt like a business nightmare had a serendipitous happy ending that propelled our business into larger growth. You know what they say about ‘life giving you lemons’...our new Hivery HQ is definitely the lemonade.
What’s the problem you are attacking now?
The world needs more places devoted to helping women create, grow and lead. It is my intention to create “Hiveries” all over the world. Since launch, we have been a catalyst for women starting businesses, hiring each other, working together, investing in each other, going back to work, and experiencing positive transformation. To me, the most valuable part of The Hivery is the moment when a woman steps outside of herself and is met by a community of supportive women. This is where the real stuff happens.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you?
The biggest thing that being an entrepreneur has taught me is that we often know the answer all along, we’re just not ready to accept it yet. So often I’ve chosen a path or made a decision and then subsequently dissected it, taken it apart, changed tack, and then come full-circle right back to the original idea. I chalk that up to the creative process. We have an idea, we express it, we reject it, we hold it up to the light, and then we embrace it again. Entrepreneurial decision-making is like the exhilarating and agonizing process of making art. In the end, it comes down to what’s in your deepest intuition. As I mature, I’m learning to trust it faster.
How has your leadership style evolved?
The first time someone called me a CEO, I looked around to see who they were talking about. I was creating my business with a ferocious passion, and making strategic decisions every day, but I hadn’t accepted that title. I’ve learned that I’m the best leader when I’m grounded and calm, making decisions from my gut, and not from being reactionary. I’ve become a better listener, and I’ve learned to roll with the flow. I no longer believe that I can plan or anticipate everything. I’ve learned to trust that when things don’t go according to plan, something that I never dreamed possible is waiting for me down that unexpected path.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
I believe in this quote by revolutionary modern dance choreographer Martha Graham so deeply that it’s a typographic design element in our atrium. I’ve read it thousands of times and feel that it holds all the truths:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” -- Martha Graham