CEO and Founder
We think we have all this time but we don't. So I couldn't spend another second without being passionate about my work.
Grace Kraaijvanger is now on her third career. She tells us: “I started dancing when I was three. I danced pro until I was about 30 and when I had my second child it became very difficult to stay at that level as a dancer and take care of my kids. It was difficult to be an artist and a mom of two.” So Grace went into marketing, working for a number of Silicon Valley firms, including Intuit and Oracle. She recalls: “I was good at it and it was interesting but what I really missed there, especially when I worked remotely, from home, was that creative community that I had as a dancer. I had this craving for when I was at rehearsals with the dancers and the musicians, the set designers, the costume designers. There was an energy in the space and I missed that energy.”
As she attempted to rediscover this atmosphere, the idea for The Hivery began to take shape in her mind. Then one day she was talking to a friend about it, who said: “You told me about this idea 10 years ago. So what are you waiting for?” That was the trigger. Grace explains: “I’d just lost my mom. She had just died two years before. She had lived with me and I had taken care of her, so I've been close to this idea that we think we have all this time but we don't. So I couldn't spend another second without being passionate about my work.”
The former dancer has a lot of determination and she is not afraid of hard work: that’s rooted in her DNA. She recalls: “I sent myself to ballet school by selling candy when I was a freshman in high school. I used to sell candy bars so that I could go away for the summer to study at an art school.” Grace also firmly believes in the need to fulfil oneself. “You should have it all! Not to be perfect but to step into your deepest potential. If you don’t, the world doesn’t get to benefit from your potential,” she argues. And it was this desire to help others in their quest for self-fulfilment that prompted her to set up The Hivery almost five years ago.
An inspiring environment
The Hivery – a name derived from a bee hive – is a community of women entrepreneurs and a co-working space. Its mission is to “elevate women’s voices,” explains Grace Kraaijvanger, adding that the co-working space provides “the transportation for this deeper meaning of what we're trying to create, so it offers all of the metaphor for what we believe in for women and it also meets this very practical need for space and connection.” As soon as you walk inside, the community and its ideals leap out at you. On the wall on the right, there are books written by members; on the left are smiling photos of the women who are part of this network, with their names and professional activities. There is an image of a woman leaping from a diving board, in another wall the caption: Be brave, be you. The space is brightly lit, as Grace puts it: “Bold and highly visible, it helps women to step in.” She stresses that “a new chapter can feel scary but the flow and energy change the emotional aspect. Community overcomes fear.” The layout and the décor are striking. Grace is quick to stress however that “the aesthetic aspect matters but the deeper feeling is what is important.” Just as with professional dancing, “the technique gets you on to the stage but the ability to connect with your audience is what makes you an artist.” The environment at Mill Valley is also conducive to relaxation – “You can go for a hike in the lunch break.” In short, The Hivery is “not just a place to put your laptop.” Grace believes that isolation can be a negative factor and that a feeling of belonging to a community, of being supported, assisted, and mentored can help to overcome the fear of the unknown. The aim of the initiative is that the 400 members should feel inspired to be creative and to undertake a project. Every day, around 50 people come to work at The Hivery, mainly women, but the space is also open to men who feel at ease in this predominantly female environment. Grace underlines: “I don’t believe in discrimination. I believe in the movement for women.” Having had to leave her comfort zone to open The Hivery and managed to make a profit in the first year, she intends to enable as many people as possible to benefit from her experience.
at The Hivery
“Some members have thriving, successful businesses with all their clients or business partners or cofounders met at The Hivery,” points out Grace Kraaijvanger. One example is the collaboration between Anne LaFollette and Kim Thompson Steel, who decided to work together on an arts project after meeting at The Hivery. With a view to fostering this kind of interaction, The Hivery also hosts events and workshops, runs meditation classes and mentoring sessions, offers coaching programmes and individual consultations and invites authors to talk about their work.
In addition, in a bid to make an even greater impact, Grace has just launched a digital subscription available all over the world. The way this virtual membership works, she explains, is that “you have access to our community, you can leverage the community – mentors and mentees, if you’re looking for funding. Plus, they also have access to livestreaming or recording of the events. People want to feel they belong to something they believe in,” she underlines. The Hivery also runs an annual event called the Entrepreneur and Inspiration Lab, a one-day conference with hands-on workshops , the third of which is scheduled for 14 October this year. Again, the main aim is to inspire women and provide them with the tools to enable them to take a step into the unknown and make an impact in their turn.
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Asked how she sees the organisation of work in the future, Grace Kraaijvanger remarks that “people talk about the gig economy, which basically means working for yourself.” She agrees that people nowadays “want to reconnect with their creativity and do work that has meaning.” So there are likely to be “more independent professionals in the workforce but nothing will replace human links and the need for connection will still be there,” she argues. In fact, Grace works from home one day a week because she believes in balance – some “quiet, solo time” but also needs to have a sense of belonging as well. “What we’re all craving is connection and I do believe that these spaces (like The Hivery) are a solution,” she tells us.
So what will The Hivery look like in five years? Grace would like to “bring The Hivery to other places. We hope to announce a new space in San Francisco soon. However, we want to make sure we stay grounded in our values. If we were just a coworking space we would have grown much faster but it was important for me that we had a deeper ground,” she explains. While The Hivery will most probably have more spaces in future, Grace is very clear that “the metric of success is not the number of locations but the impact that we have.”
Whatever happens next, the story of this ‘hive of activity’ and of its founder already serve as a compelling example for the would-be entrepreneurs who join the network.