[00.55] Julia Westfall Background and The idea to build Hera Hub
Well, I have kind of an interesting background. I started out in technology. I was systems engineer and sales rep for IBM. I left IBM and went to a company called Wang Laboratories. They were another minicomputer company along '80. I've had a long career and I was living in Georgia at the time in Atlanta. Then, I moved to DC to open the first PC retail store of any major manufacturer.
This was when pcs were first out and they were large clunky things all floppy disk based. I was working for Wang laboratories in Atlanta. They said, "Does anybody want to open a retail store and sell pcs?" I said, "yeah, I do!" I moved up here to Washington DC. I did that for a number of years. Then I worked in large accountants. You may not be familiar with Wang laboratories but they were back in the many computers and mainframe computers.
HP and Dell and a lot of those other companies were just getting started. Wang, unfortunately, went out of business and after rounds of layoffs and things like that I ended up getting out of that business. I spent took that what I had learned by working with small businesses through selling them computers and computer applications.
I started working for small businesses helping them with their accounting and their bookkeeping and their human resources. I did that for many years. I loved working with small businesses because you could just learn so much and there was a lot of energy around small businesses. I felt like I could really help these small business owners so I did that for many years. I also helped start a charter school and a lot of different things. I guess it was in 2010 marketing communications company based in Maryland and I was their director finance and HR. I always felt like there was something else that I wanted to do before I retired but I just wasn't quite ready to say this is my last job.
I read an article online about Hera hub in San Diego and the founder Felena Hanson who's located there. I read about what she was building and I thought wow this seems really amazing to me. I just loved the fact that it was working with a lot of small businesses again which I really enjoyed and I felt like it was a time in my career that I could offer something back to the community because I had so much exposure and experienced all different kinds of businesses so I took the plunge in April 2014 I bought franchise. It was the first franchisee.
Felena already built it in three locations in San Diego California. I bought the rights to build a location here. It was very helpful. It was really great. I opened my doors two and a half years ago and I'm very excited about the community we have here, space and how it's working out and all the people I've connected with and being able to meet and work with and support. It's just been really incredibly amazing.
The Hera hub philosophy and mission, the values are really really great. We've just opened another Hera hub in Uppsala Sweden in August and we're going to have another one opening in Phoenix, hopefully by February. We hope we'll have more worldwide and domestic locations. We're all connected and support each branch. It's a broader community than just our local community.
[06.20] The Hera Hub Incubator
Hera Hub has an Incubator called Hera Labs in San Diego. I'm hoping to bring that here to DC at some point or something similar. They also have Hera Venture and Hera Angels which is an angel venture segment, where they do a lot of work helping to connect investors and founder that need a support and investment support. They're really leading the charge in a lot of ways out in San Diego and we'll be adding different services like that in DC.
[07.39] The Typical Demographic Hera Hub Member
Hera Hub DC have all different kinds of members with different types of businesses. We do have lawyers. We have people with marketing companies. We have climate change experts. We have a woman building power plants in Africa and video producers.
It's just a huge mixture and more female focus. We're not exclusively female, we do have some men members. They come and work here. We've had male interns. If a gentleman wanted to be part of our community is welcome but I think our model is to build a space where women feel comfortable.
[08.50] The Woman Entrepreneurship Landscape in the United States
The DC community area is really trying to support women entrepreneurs. I have a number of initiatives and things like that which I think are really great but there's still struggling. Sometimes when women try to do a lot of different things because they either have family or maybe young children or maybe they're caring for their parents or whatever so they're trying to work part-time. They're really serious about their profession. I think a lot of times people don't think that's the case. I think if somebody's trying to work part-time that they're not serious and I disagree completely. I think people who are trying to work part-time are much more serious about getting the work done when they need to get it done.
I think sometimes there's a feeling that women don't take their work as seriously. I think that cost some people to kind of discount what women can bring it to the table. The women that are part of my community in DC that I met and I support really have these amazing jobs and great background. DC is really trying to support women entrepreneurs.
I think that the climate is changing now because I think there's a lot more discussion now. Especially with some of the issues that have come up about sexual harassment and stuff in the tech world. I think it's great to have those conversations so we can figure out how to create a better environment for people men and women. Men sometimes don't even like being part of that.
Some men also see what happens to women and don't like that either. Some men are saying it isn't fair, the women are valuable and part of our community. I think as long as we're having that discussion and try to make some progress.
[12.00] The Hera Hub Licensing Model
A licensing model is the best of resources and experience of Felena had. She's put together fabulous programs. She's figured out all the branding stuff, what kind of furnishings work, what kind of marketing programs you should have. She's been doing this for a really long time not only with Hera Hub but she was in marketing. She had her own marketing company for years.
She did a lot of work with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship at a university in San Diego. What you really get when you buy into this model as you get the benefit of all of the hard work that she's done in the past. You don't have to repeat mistakes and start from scratch. I don't really think that I would have done this if I had to start from the very beginning because I just would have taken too long.
[13.25] Licensing Fee
There are a licensing fee and monthly fees associated with it. It's ongoing and flat fee instead of being a royalty based upon your gross sales. It's how they recoup and use that money to support. We had a whole website redesign last summer and there's a lot of benefit to being part of a broader community.
We do have the flexibility in certain things. We can make some adjustments which are what makes it work for the city that we're in. A lot of the other types of things come from Hera Hub HQ, San Diego. We have a choice to do it or not do it certain things we have to do by using a certain member system but I'm glad I don't have to figure that out.
[15.06] The Architecture and the Interior
Hera Hub has branding color, it's the brown and the blue. You just have to keep a similar sort of vibe and feel. We need green plants because that's really important to have live plants. She doesn't really dictate too much but you have to stay within a certain aesthetic so that when people walk into Hera Hub in DC or they walk in the Hera hub in Sweden it's gonna feel very similar.
[16.00] Consulting about Landlord
The landlord and the lease is mine business, the negotiating. But the layout and other things I get guiding from Hera Hub HQ.
[16.38] What If the Franchise fail
There's no guarantee it will succeed. I get a lot of support from Hera Hub HQ but it's up to me to make it work here in Washington DC.
[17.54] The Unique Selling Point of Hera Hub DC
The biggest difference is the community and the connections that we make. A lot of the biggest piece that we do here is build a really strong community. I get to know what everybody's business is, what kind of needs they have, who's their customer how can I help. So, I know how to help them with their business whether it's connecting them to another Hera hub member that might be a strategic partner to help them. Or it might be somebody outside of my community that I've met that can help one of my members.
I really feel that that makes us really different than a lot of the of the other coworking spaces outside. Even Felena reaches out and always looking for opportunities for all the members to help them with their businesses. I think that that's the big difference of what we do. This community is very supportive for all members and really works hard to help them be successful. They also provide a place for them to work.
We're having a six weeks sessions with a woman who has a company called Angel Venture Forum in early September. We're doing all these educational series with her to educate men and women about angel funding, what does it mean, what does your business need to look like in order to make it attractive to an investor.
[20.33] The Future Plan of Hera Hub DC
It's interesting. The whole coworking model and shared workspace model are really evolving. We Work and Verizon which is a large phone company. It's now empty spaces there. Since the technology for phone systems is so changed. They have these huge office space that's empty. They're trying those things in the coworking spaces.
I think it's gonna be interesting to see how coworking shared workspace involves but I'd like to see more locations in the DC area because I think it's important for this type of model be successful. It's important to have kind of located where your members are. I'm in DC and a lot of people that live in Virginia find it hard to commute to DC. So, I get a lot of people in Virginia saying, "When are you gonna open space in Virginia?"
So, I would see few additional locations in the area and I think we always have to be cognizant of what's going on in in a bigger picture of the industry of shared workspace to make sure that we're keeping up with that and we're staying current and being innovative in the products and programs that we offer.
The song is by Ketsa Work under CC license.