new to hou

For women by women: New coworking space to open in Houston

SheSpace is planning to open in a new mixed-use facility just south of Interstate 10 near downtown. Image via shespacehtx.com

To Stephanie Tsuru, there is strength in numbers — especially, when women are involved.

"Women coming together is powerful," explains Tsuru, the founder of SheSpace, an all-women coworking space coming soon to The Heights that seeks to build a collective community of entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Mentorship and motivation were always part of Tsuru's purpose since the start of her career. Her background in healthcare and rehab gave her insight into how powerful mindset can be in a person's growth.

"I have always been involved and really driven by motivational psychology," she says.

Her affinity for mentorship continued as she went on to coach women in her own life. With her 35 years of life experience, Tsuru feels there is "no substitute for wisdom." Her passion for cultivating relationships and inspiring other women led her to want to create an environment where women could network and learn from mentors and peers.

"I really was passionate about leveraging mentoring on a big scale," she says.

From idea to innovation

SheSpace is run by Stephanie Tsuru and her daughter-in-law Katie. Photo courtesy of SheSpace

After a trip to Israel, Tsuru met two best friends — an Israeli woman and Palestinian woman — who teamed up to help at a local women's center. After touring the space and witnessing the collaboration, she left inspired.

"I was so blown away by what was happening in the center," she muses, "I knew I had to have a space for women."

She partnered with her daughter-in-law, Katie, who has assumed the role of CFO. She compares their relationship to the "Old Masters and Young Geniuses" model, first written about by David Galenson. While Tsuru brings the "life experience and wisdom," her daughter-in-law is the young innovator.

"She just looks at the world a little bit fresher," she admits, "This is the perfect combination."

For women, by women

The space was designed and set up by female professionals. Image via shespacehtx.com

Browse through architectural renderings and you'll find a chic industrial space with pops of color at every turn. An energizing palette of green, pink, orange and yellow effervescently leap from the walls. The space is donned with graphic patterns and motivational virtues that preach collaboration and empowerment. Behind every piece of drywall and design is the work of a woman.

"I started enlisting the best and the brightest females I could find. Now there's a team of about 23 women that have all come together in their various domains to put this together," she explains. From the architect to the drywall company, the soon-to-open space is entirely built by women-led companies.

Finding women in some industries was no easy feat for Tsuru, who was committed to her mission of empowering and collaborating with women for SheSpace's production. From the IT networking to the construction manager, every external and internal working of the company is female.

"I set out doing this not having any idea how hard it is to find women in some of these areas," she explains, "We are so proud to say that it's all women."

Intentionality in design

SheSpace will have a cafe for refueling. Image via shespacehtx.com

Female intentionality doesn't mean an all-pink space—it's designs focused on women to help excel their productivity. From a lactation room to the artwork, women are at the center of the design.

According to the Office on Women's Health, no employer is required to have a lactation room, which is an issue that can plague working moms. From bathrooms to storage closets, women in some companies have had to be creative while the workforce catches up to design needs.

SheSpace created a lactation room, designed with a lock for privacy and individual, portable fridges available for nursing women to store breast milk.

"It's the prettiest room, it's beautiful, calming it's very serene. Women can go in there and just kind of catch their breath and use their breast pump," says Tsuru.

Personal and professional branding has become a central role in business ownership. The influencer space is 77 percent women, and continues to grow with the emergence of platforms like TikTok. SheSpace is equipped with a professional podcast recording room as well as an influencer nook.

The space also exhibits the talents of women by incorporating an book niche featuring all-female authors as well as a "SheShop," a pop-up shop where female-business owners can showcase and sell their products.

The power of female collaboration

SheSpace will have several rooms for different purposes — meetings, podcasting, privacy, etc. Image via shespacehtx.com

Coworking spaces have been on the rise in Houston over the last several years. From popular global brands like WeWork to small startups, the trend has consistently been on the rise.

Rather than compete with to co-ed spaces, Tsuru has kept women in mind from the beginning. "Women tend to dream smaller than men. While we strenuously support small businesses, the trend we see is women often do not aim high enough. When networking with women in positions of power we see a measurable shift in goals," she explains.

The comradery of women working alongside each other is a huge asset in Tsuru's eyes.

"Women understand women. There is an implicit understanding that already exists that you don't have to explain," she explains, noting that shared experienced bring women together.

There's also an understanding that women can be themselves without having to face the judgment of their male peers.

"It's also a comfort level that women can be themselves, that they can act [like] themselves. They don't have to talk a certain way. They don't have to sit a certain way. They find their voice when they're surrounded by women," shares Tsuru.

Tapping into collaboration, Tsuru is most excited for the educational workshops and networking opportunities that will come to the space. From public speaking to organizing finances, the space has an agenda planned for its upcoming launch.

"It's all about building confidence and you're in a nice supported environment. It's the perfect place to do that," explains Tsuru. "With that comes everything else, the networking and the flow of ideas...it's a huge resource center. No matter who you're looking for, we have a resource directory," she continues.

Transitioning amid COVID-19

SheSpace will be opening in Lower Heights, a 24-acre mixed-use district. Image courtesy of Gulf Coast Commercial Group

One of the benefits of being built during a pandemic, is the ability to keep new social distancing rules and considerations in mind. While Tsuru and her team have been able to anticipate life in a COVID-19 world, they've adjusted the space to include features like a lock on the lactation room door and individualized amenities.

As SheSpace has transitioned, so are women going through the pandemic and other phases of their lives. "There are all these women that are now office-less. They couldn't afford the overhead of the big office and where were they going to go?" says Tsuru. Women who want a space outside of their home five days a week can also utilize the vibrant, collaborative space and make it their own.

Above all, Tsuru hopes the space can be an aid to the women of Houston. "We're just in a moment of interruption, just the entire nation. I do think this is going to be a big place of healing for women," she shares.

SheSpace will be located at 2799 Katy Freeway in the Lower Heights district. Follow SheSpace to stay updated on the details of its launch.

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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Thomas Vassiliades of BiVACOR, Katie Mehnert of ALLY Energy, and Don Whaley of OhmConnect Texas. Courtesy photos

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know — the first of this new year — I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health care innovation to energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Thomas Vassiliades, CEO of BiVACOR

BiVACOR named Thomas Vassiliades as CEO effective immediately. Photo courtesy of BiVACOR

Thomas Vassiliades has been named CEO of BiVACOR, and he replaces the company's founder, Daniel Timms, in the position. BiVACOR is on track to head toward human clinical trials and commercialization, and Vassiliades is tasked with leading the way.

Vassiliades has over 30 years of experience within the medical device industry as well as cardiothoracic surgery. He was most recently the general manager of the surgery and heart failure business at Abiomed and held several leadership roles at Medtronic. Dr. Vassiliades received his MD from the University of North Carolina, and his MBA was achieved with distinction at Emory University.

“I am excited and honored to join the BiVACOR team, working closely with Daniel and the entire team as we look forward to bringing this life-changing technology to the market,” says Dr. Vassiliades in the release. “Throughout my career, I’ve been guided by the goal of bringing innovative cardiovascular therapies to the market to improve patient care and outcomes – providing solutions for those that don’t have one. BiVACOR is uniquely well-positioned to provide long-term therapy for patients with severe biventricular heart failure.” Click here to read more.

Katie Mehnert, CEO and founder of ALLY Energy

Katie Mehnert joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the future of energy amid a pandemic, climate change, the Great Resignation, and more. Photo via Katie Mehnert

Katie Mehnert started ALLY Energy — originally founded as Pink Petro — to move forward DEI initiatives, and she says she started with building an audience first and foremost, but now the technology part of the platform has fallen into place too. Last summer, ALLY Energy acquired Clean Energy Social, which meant doubling its community while also onboarding new technology. On the episode, Mehnert reveals that this new website and platform is now up and running.

"We launched the integrated product a few weeks back," Mehnert says. "The whole goal was to move away from technology that wasn't serving us."

Now, moving into the new year, Mehnert is building the team the company needs. She says she hopes to grow ALLY from two employees to 10 by the end of the year and is looking for personnel within customer support, product developers, and sales and service. While ALLY is revenue generating, she also hopes to fundraise to further support scaling. Click here to read more.

Don Whaley, president at OhmConnect Texas

Texas is about a month away from the anniversary of Winter Storm Uri — would the state fair better if it saw a repeat in 2022? Photo courtesy

The state of Texas is about a month away from the one year anniversary of Winter Storm Uri — but is the state better prepared this winter season? Don Whaley, president at OhmConnect Texas, looked at where the state is now versus then in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"Governor Abbott has gone on record guaranteeing that the lights will stay on this winter, and I am inclined to agree. With the reinforcement of our fuel systems being mandated by the Railroad Commission, 2023 to 2025 should receive the same guarantee," he writes. "Beyond that, as the demand for electricity in Texas continues to grow, we will need to rely on the initiatives under consideration by the PUCT to attract investment and innovation in new, dispatchable generation and flexible demand solutions to ensure long-term stability in the ERCOT market.

Whaley has worked for over 40 years in the natural gas, electricity, and renewables industries, with specific experience in deregulated markets across the U.S. and Canada. He founded Direct Energy Texas and served as its president during the early years of deregulation. Click here to read more.

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