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.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.