Money, Women Coworking Space

Christina Calabrese and Amanda Diehl pose for a photo Wednesday afternoon at the Bozeman Public Library.

When Christina Calabrese heard about a women’s coworking space opening in New York City, she said she felt homesick for the city for the first time since moving to Montana.

“It seemed like such a valuable way of getting people together,” she said.

Calabrese, who works in real estate in Big Sky, said she has missed the networking and relationship-building opportunities more prevalent in bigger cities. After talking to more women, she found others felt the same way and decided to found a women’s coworking space in the Cannery District with her partner, Amanda Diehl.

Called Sky Oro, the coworking space will be for remote workers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Working professionals and stay-at-home moms alike can sign up to be members and attend the multiple monthly events it will put on.

A full-time membership with access to the coworking space costs $1,300 for an individual, $1,100 for a small business consisting of two or more workers or $1,000 for a nonprofit. A community membership, for weekly events only, costs $1,080. Prices will go up after the initial fundraising period, which ends on June 7.

While men are welcome to join, Sky Oro will be women-centric and designed to help women succeed through relationships and collaboration, Calabrese said.

She and Diehl met last August and started planning for the space in January. They were able to raise money largely through a crowdfunding platform called iFund Women. As of May 29, they had 117 members and raised more than $117,000. If all goes according to plan, the space will open in September.

After doing research, the two women saw a need. There are more than 1,900 women-owned businesses in Bozeman, according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners, and more than 10,000 working women, according to the 2011-2015 American Community Survey Population Estimate.

And as more remote workers move to Bozeman, the demand for flexible workspaces is increasing. With long winters, it’s a place that can feel isolating for people who work from home, Diehl said. She is an account executive for a software development company, and she said she often found her creativity and energy levels plummeting after moving to Bozeman from Helena to work remotely.

In the winter, especially, she found that she’d spend the whole day at home, and by the time she was done with work and had eaten dinner with her partner, it would be dark and the day was done.

And despite having an advanced degree and plenty of experience, she said spending so much time alone sometimes made her get stuck in her head and question her capability.

“I often found myself doubting myself,” she said. “It made things a lot smaller for me.”

While people move here to get away from the hubbub of living in a bigger city, the quality of life and for access to the outdoors, they still need human connection, Calabrese said.

That’s why the focus of Sky Oro will be on relationships first, she said, offering a wide variety of learning and bonding activities. Many women are also so busy they don’t have time to join something with a regular commitment, like a book or hiking club, so she said she thinks having an array of choices to participate in will be appealing.

“Our focus on women is we are powerful when we are together,” Diehl said.

Many female entrepreneurs Diehl and Calabrese have spoken with are looking for opportunities to work with other businesses but haven’t been able to make connections with the right people. The founders of Sky Oro hope to accelerate those connections.

Women have also told them that job creation is important to them. The American Express 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found that while Montana was the 32nd state in the nation for growth of women-owned businesses in the past 20 years, it was seventh for jobs created by women-owned businesses, representing 57% of growth. By elevating women, Diehl and Calabrese hope to create more jobs and economic growth in Bozeman.

“There is so much potential energy that’s buzzing around town, but if you capture it in this kind of space, you start to see progress,” Calabrese said.

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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