Joanna Bailey is an expert when it comes to creating a vision.
Tired of allowing someone else’s vision of success drive her work, she set out to create her own purpose. Today, Joanna empowers women through co-working. Despite the resistance she got from some, her vision, team and a few key lessons learned helped her rise to the top.
We asked Joanna about what it took to get her company up and running. If you’re thinking about creating a global company, you’ll want to read this interview for a behind-the-scenes look at what it took for Joanna to launch COTERIE. Don’t forget to check out Joanna’s page and her mission-driven company.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a multi-passion entrepreneur, mom, foodie, avid reader, wanderluster, designer of many things, and Southern woman at heart. I am also the Founder of COTERIE Company, the first global brand of female-focused co-working communities.
What inspired you to start your own company?
I was working in the corporate world and rather than define my success by my results, I was forced to adhere to someone else’s vision of success. And this was in large part, based on the number of hours I spent in the office, which took away from spending more time with my oldest child.
My son was in kindergarten and I decided that no one else would tell me what my priorities would be. That was 16 years ago, and it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
What did it take to get your business up and running? What did the timeline look like?
Vision was key. With a vision of empowering women to reach their full potential in life, we rose together.
Developing the foundation of the company and the framework of the infrastructure took me about 9 months. The core team came into play at that point, bringing talent and passion to the table
Financing would have been nice, but that’s challenging for female founders. COTERIE intends to play a role in that solution (stay tuned). Instead, we made the decision to get out there and sell. Awareness, education about our offerings, and expanding our relationships in each community were key to opening doors. That and a lot of flexibility.
Staying close to your vision, but remaining open to how it comes together… that saved us. The timeline ran about 3 months longer than my initial vision. Commercial real estate is a wild business, and it took longer to seal our initial deals than I anticipated. We now know what works in pitching owners.
How did you initially become interested in the concept of co-working and what do you believe is its greatest value?
I had the opportunity to consult on a co-working concept three years ago, and really enjoyed learning about the industry. At the time it struck a chord with me, and a seed was planted.
Community is definitely the greatest value of co-working. With a rapidly increasing number of people in the mobile and independent workforce, it’s time to reimagine the solutions for those individuals. Co-working is the answer to many of the issues that the population deals with. It provides a network, resources, engagement, and collaboration.
What did you consider when choosing a location and space?
I looked for ease of access, character, a great neighborhood, a building that we can grow with, outdoor space, ample natural light, and if there was parking… that was icing on the cake!
Did you face any kind of resistance? If so, what kind of resistance did you face and how did you overcome it?
Did I mention the financing piece? Banks wouldn’t touch the business plan. VC hunting didn’t make sense to me from the start; because we’re a mission driven company I knew that I would be the one chasing unicorns, and I didn’t have time for that. We spent about 6 months debating which would come first… the money or the location. Eventually my determination along with a great pitch meeting brought the right owner into play, who chose to take a chance on COTERIE’s vision and offered us a lease. That was our greatest hurdle. The feedback from women in each community was astonishingly enthusiastic. Women from all ages, backgrounds and interest groups started calling. It was validating on so many levels.
Are there any seemingly unrelated experiences you had in the past that now looking back really contributed to your success today?
#1. Be kind to people; you never know what they’re dealing with.
#2. Hard work pays off. If you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to build your vision, don’t bother starting. It takes all you have and then some.
#3. You have to be willing to ignore the static… the naysayers, the people who doubt your ability/intention/vision, the voices in your head that tell you all the reasons you’ll fail. I was reminded a few times that those who do, do. And those who don’t, doubt. I’m a doer, and not afraid of failing.
What advice would you give to other aspiring Entrepreneurs?
Don’t quit. Keep going. When you think you can’t take any more, close your computer, go outside and drink in the outdoors. Sleep, eat well, call someone who makes you laugh. Get away from your work for a bit. When you go back to the table, you’ll be ready to tackle the next set of challenges.
Know that most people will not see what you see. Own that, and move forward anyway. There’s a big difference between critical insight that contributes to your development, and crippling criticism.
Choose your advisors wisely. Be ready to be humbled. When you choose your team (they really choose you), you’ll surrender many things. That’s less about control and more about accepting their gifts; it takes a minute to own that generosity. I look at my team daily and thank God they choose to be here. COTERIE is already better because of each of them.
Most of all, stay connected to why you started. In the moments that feel crushing, your ‘why’ will pull you through.