By Meghan Hall
The rise of coworking spaces has made it easier for startups and entrepreneurs to benefit from innovative clusters that were previously one of the main benefits of working for established companies in the corporate sphere. Remote workers, for the first time, can exchange their kitchen counters or living room couches for the supportive environment provided by flexible work spaces. Many coworking spaces offer, in addition to space, programs and networking events to help users further themselves professionally, but one savvy female entrepreneur, The Riveter’s Amy Nelson noticed that most, as is the case with much of corporate America, were run primarily by men.
“I was a corporate litigator and also a political fundraiser. In both law and politics over the course of my career, I noticed more and more that as I looked up, I didn’t see many women,” explained Nelson. “I always wondered why, and it always bothered me, and the more senior I became, the more it bothered me.”
That initial observation led Nelson to establish The Riveter, a female-centric coworking space, in Seattle in 2017 with co-founder Kim Peltola. Nelson’s observations are not far off the mark; according to the New York Time’s 2018 Glass Ceiling Index, there are fewer women among chief executives of Fortune 500 companies than there are Fortune 500 chief executives named John. Nelson also estimated that almost half of all women leave the corporate workforce after having children.
“I don’t think women’s leadership skills are valued, and we aren’t really retaining women in corporate America,” said Nelson. “Something is broken, and we need to fix it. I started looking around for other women who had started businesses and for that community where I could fit into — and I didn’t find it. That’s where the idea for The Riveter came from.”
Nelson added that her mission of establishing The Riveter was further amplified when she had trouble connecting with other solo female entrepreneurs.
“Women start businesses at five times the rate of men,” said Nelson. “It should be easy for me to turn to my left, turn to my right, and find women to talk to. And, there are only a few collaborative work spaces with female founders. If this is the future of work, women should be fueling the conversation.”
The coworking space boasts many of the same amenities as larger players in the industry like WeWork, including fast internet, conference rooms and private phone booths. But the firm’s spaces also include mothers’ rooms and professional programming such as International Women’s WLA member Tea Time and Cougars on Computers. The Riveter also hosts what Nelson calls “nuts and bolts” events on topics from financial projections to productivity as well.
However, while The Riveter is female-centric, its tagline is “a membership network built by women, for everyone.” The environment is meant to empower and inspire women, but also welcomes men and gender-fluid individuals.
“We think that what we’re doing, it doesn’t mean just women, it means those who believe in amplifying women’s voices,” said Nelson.
Nelson said that flexibility is built into all its plans, to accommodate members at all stages of business. The Riveter is 30 percent offices and 70 percent open seating, and part-time memberships are also an option.
“A lot of people — and women — just starting businesses do not want to pay for or need a full-time office,” explained Nelson. “They might need an office to be professional or have meetings, but they do not need a full-time space. With part-time memberships, you do not have a job where you need the office all of the time, you can still come and find a community.”
The Riveter currently has offices in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Fremont and Bellevue neighborhoods. The coworking space has also broken into the Los Angeles market with two offices, one in West L.A., and one in Marina Del Rey. It now has more than 2,000 members across both its major markets and with the launch of a digital platform in the works, Nelson hopes to bring The Riveter’s offerings to more people.
However, with $15 million of Series A funding now in the firm’s back pocket — 55 percent of which came female investors — The Riveter is expanding to numerous new locations across the United States. Those locations, according to the company’s site are: Austin and Dallas, Tx., Denver, Colo., Portland, Oreg., Minneapolis, Minn., and Atlanta, Ga. The funding is significant, according to Nelson, because venture capital funding for female founder teams hovers at around 2.2 percent. Of that small percentage, only two percent of companies with all-female founders raise a follow-up round of investment, even though 35 percent of all male-founded companies receive funding after the first round.
Nelson said that the success of its Series A funding, which came just seven months after its Series Seed, is an indication of the market’s demand for innovative workspaces and programming.
“I think we’ve been able to achieve the funding we have through building a product that has resonated widely and quickly,” said Nelson about the firm’s expansion. “We’re building in a number of locations this year, and we’re really excited to take The Riveter to the center of the country.”