We recently had the opportunity to talk with Nicole Vasquez, owner of The Shift, a local coworking and community space located in Chicago’s uptown neighborhood for Women’s History Month to ask her a few questions about her new successful business and what’s ahead for the future.
What has been the greatest achievement in the past year?
Launching The Shift of course! It took a year of researching, planning, and countless meetings over coffee with advisors, going to events to strengthen my professional network and drum up excitement ahead of time, and last but most intense was the buildout and design process. On November 4th we opened our doors, and every day here I watch our coworking community grow, and I see our Members pursuing their own passions and working to develop their own careers. It makes me really happy to know I provide a space where people can work to achieve their dreams, and I feel proud that I’m a part of that.
Tell us about one woman who inspires you and why?
Sheryl Sandberg. In her book Lean In, she describes the many ways men and women are perceived differently in the workplace, at home, and in their abilities. There was nothing in her book with an “I am woman hear me roar” or “up with women, down with men” attitude. Rather, it was a simple unveiling (supported by statistics and case studies) that women are perceived negatively when they are driven, successful, or in positions of power, whereas a man in the same position would be respected and admired. Her book ignited a passion in me to work towards changing those unequal perceptions by supporting and empowering women to achieve their career and personal goals, and helped me to understand that I can make a difference in the way women are perceived just by being a confident, strong, and supportive leader.
What does the future hold for your business?
The Shift is constantly evolving based on the needs of its members. I don’t make a change or new purchase for our space unless I run it by our Members, to make sure it will improve their comfort, productivity, and engagement with other members. As for additional locations…I’d love to open more! I’m currently looking for partners and sources of funding, but not just anyone – I’m looking for a community steward from a neighborhood, someone who is vested in the area, and has a pulse on the local scene and its residents. The Shift is a neighborhood coworking and community space, so it must be reflective and understanding of it’s location.
What advice would you give to early stage entrepreneurs?
Start building your network NOW. I was making the rounds at professional meetings, panel discussions, networking events, etc. for years before I opened The Shift. I attended anything that peaked my interest (a class, workshop, seminar), and I made sure to talk with people there. I asked them to meet for coffee, learned about what they did and what they were passionate about, and told them my interests and goals too. It takes years to build strong relationships, so start now! Plus, it’s fun meeting new people and you’ll learn something new or interesting from every single person you sit down and chat with.
You can learn more about Nicole Vasquez and The Shift on TheShiftChicago.com and on Twitter @TheShiftChi.