But my business partner, Katie Zenger, raved about femme x COLUMBIA. It’s a social club and coworking space that aims to curate progressive spaces that use the power of community to advance women. She was adamant that femme x’s atmosphere, mission, and gorgeous castle-like historic location were perfect for our next venture.
I had to know the details, and so I grabbed a few minutes with Nell Fuller, founder and CEO, to find out how she runs a company that’s nothing like “WeCrashed.”
How do you make the experience of working in a femme workspace different from any other cowork spot?
Our mission and vision are grounded in moving women forward through community, so right out of the gate, the culture and the energy of the space set us apart. We’re housed in a historic home built in the 1830’s and restored in 2020. Most coworking spaces tend to have warehouse, tech-bro vibes with concrete floors, classic ping-pong table, and red solo cup vibes.
I wanted to build out a space that catered specifically to folks craving beauty and comradery in their workspace. It's inspiring just to be in the space enjoying incredible local artwork, unique furniture, warm wood floors and antique Persian carpets.
Even more important, we create a culture that celebrates our need for social relationships and supportive networks. An escape from the hyper-competitive masculinity that plagues the start-up world. Isolation is taxing on our mind, body, and soul. Together at femme x, we catalyze community, making Columbia the destination in the South for ambitious, imaginative, creative women entrepreneurs who value community, excellence and a commitment to mutual support and growth.
How do you know when you’re not being taken seriously as an entrepreneur?
The signals are the same signals we have all felt as women: mansplaining, eye rolls, unsolicited advice on how what we are working on could better fit into the capitalist economy that they are most comfortable with.
I feel women are also more often asked to provide their services and expertise for free. We are expected to be the caregivers, the organizers, and the note takers while the men do the important work. We are expected to gleefully carry out the vision of our male counterparts and not challenge the status quo. This is how I have personally felt as of late.
To take a cue from Alexis Rose of Schitt’s Creek, I respond with, “I love that for you,” and then I quietly return to building a better world surrounded by other women who actually value community and collective action.
How did you grow membership during a global pandemic?
We have grown a membership of over 100 women and men since opening in the fall of 2020 through social media and mostly word of mouth. It’s a new concept, so it takes time to build trust in a community.
Our intention is not to be exclusive. The men who work at femme support the women-focused mission. The whole world is designed for men, and I am excited to have men in a space that is designed to support women.
How do you make programming and business decisions?
Femme x COLUMBIA ultimately aspires to be a cooperatively owned business, legally giving members participatory decision-making opportunity to build out what we collectively see as a need. I rely heavily on my community to help co-create what we want the future of femme x to look like.
The incredible women (and men) that have supported femme x along the way are what provide the catalytic energy necessary to disrupt the status quo and nourish new ideas. Every obstacle has been overcome by the collective brainpower and support of our members.
The curiosity and vulnerability of meeting new people, asking for feedback and help and then providing reciprocal support is what has kept this business alive alongside the joy of seeing our members grow and thrive in their own businesses.
Images courtesy of Nell Fuller