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Meet the Experts: Empowering Women in Business with One Roof

Girls to the front! We get down to business with One Roof founder, Sheree Rubinstein, to learn how her network is paving the way for women in business.

Posted 28 Sep 2022
Meet the Experts: One Roof

One Roof is Australia’s leading digital network and co-working space for female-led businesses, providing everything women in business need to succeed under one roof. Founded in 2016 by change-making superwoman Sheree Rubinstein, One Roof provides aspiring entrepreneurs with access to masterclasses, networking opportunities, business coaching, co-working partners, and – perhaps most importantly – community support. 

In the last two years, One Roof has onboarded over 1000 women to its network, cultivating a close-knit community both online and offline. With a goal of empowering women around the world and becoming the go-to network for female entrepreneurs, One Roof is on a mission to champion businesswomen everywhere, enabling them to be seen, heard, and celebrated. 

We sat down with Sheree, the thought leader and creative powerhouse behind this incredible initiative, to find out how she’s empowering other entrepreneurial women to succeed. Let’s get down to business!

What is One Roof all about? 

One Roof is a professional digital network for ambitious women. Our mission is to increase the number and success of women leaders and entrepreneurs. We offer a buffet of business support and services so you can pick and choose what you need when you need it. 

At One Roof, we offer:

  • Weekly live masterclasses and a growing library of hundreds of masterclass recordings
  • Weekly networking
  • Business PR
  • Opportunities to test and validate ideas
  • Business coaching calls
  • Monthly founder circles
  • Office hours with industry experts
  • Access to our co-working partners across Australia.

We have onboarded over 1000 women in the last 2 years to our digital membership program; our goal is to become the Netflix of professional development for entrepreneurial women. 

What inspired you to create One Roof?

I worked as a corporate lawyer in a top-tier firm and discovered women’s barriers in business and leadership. I started hosting networking events and focus groups for women to better understand their needs and challenges. Through garnering these insights, the idea of a dedicated hub that provides women with everything they need to succeed in business was born. 

We started as a co-working operator and set up a pop-up co-working space for women in Melbourne, Sydney, LA, and NYC. We found lean, low-cost ways of running One Roof without funding. For four years, we were based in Melbourne’s CBD in an office earmarked for redevelopment, so the developers offered us a reduced rent. We painted the walls, sourced the furniture, and literally set up the space with our bare hands. We quickly became the leading co-working space in Australia dedicated to women in business and voted top five globally. 

We saw 200,000+ people in and out of our space annually and hosted thousands of events supporting women in entrepreneurship, business, and leadership. We made thousands of connections and introductions and helped our members achieve great success, including Verve Super, Galaxy, CircleIn, Nanny Pay, and Shebah. 

Off the back of this success, I raised capital with a group of supportive and influential investors. I had big plans to grow the co-working empire to provide spaces for women in every state and territory across Australia. 

How did you grow One Roof into what it is today? 

When Covid hit, it called the entire business model into question. I became a mum one week into lockdown and began to lose confidence in the vision I had been driving. I hadn’t signed a lease on our next office space, so I was in a unique position where I could go all in or walk away. I just couldn’t sink investors’ money into a risky venture during the Melbourne lockdown, so I made one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made in my business to date. I walked away from a big property deal, returned the capital to my investors, and with support from my advisory board, I pivoted the business to a digital membership and network. I felt like I was rebuilding the business from the ground up after 6 years. I was lucky enough to work from an incredible foundation with previous members and a community that valued us, a great brand, and a lot of support. In just under two years, we have quadrupled our membership and onboarded over 1000 members globally – and we’re just getting started. 

What does your day-to-day look like as the founder of One Roof? 

I manage a small but incredible team that punches well above their weight. I’m involved in delivering masterclasses, events, and business coaching calls. Most of my time goes into business development, partnerships, sponsorships, and program design. We are currently working on some big partnerships, and we are working on and hosting some large-scale events – including a Women in Tech Summit and a pitch night – later in the year. 

What are the biggest challenges women in business face?

The main challenge is the lack of access to the right networks – networks and circles based around money, resources, power, influence, and decision-making. We’re working hard to close the gap and connect our members with a network of ambitious, hard-working, and like-minded fellow women business owners – plus advisors, industry experts, collaborators, and investors.

The pandemic has also disproportionately impacted women, many of whom feel exhausted, burnt out, overworked, and overwhelmed by juggling home, family, and business. We are creating space for open conversation and dialogue, helping founders set up their days, hold themselves accountable, upskill, and be supported by other intelligent, busy, and ambitious women. 

What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How are you rewriting the script? 

The greatest challenge I face is the underlying belief and conditioning that I can’t be successful because I’m a woman. I have done much work to rewire my brain and thinking on this. I’m very conscious of it, but it still plays out in my interactions and thought processes. 

What are your top tips for starting a successful small business?

  1. Do not spend your life savings 

Find lean, economical, and fast ways to test and validate ideas. We didn’t have the funds to set up a co-working space, so we started with a pop-up in an Airbnb and grew from there. I then asked around for a below-market rent deal – people thought I was crazy, but I found a developer who wanted to work with me. I took on the risk of an 18-month lease and spent four incredible years building a thriving co-working business. Even though it was scrappy, imperfect, and poorly funded, it had an immense impact. 

  1. Your network is everything 

Nurture and grow it. Every door opened for me through my networks and people willing to give me a chance. Ask for help!

  1. Feel the fear and do it anyway

Lean into fear. I sit in discomfort constantly. The fear never goes away; I have just become more accustomed to it. 

What are the biggest learnings you’ve had through One Roof? What pitfalls should small business owners avoid?

When I was at the lowest in my business journey, I debated walking away from One Roof altogether. Instead, I brought a group of friends and advisors into a room and presented the business model, finances, and cWhen I was at the lowest in my business journey, I debated walking away from One Roof. Instead, I brought a group of friends and advisors into a room and presented the business model, finances, and challenges I was facing. For the first time in a long time, I felt I could be honest about where I was. I had been putting on a brave face to investors, but I was struggling deeply on the inside. That was a pivotal moment for me. I received invaluable advice about what to do next and felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders.  

Here’s some of the best advice I can give:

  • Always put the customer first. Test, learn, and iterate. Ask the customer what they want and need. 
  • Find and hire people who complement your skillset.
  • Be a courageous leader. Take the time to reflect on what that means to you. You will forever be working on your leadership skills, so do the hard work. 
  • Say yes to opportunities that scare the sh*t out of you, but know they will be valuable.
  • Surround yourself with smart and brave leaders who encourage you, inspire you, and support you 
  • Ask for help.
  • Lean into the hard conversations. I’ve split from a business partner, lost two co-working spaces, returned capital to investors, and let go of my dream of building a co-working empire for women. I’ve made countless mistakes – own those mistakes and don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations. 
  • Be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Truly open and take it on with grace and gratitude.

What tools are a must-have for your business toolkit?

  • Milkshake for our Instagram link in bio
  • Asana for project management
  • Slack for team comms
  • Loom for educational resources and training videos
  • Later for social media scheduling
  • Memberspace for our membership platform, including a member and an expert directory.
  • Zapier for email automation 
  • Flo Desk for beautiful email marketing
  • Notion for note taking
  • Zoom for our masterclasses 

How do you use brand activism to take a stand on social media? 

We are very clear on our values which include vulnerability and being bold and courageous. We strongly believe in sharing our mistakes, challenges, and failures to carry, support, and elevate others. 

Most of our content is geared towards understanding women’s challenges, bringing these center stage, and offering our personal experiences in a vulnerable and honest way. Previously, we hosted the Unspoken Conference, which featured 17 world-renowned speakers sharing the taboo issues affecting women in business and leadership. 

This is the kind of content we are driving and creating. We want to bring the whispered conversations to light to better support women, normalize and de-stigmatize the challenges we face, remove the shame and judgment, and build successful businesses

What would you change about your journey with One Roof?

I honestly wouldn’t change anything. All the mistakes and hard times have led me to where I am. I would tell myself it’s going to be a wild ride. You will find it challenging and lonely sometimes, but you will always come back to your mission and purpose and know how to ask for help. You will learn so much and be forever growing, and that’s why you set out on this journey. And remember – enjoy it and celebrate the small and big wins along the way!

What’s your best advice for women wanting to start their own businesses?

Start with your “why.” What’s driving you? What’s important to you? Write it down, reflect on it and let it be your north star. It will carry you through hard times and ground you in the good – because building a business is hard work. Stick it on your wall, and look at it every day. It may change over time, and that’s okay – grow, evolve, and keep returning to it. 

We hope you enjoyed this interview with One Roof! While you’re here, check out our guide for How to Start a Small Business from Scratch, and these Expert Tips & Small Business Ideas. Or, head to our Community Stories section for more expert interviews, or visit Envato Elements to start creating today!

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