Meet Amy Nelson, Founder & CEO of “The Riveter”, a Co-Work Putting Women First

Capitol Hill, Seattle Main Space - Photograph Courtesy of The Riveter

Capitol Hill, Seattle Main Space - Photograph Courtesy of The Riveter

Over the last few years, co-working spaces have become increasingly popular. No doubt, this billion dollar industry is booming. The ugly truth, however, is that -like so many things in this world- big players in the industry such as WeWork, RocketSpace, & Knotel, are not growing with women’s needs in mind. A perfect example of this is the fact that not only are all of these companies male founded, but they don’t have a single woman on their boards.

The good news is there’s someone doing things differently. Amy Nelson, founder & CEO of co-working & community space The Riveter, started her company to create a place where everyone’s welcome, but women make the rules. Their motto is: “built by women, for everyone.” And she did this after a ten-year career as a corporate lawyer, while pregnant with her third child in three years (we know, what a badass, right?)! So no doubt, The Riveter takes women’s needs pretty seriously.

Amy spoke to Mindful Feminism about her life as a founder, The Riveter’s mission, & her hopes for the future of female entrepreneurs. Read the full interview below.

Amy Nelson - Photograph Courtesy of The Riveter

Amy Nelson - Photograph Courtesy of The Riveter

The start-up world is not exactly built for women. In fact, you mentioned recently that only 2% of venture capital dollars in the U.S. go to women. As a female founder, how did you surpass the fear that must come with confronting such discouraging odds?

I often get asked if I was scared to start a business or to grow and lead our team. The truth is that I’m always scared! I used to be a corporate litigator and a pivot to entrepreneurship is still very new to me. I’m constantly learning how to best lead our team and share more about The Riveter to investors so that they can see the impact of the mission. I surpass the fear by reminding myself that our mission to redefine the future of work in a way that is built by women for all, is one that is so important to fight for.

“I often get asked if I was scared to start a business or to grow and lead our team. The truth is that I’m always scared!”

Something we love about The Riveter is your intention of prioritizing women’s wellness at work. Why did you decide to focus on that? How are you working towards this purpose?

We provide opportunities for our members to focus on their wellness because it’s a part of their larger roles in business and life. We have Wellness Wednesdays in each of our locations where local yogis, meditation leaders, and others lead sessions. Those programming needs are a direct result of feedback from our members - they share what they’re most interested in and we find ways to provide those solutions.

Why did you pursue the wonderful idea of including meditation rooms at your spaces? Do you personally meditate?

Our meditation rooms are a great way for our members to take a small break in their day and find the space they need to breathe. We often use them for our Wellness Wednesday programming, but it is also available for members to drop in throughout the day at their convenience. Personally, I like to spend some time breathing deep and closing my eyes. Sometimes I need a prompt to help me meditate, and Headspace is an app that I’m always using to help me in those moments when I need a deeper breath and a clearer head.

Apart from being an inspiring founder, you’re the mother of three small girls ("three under three" as you say) how –if at all- do you manage to get “me time” and practice self-care?

My oldest turned four this year, and time has flown by! When it comes to managing it all, I try not to use the words “boundaries” or “balance” when talking about the juggle of entrepreneurship and parenting. I see so many similarities between the two and I think my experience as a mother has been invaluable to understanding the demands of starting a company. At all hours of all days, I am both a mother and an entrepreneur. That said, there are hours I focus on one and hours I focus on the other. Unless I’m traveling, I make a commitment to be home for either breakfast or dinner with my girls. I put my phone away, close up the laptop, and enjoy the three little ones that make life so fun. There are also days where I take advantage of the flexibility that owning your own company brings. When I know I’ll be away for a few days, I’ll take an afternoon off and surprise my kids by taking them to a park or stopping by their school. It’s the little moments that I spend with my family that is true self-care for me.

“We know that women are starting businesses at five times the rate of their male counterparts, and those businesses are successful.”

If we woke up tomorrow to a society that takes women’s happiness seriously, how would corporate/start-up worlds be different?

I think that business would look very different if it was defined by women. First of all, it would be inclusive and collaborative. We’d have more spaces where we’d come together with diverse groups to ask difficult questions and come to common ground. I see collaboration happening all the time at The Riveter, and I know that new businesses or projects will result from those connections. Second, corporate America would have a more flexible work structure that gave women the opportunities to pursue other responsibilities and projects that also add to their own work. We’d see a comprehensive maternity leave policy in the U.S. - which would be a huge milestone. We’d also see more women engaged at work because they didn’t feel like they needed to offramp from their career in order to be present for their families. Women would define work on their own terms and businesses would tremendously benefit.

What makes you feel hopeful about the future for female entrepreneurs?

I’m very hopeful about the future for female entrepreneurs, and I believe that we have some work to do to achieve equity in business and life. We know that women are starting businesses at five times the rate of their male counterparts, and those businesses are successful. When I see The Riveter members grow their teams or receive their first venture capital check, then I know we’re building an incredibly collaborative and supportive community. And that gives me hope.