My WingSpace Story
By Melanie Banayat
People ask me many questions about why I wanted to open a coworking space and how I made it happen. Part of it is economics, and but most of it has to do with the importance of community. So if you really do want to know my story(ies) – here are a few…
Story #1: What did I know?
Back when I was fearlessly curious and untainted by the world I didn't understand why my mother would stay working at a job that she clearly despised on so many levels.
My father died when I was 4, leaving mom to raise three kids on her own. There was no real time to mourn - she had to quickly step into the role of both mom and dad – nurturer and provider.
Mom's pride got the best of her - too proud to ask for help, too afraid of looking incapable, and she got caught up in the "you can do it all" marketing campaigns of the early 1970s.
Even as a little girl I knew mom was living in isolation and that it was wreaking havoc on her life. It killed her confidence, stole her happiness, and exacerbated her anxiety and depression.
Growing up in that kind of environment left a very big impression on me. The message I received was that isolation is not a good thing. That stuck with me and became a driving force behind so many of the choices I made throughout my life.
√ Don't think you have to stay in a job you hate. Move on.
√ You don't have to do it alone.
√ Take some risks, step out of your comfort zone, and try new things.
√ Change can be good.
Story #2: I'm Unemployable!
I started my first unofficial business at age 12, back when macrame plant holders were all the rage in the 1970s. I made about a dozen of them and asked my mother to ask her boss, at First Interstate Bank of Arizona, if I could display them in their lobby and put a price tag on them. To my mother's surprise he said “Sure!”
Low and behold every single one of my plant holders sold and I was instantly hooked on self-employment! I thought, “What?! You mean I can make stuff and people will buy it and I make a profit? That's Boss!”
I started my first "official" business at 17, meaning I had a business license and paid taxes (ugh). Specialty Graphics was the name, which later became True Color Designs. I was a freelance graphic designer for 12 years with some pretty decent clients: Safeway Stores, Burgerville restaurants, McDonald's restaurants, O’Malley’s Hardware stores, Automobile Dealerships, and so on.
I sold that business and used that money to buy a rustic high mountain fishing resort, Olallie Lake Resort, located up in the Mount Hood National Forest of Oregon. This picture shows the view from the front porch of the store. I owned and operated that business with my husband (aka, wasband) for 11 years. We had a general store, 12 cabins, 4 yurts, 100 campsites, and 40 rental boats. It was a slice of heaven on earth and a great place to raise our four kids. I jokingly tell my kids I raised them like Mowgli from the Jungle Book, because every day they were covered in dirt and going on daily adventures on the surrounding lakes and trails.
After my divorce I worked as a full-time professional artist selling my original oil paintings, limited edition art prints, and greeting card line at high-end art shows and in art galleries.
Then when my health took a turn and I was unable to continue painting, I went back to school to become a board certified Holistic Health Coach to learn how to reverse my debilitating autoimmune condition. Immediately after graduating the program I ran a private health coach practice working with 1:1 clients out of my home office for 5 years.
Then I felt inspired to write a health and wellness book titled Stretch Your Brave, Hack Your Story in effort to share knowledge with others who are searching for a deeper understanding on how to explore their own personal health journey and make the changes they need to make in their life to heal and feel better. I entered my book into a national competition among other health and wellness writers worldwide and to my surprise I won!
At the same time that I was going through my health coach training coarse I also began doing volunteer work for an all girls therapeutic boarding school helping the parents of the students go through a series of personal development workshops. It was a way for me to gain experience facilitating small groups while helping people at the same time. My husband and I have been doing this volunteer work for over 8 years now.
Even if my work history sounds unrelated and or disjointed, I’m here to say it all led me to and prepared me for opening a coworking space for other independent workers like myself.
Truth be told, every time I have tried working for someone else I could literally feel a part of my spirit and passion die. I have come to accept that I am not a good W2 employee.
I AM UN-EMPLOYABLE - and I'm good with that.
Story #3: Building a Culture of Collaboration and Idea Sharing
Being a creative type with an entrepreneurial heart, I wanted to be able to provide a space for people who want to be part of a community that embraces the concept of collaboration and idea sharing, especially living in a very old fashion conservative place like Prescott where many business people are still operating from an outdated competition mindset.
Creative thinking and problem solving have become the most valuable skill sets of this century. In order for us to be successful in this fast paced world, I believe that we need to surround ourselves with plenty of support.
As I was researching the coworking industry I wanted to understand what it meant to collaborate and share ideas especially when all the people who are working in coworking spaces are from different industries. What would collaboration and idea sharing look like, feel like, and act like in those kind of environments?
What I’ve learned is that it’s not about business transactions; it is about social support…needing and being needed.
A coworking space is not defined simply as a service or platform for those who want to share resources, but as an organization that hosts and promotes a collaborative capability, defined as the ability to build and manage relationships, linked to a broader social complex phenomenon.
Coworking spaces are certainly places where a propensity for social interaction can be enhanced, as can a willingness to share resources. However, what actually differentiates a coworking space from other spaces for work and learning is its complex social concept (Waters-Lynch & Potts, 2017), which can be described in terms of motivation to work together in a “good neighbors” and “good partners” proposition (Spinuzzi, 2012). Good neighbors work alone, focusing on their own tasks, politely alongside others; good partners actively foster the trust required that can lead to formal work collaborations.
Story #4: I Married the Energizer Bunny! And I want what he has!
My husband, Greg, is turning 70 years old this year. Most people who meet him for the first time can’t believe he’s that old. Sometimes I wonder if I married the Energizer Bunny, because I’m only 53 and he can physically work circles around me.
Greg inspires me. He has lived a very rich life so far, full of plenty of painful mistakes and beautiful, interesting successes both in his personal life and in business. When I met him back in 2007 he told me he was a student of life and desired to keep learning, growing, giving, serving, changing and embracing new challenges. He wasn’t lying!
Back in 2010 we went through a series of self-improvement workshops together to reconnect with that magical child inside of us – the one who was fearless and dared to dream big.
As kids we all learned about fear as we gained more exposure to people and life experiences. It’s a normal part of life. And it’s not always that easy to counteract those fears that end up dictating the choices we make in our lives. For me it took a lot of conscious work to push forward whenever fear would get in my way. Surrounding myself with wise people that I could trust was a big help.
Opening a coworking space is one way that I feel I am able to pay-it-forward to others who need that same kind of support. I too, want to be available to listen to and hold space for others, where they can be a little vulnerable and talk about the fears that keep holding them back. It allows a person to then segue into problem solving and action steps.
Story #5: Cheers! When it All Falls Apart . . .
As we all know, life is unpredictable, and change is inevitable. Hard things happen every day, and when our world gets flipped upside down we need a support system and a safe place to recover.
When I owned and operated the fishing resort my world became very small. I was running a business and raising four kids at the same time. I had no time for friends. My friends were the people who came up to the resort to vacation year after year for a few days or a week at a time. They weren’t quality relationships. They were friendly, but very temporary and superficial at best. Then unfortunately when I went through my divorce I found myself alone with no support system to turn to for help. It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through. I was suddenly homeless, torn away from my young children, terrified of the unknown, and very alone with no resources. I wouldn't wish that experience on my worst enemy.
Then when I worked as a full-time artist followed by working as a health coach I spent way too much time alone – many years - isolated. I knew it was time for me to change my circumstances, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it would take surrounding myself with plenty of support to make it happen.
Today’s coworking spaces tend to make me think of the song from the old TV sitcom Cheers:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
It takes time and effort to integrate into a community and feel like you truly belong. Whether that community takes the form of a church, a team, a club, or a coworking space – pick a community that is uplifting and works for you -- and get involved. Be of service, offer to listen, help and spend time with others one-on-one, or in groups.
I was motivated to create WingSpace for all these reasons and a few more. My list is long, which means I have plenty of passion behind this project.
Since we spend so much time working to make a living – my thoughts are, “Why not work in community and improve the quality of our lives!”
I personally like to carve out time when I can to meet with people for Dream Sessions, where we each share about each others dreams and goals - even if they sound absolutely crazy. Sometimes it's better to not know TOO much, otherwise you may never just go-for-it. And other times it's just fun to dream big.