Since entrepreneurs of color come from so many different backgrounds and sexual orientations, we need spaces where we all feel comfortable and welcomed. With the development of inclusive coworking spaces — like New York’s Ethel’s Club — on the rise, =SPACE is doing just that plus more by adding another layer of inclusivity to its coworking space.
“I decided to create an environment that subliminally and very intentionally affirmed marginalized voices, so I created =SPACE for Black, Brown, immigrant voices, and LGBT enterprises,” Citi Medina, the Founder of =SPACE, said.
Going into its fourth year of operation, =SPACE — located in Newark, New Jersey — isn’t your average coworking space. It has all the ingredients of a grassroots movement backed with innovative business acuity.
=SPACE is powered by Medina’s passion for empowering and equipping this generation of overlooked and underserved entrepreneurs, in addition to positive representation of entrepreneurship amongst underserved communities.
“We are trying to create wealth access resources for these communities because I believe that the next great round of inventors, creators, founders are going to come out of our people,” Medina said.
Not only is he focused on creating wealth, but Medina also understands the climate many LGBTQ and Black entrepreneurs face, which is partly why =SPACE holds events to create awareness of these issues.
“Transgender women are number one for sex trafficking, you know, so, there’s a lack of economic power that these women are experiencing. =SPACE uses technology to address these issues,” Medina said.
To avoid the pitfalls of other mainstream coworking spaces, Medina knows the importance of maintaining a horizontal leadership model. He is proud to say that =SPACE is a true coworking space, unlike other commercial spaces.
“WeWork is not a coworking space…coworking is an active dialogue between you and your members,“ Medina said.
To ensure that =SPACE remains true to its vision, Medina and his team have daily huddles to discuss how it can better serve its target audience. By actively engaging with the Newark community, Medina discovered that there are barriers to entry when solely based on economics. Despite =SPACE being a for-profit organization, about 90 percent of programs offered are free.
“We are not a non-profit, but that does not mean that social impact is not at the core of our acumen as a business,” Medina explained.
=SPACE has recently partnered with digitalundivided, a social enterprise founded in 2013, that encourages women of color to own their economic security through entrepreneurship. This ties into making pipelining women of color to the incubator a priority.
Developing strong partnerships and joining forces with other businesses of color is a critical part of their mission. It’s through finding like-minded leaders who are not only empathic to the hardships of entrepreneurs of color but who are living the experience that =SPACE can be a profitable coworking space centered around social issues.