Felena Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur and marketing maven. Her latest venture, Hera Hub, is a spa-inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs who need a productive, professional place to work on a flexible basis. Her goal is to support over 20,000 women in the launch and growth of their business by 2020.
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Felena Hanson: Absolutely.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Felena is a long time entrepreneur and marketing maven. Her latest venture, Hera Hub, is a spa inspired shared workspace and community for female entrepreneurs, who need a productive, professional place to work on a flexible basis. Her goal is to support over 20,000 women in the launch and growth of their business by 2020. Felena, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us a little glimpse into your personal life.
Felena Hanson: Absolutely. Well I started the company four years ago, and it has been quite an adventure. Prior to that I was an entrepreneur, I had a marketing consulting business, and in my 20s spent time in marketing in technology startups, and really decided to become an entrepreneur not because I had a brilliant idea, but because three tech startups, two sold, one ran out of money, and it was an opportunity to become my own boss at age 30. And through that experience of building a business working out of my home and also getting involved in some professional organizations right here in San Diego, I started to learn about the world of co-working spaces, shared workspaces, that are designed specifically for entrepreneurs who not only need professional space, but also want a sense of community, they want to collaborate. And there are some phenomenal co-working spaces across the country, but many of them are targeted towards the technology segment, which is one that I came out of. But inherently, they tend to skew a bit male and skew a bit young, in regards to demographics go.
We’ve all heard of hacker spaces, and a lot of the co-working spaces kind of follow that model, so to speak. They’re great spaces, but they’re not designed for everybody. So I found a need in the market to serve, specifically we’re focused on serving female entrepreneurs. We’ve created spaces that are beautiful and also collaborative, very professional at the same time, and have been extremely successful. Built three locations in the first two years of business, we have 350 members here in San Diego, and now I am franchising the model and expanding across the US. We just launched in Washington DC and we have six other cities in the works.
John Lee Dumas: Well San Diego is definitely a good testing ground for this kind of thing, so definitely excited to hear you have 350 members, you’re going to be expanding, you’re going to be licensing this out, this is really cool stuff, but I know one thing that people are going to be curious about, Felena, is the revenue model, because we are entrepreneurs looking to create viable businesses. So how do you currently generate revenue, and how do you see that expanding in the future?
Felena Hanson: Yeah, so we’re a membership model, which is in business, certainly reoccurring revenue, there’s nothing better than that. So our members pay monthly membership fees, and other revenue streams include educational workshops, retreats, I just took a group of six women to Greece for two weeks for some strategic planning, room rentals, event space rentals, there’s a number of revenue streams in the business. But the primary revenue stream is, again, that membership model, which is, again, really what you’re looking for in business to create consistency.
John Lee Dumas: So Felena, you haven’t always run a hub that had 350 members and is growing with all these exciting things you’ve had on the horizon. You’ve had your ups, you’ve had your downs, and I want to talk about the downs right now. But even more specific than that, your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. So Felena, take us there to that moment in time and tell us that story.
Felena Hanson: Being in the world of commercial real estate was a new rodeo for me, so to speak. I’d never leased space before, had no idea what I was doing, and my worst entrepreneurial moment was the point at which I was in not my first, because that fell through, but my second lease negotiation for my first space. I’m fired up, I’m excited, I’ve got this great business idea, I’m going to change the world, and I now am three months into my second lease negotiation here in San Diego and literally two days away from getting a cashier’s check to put the down payment on the space and the building owner comes back to me and says, “You know, we got another interested party in the space and I just don’t think it’s going to be a fit for us.” And now I’m about eight months into this process overall and you’re just standing there going, “Okay, is this meant to be? What the heck just happened here? I just spent all this time and energy, I found the perfect space, and I cannot get a lease to save my life.” And a lot of entrepreneurs go through that in regards to everybody thinks, “Oh, there’s a ton of commercial real estate out there. It’s easy to get a space.” Well new business, no track record, new business model that, at the time, this was 2010, the co-working space world was still emerging and a lot of people hadn’t heard of this concept.
They know what an executive suite is but they didn’t know what a co-working space was, and I had a heck of a time being able to get a commercial lease, and so it wasn’t until a good four months after that that I was able to actually, third time’s a charm, finally successfully negotiate a lease, and what I did in the meantime is I soft-launched the business in actually an extend dance studio, like a Pilates type of studio, for four months just to get it some traction and get it out there. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s one of my biggest pieces of advice to entrepreneurs. One of my favorite books, Ready, Fire, Aim, is just get out there and do it. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s okay, and that was a big lesson I learned very early on.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, we are always going to be hitting these road blocks. It’s going to seem like the world is conspiring against us at every twist and turn. That’s the life of an entrepreneur. That’s the life that you have signed up for, or that you are hopefully soon signing up for, because believe me, it’s fun when the world conspires against you and you still manage to find a way to succeed, which Felena did. That’s just the reality. And what it takes is perseverance, is persistence, and is surrounding yourself with the right people, the right people. Now Felena, that’s my biggest takeaway. What do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from that story?
Felena Hanson: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Perseverance, and really thinking differently. For me it was how do I take a different approach to this? Who can I find as a resource? I didn’t know, again, anything about commercial real estate, so I started seeking out mentors, people to help me, give me advice. I found a really good attorney early on that really had a lot of experience in this and it’s just been really really helpful throughout this process. And you’d think, John, you get your first space, it’s successful, I can show profitability in the business pretty quickly, and when I go to get my second lease it’s going to be a piece of cake. Not the case. So again, perseverance, perspective, I mean, I know this is said a lot of kind of who you know means a lot in business, but that has been a big theme of mine is just finding the right people, navigating through who do I need to know to make a connection here to make a case for what I’m doing, so to speak? And from a very early age, I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, saw my dad work his tail off, and I may not be the sharpest person in the room but I know I can probably outwork anybody in the room and probably figure out how to come up with something that nobody has thought of.
John Lee Dumas: Well Felena, I love you for sharing that story, because it’s not easy to talk about the tough times, the failures, the struggles that we as entrepreneurs are going to face. And now what I want to do is shift into another story. And this one is going to be a little easier to tell because it’s going to be a light bulb moment, an aha moment, an epiphany that you’ve had at some point in your journey. So just like you told us that story of your worst moment, take us down to the ground level and share with us an aha moment that you’ve had and tell us that story.
Felena Hanson: Absolutely. It definitely was the concept coming up with Hera Hub. Again, I was working at home, I ran my business out of my house for eight years, and at the same time I was also leading several professional women’s organizations, one that was focused on helping women in developing nations through micro credit loans, and another one that was helping kind of incubate new ideas for female entrepreneurs and helping them bring to market, and I was constantly hosting events and workshops and scrambling for space, you know, a private room in a restaurant or a hotel that didn’t charge an arm and a leg, and it really came together when I threw an event at San Diego’s first co-working, I was teaching a college course on how do a group of students throw an event at this new co-working space, and I’d never seen a workspace like that. I’d been to a ton of executive suites, but they’re just, they’re old school, they’re mahogany, I don’t need Janie the receptionist pretending to answer my phone, right? And so this concept of, as we say in co-working, working alone together with other people that are creative that are bringing new ideas to market, the energy in co-working spaces is just incredible. And so it was that light bulb moment of seeing that space.
I actually went back and looked at the space for myself and my business and it’s a really cool space. Concrete floors and brick walls and dogs running around, it’s a cool space, but for where I was at in my business and the clients I served, it wasn’t quite the perfect fit. And so the need of my own, but also the need that I had with these groups that I was running is I’m going to build my own space that serves all of these needs under one umbrella, and that was, I certainly, the light bulb moment for me. I did a ton of research of course and went and visited spaces from New York to Los Angeles to really study and understand the market. But it’s so much fun for me, John, now to be four years into this and to be franchising the model nationally to teach other individuals what I’ve learned in building a brand that can scale not only nationally but someday internationally.
John Lee Dumas: I mean Fire Nation, just look around you. As you’re experiencing your day, there are things happening. Some of them are going to not connect with you and that’s fine, but recognize that, and there are going to be some things that just click and make sense to you that don’t make sense to other people for any number of reasons, or they don’t see the opportunity for any number of reasons. And when you have that thing that does click and that opportunity that does just strike a match in your mind, that’s something that you should pursue. That’s something you should look into at least, and Felena just had her eyes open, she had her ears open, she was experiencing life in areas that she was excited about, the opportunity presented itself and the rest was history. Four years later, she’s now looking at a franchising model. So Felena, that’s my big takeaway. What do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from your aha moment?
Felena Hanson: Yeah, I want to add to that, John, I talk to so many entrepreneurs every single month that come into our spaces, people with half-baked ideas or whole baked ideas so to speak, and I’ve really chosen a niche in the market. I mean, that’s my biggest advice. I love that phrase, “There’s riches in niches.” Really really hone in on who you’re targeting and be true to that particular market. You don’t need a million clients. You need to serve a certain segment really really really well, and so I always say our target market is half of one percent of the population of San Diego. I don’t need everybody, but what I do I do really really well, and that’s the biggest thing I see with entrepreneurs is sometimes trying to be all things to all people, if you will, and it just doesn’t work right out of the gate.
John Lee Dumas: Riches are in the niches. Fire Nation, I love that. Felena, what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Felena Hanson: So many. I could go on for days. So I’m a marketer. I think in kind of marketing terms, and systems and processes, you know, the operations side of the business, is not my forte, and so that was the first thing I hired for. Literally my first employee was an operations person, because I just don’t think that way. And I’ve learned, I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m better at thinking in systems, but I’d rather be out in front. I’d rather be connecting with clients or speaking or building things then systemizing and operationalizing a business, which I think is ironic, because we franchised the business, and you don’t build a franchise unless you’ve got your systems and operations down pat because that’s what you’re selling. You’re selling a replicable business model. So I have definitely learned a lot in four years, and it’s fun. It’s challenging. I continue to grow in that area.
John Lee Dumas: What is your biggest strength?
Felena Hanson: I think it’s connecting. It’s connecting with people. So I like to say I’m a matchmaker. When I meet somebody I can get a sense of them very quickly, I’m good at asking some pretty poignant questions to really get what their needs are, and I love bringing people together, connecting people, and I just have a sense of who needs to know who, and that’s a big part of what we do here in the community. Somebody comes in, they’ve got their business concept, they’re looking for resources and support, and that’s the first thing we do is connect them with other people that can support them. So I get so jazzed when I can put two people together and they go off and create something new, and it’s just so much fun to see.
John Lee Dumas: So of all the things you have going on that you’re fired up about, what’s the one thing you are most excited about today?
Felena Hanson: It has to be our expansion. I mean seeing, I have to tell you, John, the proudest business moment of my entire career was the day that Hera Hub Washington DC opened all the way across the country, and I was not there. Seriously. I mean, it sounds crazy, but the fact that doors opened, people came in, the business started, and I was not there, that is such a huge success for me, because as an entrepreneur, I’m sure other people relate to this too, you create something and you want to hold it close to you, right? You’re so proud of it that you want to be in the middle and the mix of it all the time, is to be able to create a business model that somebody else can repeat, so to speak, and not have to be at the center of that was just, that was my proudest moment for sure.
John Lee Dumas: I totally understand. And I have to say, Fire Nation, you’re going to get some more value bombs like this in the lightning round, but first we’re going to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Felena, are you prepared for the lightning round?
Felena Hanson: Absolutely. Let’s do it.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Felena Hanson: You know it really was fear. I mean, at the time, I was married and supporting a husband who was trying to launch 10 businesses at the same time and it was just fear of not getting that regular paycheck, but I got lucky and I got laid off, so choice made.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Felena Hanson: It really has to do with that ready, fire, aim phrase, just get it out there and do it. I think as women, I will just speak to this for a second, we tend to be a little bit concerned about what other people are going to think and are we going to do this good enough? And it’s got to be perfect before we get it out there. Just get it out there. It’s never going to be perfect. You’ll figure it out.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Felena Hanson: I run every single day. So running is a big part of what keeps me sane. I have two gorgeous dogs that keep me absolutely up and motivated every single morning and drag me down the street, so just that practice of meditation if you will of running every single day.
John Lee Dumas: Share an internet resource, like an Evernote, with Fire Nation.
Felena Hanson: My favorite tool is an online scheduling tool, so it’s called Meet Me, and it is just, I mean I schedule a ton of calls both domestically and internationally and cutting through time zones has been challenging, so to speak, so I would say half my day is filled up with phone calls and that has saved me, I swear, a full time person.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Felena Hanson: I keep saying the same thing, but it’s Michael Masterson’s Ready, Fire, Aim. I’ve recommended that book to so many people. It’s not a new book, but so many entrepreneurs don’t really think in that systematic way in regards to how do they build something and scale it and that book, as old as it is, really kind of helps take an entrepreneur through that process of, again, getting it out there and then iterating and tweaking and growing the business.
John Lee Dumas: Well Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already you can get an amazing audiobook for free at eofirebook.com, and Felena, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Felena Hanson: I’m a natural community builder, so I would find whoever I could find and start to build community, start to connect with other people and figure out how we can bring things together and build something better than we can on our own.
John Lee Dumas: Felena, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, then we’ll say goodbye.
Felena Hanson: Perfect yeah. So through the website, herahub.com, Hera being the Greek goddess of women, that’s H-E-R-A-H-U-B.com.
John Lee Dumas: And a parting piece of guidance.
Felena Hanson: I always like to say focus. I meet, again, so many entrepreneurs that are trying to launch three businesses at the same time and really pick something that you’re passionate about and focus on it, give it time to really launch, and if it doesn’t work, then go to the next thing, but really focus on one thing.
John Lee Dumas: Well if you’d really like to say the word focus, do you know what the acronym for focus is?
Felena Hanson: I don’t, tell me.
John Lee Dumas: Follow one course until success.
Felena Hanson: Brilliant.
John Lee Dumas: Felena, you only have to give me credit twice and then you own it.
Felena Hanson: I love it, perfect.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with FH and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Felena into the search bar, her show notes page will pop right up with everything we’ve been chatting about today. Of course go directly to herahub.com, check out all of that awesomeness, and Felena, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
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