Eleanor Roosevelt shaped the role of First Lady through political, racial and social justice activism. Betty Friedan evoked a second wave of American feminism when she authored “The Feminine Mystique.” Shirley Chisholm made history as the first African American woman in Congress. Gloria Steinem was a leader in the 1960s and 70s feminist movement. Supreme Court Justice turned pop culture icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg fights against gender discrimination. Michelle Obama was the first African American First Lady and became a role model for all Americans. These six women forged a path for other women, and are the inspiration behind the desks of The SHED’s new permanent workspace in Sag Harbor opening this week.
“These six women we thought of were on the spectrum from early feminists to modern women that inspire us,” says The SHED co-founder Amanda Fairbanks of the workspace’s new desks. “We’re paying homage to the fact that without these women there wouldn’t be a women’s only coworking space. It represents that importance of coming together in the community.”
Bronze placards on each of these desks is not the only thing new for The SHED. After six months of running a successful pop-up at Estia’s Little Kitchen on Tuesdays, Fairbanks and fellow co-founders Sarah Cohen and Liza Tremblay found the community workspace in Sag Harbor was growing. It was an experiment fostered by Chef Colin Ambrose as he provided the space to test the concept.
Recounting his joy in lending a hand, Ambrose wishes the women well as their venture expands. “As the weeks and months passed more and more women stopped in to visit, kabitz and settle in to work,” he recalls. “In short time, I watched the room fill, and their concept went from idea to practice before my eyes.”
The new space, located in a cottage owned by Landscape Details, Inc. and near neighbor Vital Habitats, Inc., is a somewhat serendipitous location as that landscape and architecture firm is also run by women. Members can reserve desk space for a few hours or an entire day, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Costs range for $25 for a daily drop-in to $200 full time. The coffee shop atmosphere is meant to inspire women in all industries — artists, writers, lawyers, farmers, and more. Virtual members that don’t necessarily need a workspace but are looking to network can also be part of The SHED online.
The business model was created with community in mind. A range of options keep the workspace affordable, inviting a diverse group of women to come together even if they’re not necessarily working with one another. It’s this supportive atmosphere that offers a sense of home that attracted die-hard member Erin Finelli of Naked Cookies.
“The SHED provides women the opportunity to work in an intimate serene environment,” says Finelli. “One that is both personally and professionally enriching. There is a palpable energy of productivity and positivity in the air. Working alongside other intelligent, creative, entrepreneurial women is a gift that only The SHED provides.”
Fairbanks has found that their more than 80-women membership consists of women in East End communities that are going through career changes. The shift from the traditional 9-to-5 has resulted in an increase of freelance workers in all fields with the traditional office being replaced by coffee shops and couches. What The SHED has provided thus far is a dedicated day for women to allocate time to other projects outside of their regular day jobs. One member is finishing her novel while another uses the day to figure out her next move after leaving a corporate city job. Artists have used the time to focus on the creative task at hand, completing more in the workspace than they would have at home.
Outside of The SHED, women-only curated events further creativity and personal growth in a monthly series known as The Master Class. Taking place at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, the next class will focus on the art of letting go with chalk artist Kara Hoblin. Estia’s Little Kitchen is collaborating with The Shed for an opening reception for new artworks by Margot Carr and Melinda Hackett on April 7. In the warmer months, the workspace will host their own events onsite in the outdoor courtyard.
“We’re still in a growth phase,” Fairbanks says. “It definitely felt like the time to take the next step forward and expand into the space of our own. We’re excited to take this next leap.”
The SHED officially opens on Monday, April 8, at 1796 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Sag Harbor. Visit theshedworkplace.com for more information.