The Eleanor and Zora's House create new niche gathering spaces.
The first thing I notice when I walk into The Eleanor is the color pink. It’s everywhere, from the desk chairs and the candles for sale to a wall covered with prints, each proclaiming, “Behind every great woman is a gang of great women.”
Krysten Kauder laughs when she recounts how The Eleanor’s color scheme came to be. Her partner used to work for Victoria’s Secret, and the company’s signature pale pink seems to have left a mark on him. “He’s always had a really good eye, so he’s really helped with the space, too,” Kauder says, “which is funny since he’s a man.”
The Eleanor is part of a growing national trend of women-only coworking spaces. The most well-known is The Wing, which opened in 2016 and has six locations across the U.S., with five more planned for the next year. Kauder discovered it while living in New York, and when she returned to Columbus two years ago, the entrepreneur looked for a similar space. When she couldn’t find one, she decided to create it.
“I just knew so many women, and I wanted to bring us all together, and I didn’t see something really like that in Columbus,” says Kauder, who also owns the Ryan Porter jewelry line. “I wanted this to be like hanging out and have events and be friends instead of just, ‘We’re going to work and not talk to anybody.’”
LC Johnson, the owner of Zora’s House, shares a similar story. She moved here in 2015 with her husband, a Columbus native, and was eager to “get plugged into a community of women of color.”
“It really was that conundrum of, when you’re an adult if you come to a new place, how are you supposed to meet people?” says Johnson, who holds an executive position at the YWCA Columbus. “The first time I really said the words ‘Zora’s House’ was in December 2015, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.”
Located in the Weinland Park neighborhood, Zora’s House bills itself as Columbus’ only coworking space catering to women of color. Johnson describes it as if “your favorite coffee shop and your homegirl’s house had a baby.” The multipurpose space offers after-hours coworking for women with creative side projects and “life classes” about maintaining healthy relationships and building confidence.
Tucked into the far northern end of the Short North, The Eleanor is light-filled and open. In early March, women filled the current space for an event focused on mental health that included a yoga lesson and a discussion about self-care. (At press time, Kauder was in talks to move The Eleanor to the former Max & Erma’s in German Village, which is home to another coworking space called Kollektiv. The Eleanor and Kollektiv will remain separate entities but plan to collaborate.)
Neither Johnson nor Kauder see their concepts as only for coworking. They created Zora’s House (named after the writer Zora Neale Hurston) and The Eleanor to connect with other women in a welcoming and safe environment.
“It’s like, here is space [where] I can be safe and I can work on things, but I can also just chill or I could talk to this other person that’s right here,” Johnson says. “It’s more of a gathering space.”
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