Sometimes Holding The Space Means Letting Go

The weather has finally changed in Austin, the nights are cool and the rain has come. Every year this time I get a feeling in my bones, an urge to look forward to the future. We like to think of our years in clean organized sections, quarters or months. As if the new year will bring with it a new season - perfectly aligned with our lives. But the reality is that often we don't know when the next season will arrive. For me, a season has often closed and another opened long before the end of the year. 

In 2016 when I made the hard decision to leave my last startup venture, 121Giving, and set out to create Haven my season shifted abruptly. In one weekend I moved my life from a hill country apartment to a tiny house in Hyde Park on 35th Street. A month later, the house in front opened up and Ben and I jumped in and took the risk to open a coworking space together for Haven and YOUvolution. Each night the space was full of filmmakers and social entrepreneurs. Soon after we realized that our intent in the world was the same - to empower dreamers to change the world. And that we would be so much stronger together. So we merged businesses and The Un.Incubator was born, another season began.

We've been at 35th Street for a little over a year. It has been one of the most vibrant spaces I've ever experienced. The life in this space has been co-created by every entrepreneur and mentor who walks in the door. We've hosted countless dinners, community events and workshops. More than 50 social entrepreneurs and creatives have gone through our cohort program, the house has been full of the sound of risk and creation almost every night of the week. We've hosted our first ever residential program here, and had the pleasure of watching our members walk alongside each other towards their goals. 

My favorite part of the day often happens late into the evening, when we finish hosting a cohort and people linger. There is wine on the table and vibrant conversation. And as I walk out the door I look back through the window to see the lights on, and the sounds of dreamers sharing their journeys together. One might be giving another courage after a hard day, others are wound up in co-creating a shared dream together. Bringing this space to life has meant bringing my dream to life - this is the safe space I wished for when I set out as an entrepreneur over 10 years ago. This is where we come to be real, to dig in with each other, and to walk alongside one another. And, wine :)

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I've also learned over this year that as much as I love creating a physical space and hosting it, we do not need a physical building to hold space or host our community in every season. I've had the sincere pleasure of meeting other women who are also passionate about community building in their spaces this year. Especially I want to give recognition to 4 who have shown me that I am not alone in this dream - Sarah Woolsey of Impact Guild, Laura Shook of Soma Vida, Shelley Delayne of Orange and Margaret Burke of Native Hostel. 

As I look into 2018 I see cohorts hosted in a variety of vibrant spaces around Austin, including Soma Vida, Orange, Cherry Cola Dog and Native Hostel. We'll continue to expand into the new spaces that seek our program and align with our values. I also see a growing roster of Un.Inc Studios clients. We're working with Un.Alums and impact businesses in Austin who we're honored to support in the new year. It feels right to walk alongside them for another season, whether it's marketing strategy, content, film, photography or event production work they need. 

As for my beloved 35th Street, we won't be hosting our program there in 2018. When Ben and I evaluated our goals in the next year it became clear that the financial burden of this space was too heavy. If we are to meet our goals for expanding Un.Inc Studios and developing Novo further we must close 35th Street in order to work towards our future dreams. We'll be subletting it as a residence, and stepping out into the next season without an office or coworking space of our own. This is so often what we must do as social entrepreneurs, leave the comfort zone we've created in order to create the next level of our vision. This choice has already opened up a new set of possibilities - including working from these wonderful spaces around Austin, and hosting cohorts in locations deeply embedded in the communities we want to support. 

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Let's future trip even further, for a moment :) In the not so distant future Ben and I envision a large collaborative space on the East side, which houses creative space for artists, filmmakers, musicians, theater and more. And we envision a vibrant tiny home community on Novo where we run year-long Un.Inc programs with live-in residents. These are the dreams we are working towards as 2018 arrives, and we welcome (and need!) your collaboration to bring them to life. 

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I'll leave you with my favorite line from our mission. This is the Un.Inc Life. 

We are here to hold a space for the creators
to walk alongside the lonely ones
who will change the world
— The Un.Incubator