TL; DR: Toronto-based Make Lemonade offers both physical coworking space and online memberships designed to facilitate a sense of community for women, freelancers, and professionals from all walks of life. Startup founders leverage many tools, such as web hosting and crowdfunding, to nurture their businesses, and Make Lemonade’s workspaces and resources increase their odds at achieving entrepreneurial success. In addition to awesome wifi, Make Lemonade is on a mission to connect working professionals in an environment where they can grow and thrive.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, especially in the digital age. While some modern conventions, such as crowdfunding, have made it easier to finance new business ventures, others, like hosting and optimizing a site for Google, can leave an entrepreneur’s head spinning.
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But, as we become increasingly isolated while working from home, entrepreneurs also have to worry about securing a formal business address for mail and package reception, as well as periodic access to a physical business area that can be used to hold meetings and get stuff done. Fast wifi and a chance to connect with others don’t hurt, either.
Enter the coworking space, a relatively modern phenomenon born to suit the needs of today’s entrepreneurs, remote workers, and digital nomads. Rachel Kelly told us she founded Toronto-based Make Lemonade in September 2017 to serve women and people of all backgrounds looking to add a little zest to their work lives.
“I was freelancing for a long time, working from coffee shops or home, and I got lonely,” she said. “Before I knew it, I became jealous of my friends’ office Christmas parties, which I never got to have while working independently. Long story short, life handed me a lemon, and I decided to open up Make Lemonade.”
In the beginning, the goal was to create a physical space to connect entrepreneurs, freelancers, nomads, and anyone who felt displaced by their working situation. Of course, like so many businesses, Make Lemonade was forced to reinvent itself once the ongoing pandemic hit. Handed lemons once again, Rachel created an even sweeter setup.
Creating the Perfect Recipe for Coworking in Toronto
As COVID-19 infections began to soar worldwide, Rachel made the decision to close the physical Make Lemonade building starting March 15, 2020. The coworking space remained closed for three months before reopening with a limit of 10 people per day, a new check-in process, twice-daily full office cleanings, Sanitize ‘n Stretch breaks, and a new seating plan that separates people by a minimum of 6 feet, among other safety measures.
In May, Make Lemonade also added a virtual membership option to the menu designed to help members create weekly routines, remain accountable to their goals, and reap the benefits of community support. This new, flexible option is available for an affordable rate and is included with all memberships, with the exception of the two-week intro plan.
Each online membership features a virtual brunch, weekly accountability calls and buddies, group brainstorming and networking, 90-minute work sprints, community-led workshops, and a listing on the SEO-boosting Make Lemonade online directory.
“This year feels like a blur, but one of the biggest things I learned is that genuine connections happen online as well as in person,” she said. “Now that we’re reopened, the virtual and physical memberships work nicely together. Anyone who has a membership in person has access to the virtual membership, too. If you don’t want to come to the office for the day, you can still connect with everybody online instead.”
In the future, the Make Lemonade team plans on expanding its online horizons through additional programming and new members.
“The really beautiful thing about what has happened here is that we’ve been able to connect with people from across Canada,” Rachel said. “We have members who are in the States now, and a few people in Europe — we’re no longer limited to four walls.”
Make Lemonade is described as “a community of women-identified people working hard to turn their goals into reality.” But the coworking space also welcomes men. “The saying goes, empowered women empower women,” the site reads. “Nonetheless, we’re thrilled to have your man-identified colleague/friend/lover pop in for meetings and events.”
Increase Productivity, Performance, and Focus
If all of this sounds too good to be true, Make Lemonade welcomes you to stop in for a free test-run session at the company’s downtown Toronto office, where participants can learn about the community and see if the environment is a fit while enjoying — you guessed it — a nice glass of lemonade.
The area itself is a thriving business community.
“We have Shopify around the corner, who are no longer going to have an office anymore,” Rachel said. “ So it doesn’t matter if you’re independent or not. When you come here, you connect to the wifi, there’s just coffee, tea, and everyone’s included.”
Many of the newly-formed remote worker sect find Make Lemonade a welcome respite from home life — which now includes homeschooling children and battling your spouse for office space and resources.
“Some of our members have young children, and coming here is like a little slice of paradise,” Rachel said. “Between childcare or coordinating a few office hours with their partner, coming to Make Lemonade provides a space to feel productive.”
For those pursuing entrepreneurship, there’s no better way to carve out the time and space to grow your online business, whether you’re just designing and hosting a website or deep into the sales cycle.
If you need to make a private phone call, just step into one of the company’s phone booths. According to the company, entrepreneurs love Make Lemonade for its ability to foster an invigorating yet professional vibe.
“Make Lemonade is a MUST for any entrepreneur!” said member Kat Gaskin. “After working out of my bedroom for years, I’m so thankful to have found a coworking space big enough for my dreams. Within a few months of working here a few times a week, I saw huge changes in my business — increased sales because I was getting so much done every day, a growing network of fellow female entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off of, and the entire space is an Instagrammer’s dream.”
A Focus on Expanding Connections via Offline Offerings
Ultimately, Make Lemonade is all about welcoming women and others in business to an inclusive environment where they can feel accepted.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO at a big company, or if you have just landed your first internship. Our mission is to make you feel like a boss — and that definition is a little bit different to everybody,” Rachel said. “We’re here to show you that you can work hard and have fun, too. It doesn’t have to be a one-way street.”
Make Lemonade’s goal is simple: to create an environment where people feel empowered and good about themselves.
“It’s so satisfying to see friendships made here,” Rachel said. “Our main focus here and with our virtual membership, too, is to help people make great connections, work hard, but at the same time, not burn yourselves out, either. We all understand that there’s more to life than connecting to awesome wifi.”
Registration for the next Make Lemonade cohort reopens October 19.