A place where women can get together, work, network and develop new projects – this was the idea behind Laura Seifert and Estefanía Tapias’s start-up. In part 3 of our video series, we look at women’s networks as a business model. There are also four career tips.
From up here, there is little sign of what is probably one of Zurich’s busiest streets. Five floors above the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, the everyday noise of the city seems very distant. Every now and then, the clattering of the coffee machine drowns out the clacking of keyboards and the muted conversations of women in front of their laptops. We are at Bahnhofstrasse 62, the former site of the Franz-Carl-Weber flagship store, in a loft on the fifth floor. Black-and-white photographs on the walls, a couch with velvet pillows, small vases with flowers on the light wooden tables.
A coworking space moved into the top floor of the historic building in 2018. Not the first one in Zurich, but the first one focused mainly on female customers. In the video, the founders explain why this concept was lacking in Switzerland.
The new “Life Stories” series
Behind every strong woman stands – a strong woman. On our blog this year we will be presenting women who impress us. The self-determined women series: What drives women, what holds them back, what moves them, what inspires them. The next three parts focus on company founders Laura and Estefanía.
“Gentlemen’s clubs” are often criticised by women because, among other things, they are seen as a perpetuation of old networks made up exclusively of men. Are you the “female” version, i.e. a ladies-only club? After all, the cameraman was allowed in...
Estefanía: (grins) Not at all. WeSpace is definitely open to everyone! Only full membership is reserved exclusively for women, as is the digital community. But men can, of course, book a day pass or the meeting room and work here in our space and attend public events as well.
Estefanía Tapias, born in 1988, left her native Colombia after finishing school in order to study architecture and urban planning in Argentina and Italy. She has lived in Switzerland since 2013. She studied the impact of climate change on the cities of the future at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), most recently as a post-doctoral student. In 2018, not one, but two business magazines included her in their list of influential people: “Forbes” included her on its “30 under 30” list in the area of European research, and “Bilanz” put her on its “Top 100 Digital Shapers in Switzerland” list.
But your business model is mainly based on women networking. In your view, how is this different?
Estefanía: It’s difficult to make blanket statements. I don’t want to put “all” women in one pot and “all” men in another. Everyone is different. But in our experience some women feel more relaxed and more confident, and can express themselves more freely, when they are among other women. This has also been the experience of other pioneers in our business, i.e. similar coworking communities for women, such as “The Wing” in the US.
Laura: Personally, I like to take charge and push when I want something. But many women maybe still underestimate themselves too often in the workplace, they’re too critical of themselves or lack self-confidence. And this is true both in the corporate world and when it comes to being independent. We want to give women a platform to test their ideas and build up a network and support them in the transition to self-employment.
Laura Seifert, born in 1989, grew up in the USA, Germany and Switzerland. She is a business economist. After studying in Hamburg, London, New York, Paris and Berlin, she received a PhD in corporate finance from the University of St. Gallen. She then worked in the financial sector, most recently in the Investment Banking division of JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Are there any tips that helped you two on your career paths that you’d like to share?
Laura: Set clear goals. Clear goals will help you get ahead further and faster. This always provided me with a focus and helped me set priorities. At the same time, I highly recommend thinking about what is really important to you and what drives you.
Estefanía: Ask yourself, “What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?” Be courageous enough to take advantage of and seize opportunities when they come. One of the members of our board of advisors always says: “What’s the bolder version of my next action?” In other words, how can you do even more with the next step of your plans?
Laura: One more thing: don’t make the mistake of simply waiting until you feel ready. It’s also possible to think too much about something. Sometimes you just have to get cracking.
Swiss Life Asset Managers
Swiss Life Asset Managers is the owner of the largest private real estate portfolio in Switzerland, including the property at Bahnhofstrasse 62 in Zurich, the location of the head office of the company owned by Laura Seifert and Estefanía Tapias. Swiss Life AM monitors trends and developments on the office space market on an ongoing basis and it believes there will be sustained growth in the coworking sector in future.