Toronto·Our Toronto

'Make Lemonade' coworking space making mark among female entrepreneurs in Toronto

A Toronto woman created a co-working space just for women because she saw a need among female entrepreneurs.

Rachel Kelly created female-friendly office space so women could share frustrations, victories, advice

Rachel Kelly is the founder of Make Lemonade. (Amber Ellis)

The bright, colourful coworking space at Adelaide and Peter streets is sprinkled with lemon ​imagery — ​on magazines, cushions, a pinata — ​tying together a theme that's rooted in its founder's struggle to find a career she was excited about. 

Make Lemonade is Rachel Kelly's coworking space in downtown Toronto, now drawing female entrepreneurs from across the city.

"Life handed me a lemon," she said. "I was freelancing, working a bunch of odd jobs, trying to make ends meet. It led to me working in coffee shops and being lonely sometimes." 

During that time, what was supposed to be a full time job with a local agency did not materialize, so Kelly decided to break out on her own.

She started drawing expertise from like-minded female entrepreneurs online, and quickly realized there was a need for a physical meeting space where women could share ideas, frustrations and victories.

Make Lemonade opened its doors in September 2017. (Amber Ellis)

That's how the idea for Make Lemonade was born. Kelly opened its doors in September 2017. Since then, its membership and drop-in clients have grown to include entrepreneurs like Chanele McFarlane — founder and editor-in-chief of Do Well Dress Well, an online publication for women that focuses on branding, networking and style.

"I wanted to create a resource I wish existed when I left school," said McFarlane. "I felt confused about topics like personal branding and networking. We know in today's workforce, those things are key to success." 

McFarlane commutes from Brampton to work out of Make Lemonade a few times a week. 

"As an entrepreneur, it gets lonely," she said, echoing Kelly. "Community has been everything for me. The conversations I've been able to have, the connections I've been able to make."

Make Lemonade celebrates its one year anniversary in September. (Amber Ellis)

Others, like Leen Al Taher, who co-founded bra company House of Anesi, credits Make Lemonade for helping her brainstorm. 

"I get so creative being in here," she said. "It's just a very inspiring space. It's women empowering women." 

Now, Make Lemonade's members include sisters Monica and Oana Romaniuc, who, along with their colleague, founded To Her, a greeting card company geared toward diverse women's milestones and experiences. 

"It's the different experiences, different backgrounds," says Monica. "That's really helped us understand each other, become more mindful and more inclusive." 

Make Lemonade welcomes men, but is geared toward women. (Amber Ellis)

That's exactly what Kelly hoped would happen at Make Lemonade, highlighting the space is also geared toward anyone who identifies as a woman, and doesn't necessarily exclude men. 

"We've all felt frustrations our society has brought upon all of us. By having a space created specifically for us is kind of magical," she said. 

This fall, Kelly is launching an accelerator program that will match 10 women with mentors.

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