Covenstead Workspaces is coming to the city center | Ithaca
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home has exploded. While working remotely has its benefits, entrepreneurs Christine Brouwer and Audra Bartlett have learned that the experience is just as isolating as it is liberating.
Both Brouwer and Bartlett have felt the effects of this isolation. As female entrepreneurs, both missed having a sense of community with other women in business. So, in July 2022, the two opened Covenstead Workspaces – an office space specifically created to foster community among women who work remotely. Located on North Aurora Street, Covenstead offers resources such as conference rooms, fast Wi-Fi and a printer, in addition to private offices, co-working spaces and common areas for women to work alongside. side by side and support each other. Women can rent office space in Covenstead, with the rent varying depending on the size and type of office, in addition to paying a monthly fee for access to shared workspace equipment.
Prior to opening Covenstead, Bartlett and Brouwer started several small businesses individually. In between, their entrepreneurial activities include bakeries, real estate, and consulting, to name a few. Bartlett said the pair’s range of business experiences helped them create Covenstead with many different perspectives in mind.
Bartlett said she and Brouwer want to either be part of a co-working space for women or start one themselves.
“I think women crave community and connection with other women more than ever,” Bartlett said. “So having a shared workspace where we can all vibrate and share energy, share ideas, support each other is great, especially post-COVID…we all need it more than ever. “
Bartlett emphasized the need she feels for women to live in community with other women. She said she hopes Covenstead can foster this by providing a comfortable space for women to seek advice, support and friendship.
“If we’re talking about women in the workplace, they have so many different needs,” Bartlett said. “One of the most basic is safety and security. So having a secure but shared workspace with other women is something that a lot of women really want these days…There are so many levels and we just want people to feel supported, and we want them to feel like they’re getting the energy they need from this space.
Rents in Tompkins County are only going up and office space in Ithaca is no exception, with rents typically ranging from $13 per square foot per year to $20 per square foot per year. Depending on the size of the office, the lower end of this price range can exceed $2,500 per month. Bartlett said one of his and Brouwer’s priorities in creating Covenstead was to provide affordable workspaces for women. She added that Covenstead office space ranges from $550 to $1,200 per month, but the two plan to run a bursary program to help potential members afford space.
“It’s an expensive city to rent, so part of our goal was to create affordable space for people,” Bartlett said. “If office space is prohibitively expensive, it doesn’t build community. …So it’s a big problem to provide women with affordable offices in Ithaca. Because women starting new businesses and women who are stay-at-home moms or non-employees in the traditional sense usually have the hardest time getting into a new situation and entering a new space.
Brouwer said that in addition to making Covenstead an affordable workspace, they wanted the Covenstead environment to differ from traditional offices. She said she wanted the space to energize people.
“Not everyone thrives in traditional desktop environments,” Brouwer said. “We tried to take something that kind of looked like a traditional office and make it more creative, make the space feel more inviting, make it more energetic than a simple cubicle or a gray space that seems uninspired .”
Jennifer Reiss works for the educational non-profit Facing History and Ourselves and decided to join Covenstead when the company went hybrid and virtual in July 2022. She said the workspace community inspires and comforts her at the same time.
“[I feel] inspired, excited, creative,” Reiss said via email. “I also feel safe…to take risks, to ask questions and safe to work alone. I think part of that sense of security is the feminine energy that is generated when there are only women working here. And I think [Bartlett] and [Brouwer] were very determined about it. … It is a protected space. We are sure to be genuine.