Emily Rose Antflick, Founder & Chief Community Cultivator
Shecosystem Coworking + Wellness in Toronto
Shecosystem is a coworking and wellness community where women thrive. There, Emily has created a shared workspace for women entrepreneurs to work on their own terms and build connections that go deeper than networking. Her work stems from a feminine paradigm that values collaboration, creativity and ‘showing up’ with your authentic self.
Emily holds an MA in Education and over ten years in classroom and experiential education in Canada and internationally. She is a versatile teacher and program designer with rich perspectives on learning and community building.
We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Emily to learn more about this powHERful young Canadian leader and the impact she is looking to make.
I am not a person with a singular passion and have always seen my life as more of a river than a highway. After completing an MA in Education and teacher training, I spent the first fifteen years of my career flowing from one learning context to another: teaching high school and college, developing curriculum resources for non-profits and museums, and travelling around the world leading young people on transformative learning journeys. I loved teaching but spent a lot of time wondering if there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t figure out where all of the tributaries were flowing toward.
In 2015, burnt out and depressed, I quit my teaching job because I recognized that a large part of what was draining me was my inability to bring my whole self to work. I was tired of living a fragmented life and wanted a workplace where I would want to show up every day. Shecosystem really came out of me asking myself, “What would a workplace that would help me thrive in all areas of my life look like?”
The dominant paradigm of work was not designed by or for women, and it does not support our whole-humanness. I wanted to move toward work-life integration instead of pretending that they are two separate things that one can juggle and balance, and I wanted to prove that this more holistic, feminine way of doing business can generate abundance.
I was inspired by the passionate women entrepreneurs in my circle who were creating impact through their ventures, but I saw that many of them lacked confidence, and felt stuck, depressed, and alone on their journeys. In addition to the structural barriers that women entrepreneurs face, there is a dissonance between what women are experiencing and the perception of what entrepreneurship “should” look like. The people who are part of this community don’t see themselves reflected in the competitive and aggressive startup culture, and the glamourized “ladyboss” narrative is just as ill-fitting. Shecosystem discards these “shoulds,” holds space for both our struggles and our successes, and gives women more relatable mirrors, mentors, and role models.
Shecosystem – what our space looks and feels like on the ground
Shecosystem opened its doors in November 2016, a Canadian pioneer in a global trend of women-centric coworking spaces that recognize the success potential of women working in community. Our flexible monthly membership plans allow people to use the space however they want – whether they show up every day to work, book a meeting room weekly to see clients, or simply show up for occasional events. In addition to workspace, we offer events and workday programming ranging from skill-building business workshops and mentorship office hours to new-moon women’s circles and yoga classes.
In our hyperconnected online world, loneliness is rampant, and people are craving meaningful ways to connect. It isn’t enough to join a Facebook group or attend a monthly networking event.
Shecosystem is a physical space that brings like-souled people together, validates their narrative, and facilitates collaborative relationships that help their businesses move forward.
Rooted in my environmental education background, the name Shecosystem speaks to the fact that just like natural ecosystems, our entrepreneurial ecosystem thrives when it is diverse and interconnected. We now have 50+ coworking members including tech startups, web designers, healers, life coaches, lawyers, artists and business strategists. Members aren’t exclusively women but are feminists who believe that values such as collaboration, empathy, and openness lead to entrepreneurial success.
Members have already started collaborating in meaningful ways: from hiring each other to hosting events together, mentoring each other and providing referrals. Members report feeling more productive, growing their networks and revenue, feeling less lonely and more in touch with their feminine energy.
Shecosystem is unique in its focus on integrating self-care into the workday. Each day opens and closes with a talking circle, where members sit on cushions in the sunlit Studio to share intentions and reflections. When the Studio is not in use for Shecosystem’s regular business or wellness programs, members use the yoga props, dance, meditate, curl up in a pile of cushions to rest, or use a folding bamboo desk to work comfortably on the floor.
People comment on the ‘good vibes’ as soon as they walk in the door. The Pinterest-worthy space is light and full of plants and pops of colour, and I diffuse essential oils that help people stay energized and focused. There’s an altar with crystals and decks of tarot and oracle cards on the windowsill, where members can pause and set intentions for their day. Even the French press coffee and loose-leaf tea are there to encourage members to slow down and take a break to refuel.
Women are coming together to grow this vision beyond the limits of my capabilities as a lone cultivator. While I am the solo founder, I have developed Energy Exchange programs to empower community members to take ownership over the space and contribute their diverse talents and perspectives.
I’ve learned that when you create a container for women to connect, magical things happen in those spaces between us.
Over and over, my community has shown me that everything I need – whether it’s insight into pricing and business models, compassion when I’m overwhelmed with self-doubt, or a volunteer for an event – is right there if I can just be open enough to ASK for help.
Women are leading an entrepreneurial groundswell, and I love being a part of it. Shecosystem celebrates what women bring to the table: a holistic perspective, a desire for connectedness and collaborative spirit, a sense of power based on taking responsibility rather than enforcing domination, and a deep well of creativity.
We need these skills for our economy and our planet.
1. We work better when we can bring our whole selves to work.
Work should be informed not only by the intellect but also by our emotional, spiritual, physical, and social selves, and by the recognition that we are a part of our environment. When we show up as our whole authentic, embodied selves, we can better understand and overcome our blocks and feel empowered to take risks and grow our comfort zones. When you are your brand, acknowledging your wholeness allows you to bring a richer perspective to your work and connect more authentically with the people you serve.
2. Sisterhood helps women entrepreneurs thrive.
Running your own business can be isolating, and even if you’re a solopreneur, you don’t have to do it alone. Women thrive on professional connectedness that goes beyond networking, and the more we connect in real life, the more we create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is crucial to build supportive and mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded others who will nurture each other’s passions, listen and give feedback, ask for and offer help and create opportunities for collaboration.
3. Self-care must be a part of our working lives.
The perception that taking time “away” from work to care for ourselves is leading to burnout, shame, and overwhelm. Self-care is a crucial and often neglected ingredient in entrepreneurial success. If you’re not thriving, your business will be less productive, less resilient in the face of challenges, and ultimately less capable of generating abundance. You can’t grow nutrient rich food in dead soil.
PowHERhouse is pleased to announce Shecosystem as our Toronto venue partner and coworking space.
When in TO, PowHERhouse will work closely with Shecosystem to deliver high-calibre lifestyle + leadership events for powHERful women. We will also be personally referring all TO PowHERhouses to Emily’s space for their co-working and community-building needs. We build strong women, together.