Hera Hub, a coworking company focused on women, in November opened offices in a Torrey Pines building that it shares with HomeLab, a company that offers rental lab space to start-up life science companies.
Hera Hub founder Felena Hanson said that she opened the Torrey Pines/La Jolla office after she was forced out of Sorrento Valley space she had been leasing when the property owner decided to convert the space for use by a life science company at more lucrative rental rates.
“Sorrento Valley has just grown ballistic with all the (life science) activity and small businesses like us, we’re just homeless,” Hanson said.
She said that the commercial real estate market is so tight in Sorrento Valley and environs that it took her several months to find space near her former location, and even then, she said she was able to find it only after teaming up with HomeLab.
“I just think it’s ironic, we’re booted out by a biotech and a biotech saved us,” Hanson said. “I’ve truly been looking for space for seven months. I’ve even tried to buy a building. That didn’t work out.”
Hanson said that she wound up leasing about 3,000 square feet in a building of about 9,000 square feet with HomeLab taking the rest. “It ended up being the best thing for us, to be honest.”
In designing its space, Hanson said she took her cue from health spas with decorative fountains, soft lighting and aromas like those spas use for aroma therapy.
“We don’t do spa services but we’re women-focused and many women like going to spas, so why not create an office that has a spa as an inspiration,” Hanson said.
At the heart of Hera Hub La Jolla is a large shared coworking space that has a kitchen and adjustable desks that can be used standing or sitting and what Hanson described as “Zoom booths.”
“These are little pads where people can step in to take Zoom calls or phone calls,” Hanson said. “That’s something post COVID that people just changed how they work. They’re not meeting clients face-to-face like they used to.”
There also are conference rooms, one of which can open into the shared space or closed for private meetings.
“We host a lot of different organizations for our networking events there,” Hanson said, including the National Association of Women Business Owners in mid-December and Women in Bio in January.
“We’re a platform for a lot of local community organizations to be able to come and host events with us,” Hanson said.
Hera Hub also shares outdoor amenities with HomeLab, including an outdoor café, bocce ball courts, fire pits and outdoor lounges with Wi-Fi service so people can work outside in a relaxed setting.
Hera Hub has about 100 members in the new location and about 600 members in total in seven locations – three in San Diego and one each in Irvine, Temecula, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Since she founded the company in 2011 in Sorrento Valley, “we’ve grown kind of slow and steady. We didn’t go out and raise a lot of money,” Hanson said. “Our model has been slow and steady wins the race.”
The COVID pandemic took a bite out of her business when it first hit, but Hanson said business is back to about 85% of what it was pre-pandemic.
One change is that larger companies have started using coworking space as an alternative to having their own offices.
“We’re not quite where we were pre-pandemic. We’re getting there,” Hanson said. “A lot of women want to be able to step out of their home environment into a professional workspace.”
Founder: Felena Hanson
Headquarters: Sorrento Valley
Business: Coworking company and business accelerator focused on female entrepreneurs
Employees: 6 (in San Diego)
Social impact: Hera Hub is a certified Benefit Corporation, which commits the company to higher standards of purpose, accountability, and transparency.
Notable: Longest running coworking space in San Diego