It struck Kraaijvanger on the morning of Friday, March 4, as she scanned a room full of women at a “community coffee” to mark the opening of the new Mill Valley location of The Hivery, the co-working space and inspiration lab she launched in Sausalito two years ago.
The event was a celebration of the Hivery’s gorgeous space at 38 Miller Ave., in suite 20 above the Balboa Cafe, and the official arrival of a force of nature in Mill Valley, a place that already boasts more than 125 members and dozens of others who attend the Hivery’s regular personal and professional workshops and events. Driven by inclusion, the Hivery seeks to help women whether their current path is a career change, getting back in the workforce, launching a new business, exploring a new field or something else entirely.
So what’s drawing women to the Hivery in droves? In short: Grace, the space and a sense of place.
Artist Amanda Reeves was invited to hang her work at the Hivery’s former Sausalito space, and did so again in the Hivery’s new location. Reeves says she loved the energy emanating from the Hivery so much that she moved her studio from Sausalito to another space at 38 Miller just to be closer to it.
“Grace’s energy, positivity and support is infectious and has set the tone for an amazingly creative work environment,” Reeves says. “And the confidence boost that I get from being surrounded by Hivery energy is immeasurable.”
Carey Clahan, co-founder of Laughing Glass Cocktails, has worked out of her home since the brand’s debut in 2013. She’s been friends with Kraaijvanger for several years, so when the Hivery opened in Mill Valley, Clahan knew it was time to make the leap.
“And it’s such a beautiful space,” she adds. I really didn’t think that the beauty of your environment was going to make that much of a difference. But I do believe that being surrounded by people who are working hard and in a beautiful space makes a huge difference. I’m 100 percent more productive.”
While the community coffee event marked the arrival of a genuine movement in the 94941, it was also a chance to reflect on Kraaijvanger’s journey.
Born in Minneapolis, Minn., Kraaijvanger is the daughter of a U.S. Air Force pilot, which kept her family on the move every four years or so. Kraaijvanger fell in love with dance as a young girl and attended high school in Phoenix, dancing professionally while still in school and landing a scholarship to the University of Arizona’s School of Dance, primarily focusing on ballet.
After graduating with a degree in marketing (more on that later), Kraaijvanger moved to San Francisco in 1996 to study with Alonzo King’s Lines Contemporary Ballet Company. “He’s my hero,” she says of King. “He was a huge influence on me as a dance artist and is still an huge influence on me as a creative person.”
Kraaijvanger immersed herself in the Bay Area dance community, performing in Mary Carbonara Dances and the Printz Dance Project, both in San Francisco. She choreographed and performed in a variety of venues, including a show in Moscow and another at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and she taught contemporary dance for Alonzo King’s Dance Center, the SF School of the Arts and at UC-Davis. By any measure, Kraaijvanger was succeeding as a professional dancer.
Back to that marketing degree. In those early days, “I just wasn’t convinced that I was going to be able to make a living with dance,” Kraaijvanger says, noting that she initially took a full-time job at Oracle, where she stayed for a year before going all-in to be a professional dancer. She began a marketing consulting business on the side to make ends meet and so that she could afford to live in San Francisco and keep dancing. She consulted for the likes of Charles Schwab, PG&E, Intuit, PeopleSoft and Macromedia over the years, and continued to dance professionally through the birth of her daughter.
But when her second child was born, Kraaijvanger said it was extremely difficult to remain a high caliber dancer, juggle the marketing consulting business and be a mom to two young kids. Having moved with her family to Mill Valley and buying a property “that needed a ton of work” she realized that her life’s chapter as a professional dancer was over.
“I was so passionate about dance, and I didn’t know any other way of existing than to be around a creative community,” she says. “Because I wasn’t as involved in that community, I was sad a bit about not having that creative connection.”
In 2008, Kraaijvanger took a job that would set the groundwork for the Hivery in a surprising way. In her marketing work, she’d heard of SiriusDecisions, a Wilton, Conn.-based analyst firm that, among other things, produces research reports about great marketing strategies. Kraaijvanger helped the company turn their research into an eLearning curriculum, a distinct new product that they then sold to companies like Cisco and SAP.
“My passion for the business itself wasn’t as great as my prior life in dance, but it fed my creative juices in that I got to create something new in the world,” she says. “It taught me how to start a business.”
Kraaijvanger stayed at SiriusDecisions for six years. Towards the latter part of those years, she was looking for a place to work outside the house, and found a Craigslist ad for a space at 333 Caledonia Street in Sausalito, where several women were splitting the rent on a loft within an art gallery. She was hooked.
As she spent time in the space those first few weeks, Kraaijvanger had a deja vu moment. In her 20s, she’d dabbled with the idea of opening her own dance studio, and looked at spaces in the Mission and Potrero Hill. But since she was also doing marketing consulting work out of her home at that time, she saw great potential in those spaces as work spaces.
Kraaijvanger opened her old journals from those years and saw that she’d devoted way more mind space to that possibility than she’d remembered. In scattershot lists, it was all over the journal pages: “Teach, share, listen, inspire, create, a women’s collaborative, shared workspace, meeting space, a gathering place for creativity, create paths, make transitions.”
“It’s kind of crazy what I wrote in those journals,” Kraaijvanger says, noting a conversation with a friend around that time in which she told her about a “new idea for a women’s co-working space.”
“You told me about this 10 years ago,” her friend replied.
During those Sirius years, Kraaijvanger also endured her mother’s years-long battle with cancer, which eventually ended in 2011. “Those kinds of things turn everything upside down in terms of the way you look at your own life and how you prioritize,” she says. “I knew that I wasn’t living my life in a way that I was passionate about. And that wasn’t acceptable to me. I had so much creative energy that was pent up.”
Over time, as Kraaijvanger searched for a place to open her own co-working space, Alexis Cohen, her office mate who’d been running the space – finding and replacing people in their shared office – told her that she just wanted to focus on her own Morning Sky Public Relations business.
Kraaijvanger had a bold solution: she offered to take over the sublease and use the space to create her bigger vision. “She was so enthusiastic, and said, ‘Go for it!’” Kraaijvanger says.
In April 2014, Kraaijvanger took over the space, and while on a flight, texted feverishly with her friend Amy Keroes about the name, riffing on the word “hive” that the tenants of 333 Caledonia had affectionately called their space and words like “hub,” “collective” and the now tagline “idea + inspiration lab.” Keroes texted, “The Hivery?”
Kraaijvanger bought the website domain for the name while still on the plane.
“It all happened very, very quickly, but I just knew that it was right,” she says.
Through those first six months, Kraaijvanger worked to both realize and streamline her vision for the Hivery. “I knew that I wanted to focus on creativity and community,” she says. “I truly believe that if you surround people with creative energy, their own creative energy comes out. On the other hand, when you try to create things on your own, it can be very stifling and you get too much in your own head.”
Kraaijvanger was doing all this while juggling her SiriusDecisions job.
“But the whole momentum was different – now I was jumping out of bed in the morning,” she says. “And women were stopping by, telling me about their ideas for new businesses, yearning for change, wanting to express who they were really are by bringing their wisdom and talents into something meaningful.”
Kraaijvanger also fine-tuned the structure: tiered memberships based on the frequency and type of use, and events and workshops, regularly conducted by members themselves, spanning personal and professional development and focused on empowering women at all stages of life.
By early 2015, it became clear to Kraaijvanger that the Hivery needed to move, to have more space and exclusive use of it. She started looking around, but the world of commercial real estate can be daunting. Kraaijvanger looked at “every available commercial space in southern Marin” in the coming weeks, but when she stepped into 38 Miller, Suite 20 – then still occupied by the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM), which was moving to a bigger space – she was thrown for a loop.
“When you’ve been a dancer your whole life, you LOVE the feeling of a dance studio,” Kraaijvanger says. “And then I looked up in the atrium’s ceiling, and it’s shaped like a honeycomb.”
The Hivery moved out of Studio 333 on a Wednesday and was open in downtown Mill Valley by Monday.
“I was really devastated that we were leaving our original space,” she says. “But sometimes you find the best gift in the most unexpected places. I’m so grateful to have found this space. As soon as we moved to Mill Valley, our business completely took off.”
In Sausalito, Kraaijvanger’s tours of the Hivery space drew 1-2 people, sometimes none. Now they average 10 people per tour, which happen twice a week. And the location, overlooking the Depot Plaza?
“To be on the town square – that is hugely important,” she says. “We’re making a very bold statement about the potential of ideas and work and saying in front of the entire town that what women are doing up here is hugely valuable.”
Kraaijvanger is hyper-focused on the member experience, regularly spending time with them and focused squarely on the now. But her vision is far from realized.
“My long-term goal is Hiveries everywhere,” she says. “I have big dreams for this concept and I want to fulfill those. But while we have this incredible momentum, we have to always remember that what we’re doing here is helping women create. Our real work is to help women. And for me personally, I am just loving this adventure.”