Ask anyone involved with Thrive, and they’ll tell you there’s no way it would be the supportive, strong, and fun community it is today without the hands-on involvement from it’s two leading ladies.
Lynne-King and Braelyn Smith, the kick-ass mother-daughter duo, brought the right amount of business know-how and people skills together to create the perfect women’s coworking space in downtown Gilbert, Arizona.
Want to learn more about these women and how Thrive got started just nine short months ago? Well, what’s a better way to do so than from the ladies themselves.
Let’s dig in.
What brought you here? Tell us a little bit about your story!
I moved to Arizona in 1988 and to Gilbert in 2002 from the Arcadia area in Phoenix. We loved the open spaces and newness of this town and are so happy to be here still. All of our three daughters graduated from Higley District high schools in Gilbert, so we’re pretty planted in.
I spent 10 years at home raising my kids in the late 80’s and 90’s - teaching music to supplement, and returning to the workforce in 1997. Windows was just coming in and I had to learn computing on my own. I found I loved it, and went back to school to get my business degree graduating in 2002. So I worked full time, parented and went to school - somehow!
My work history during that time was in marketing and media. When I was 40, I worked with my husband to start TicketForce, a company that provides online technology to live event venues and promoters. We now service the entire US and Canada from our headquarters in downtown Gilbert. With 25 employees and selling $102M in tickets in 2017, we’re still running like an entrepreneurial company.
Being born and raised in the Phoenix area, I knew when I went to school that I definitely needed to get out! I decided on going to school in Tucson, since it was a nice enough distance away and I could still get in state tuition. Thankfully, being in Tucson actually led me to be a part of the coworking scene which I don’t think would have happened had I stayed in Phoenix.
In about 2013, when coworking was still a totally foreign concept to most I heard about a space opening in downtown Tucson, and wanted to check it out. I was looking for a job at the time and thought that the concept was so cool, so I basically walked in and asked them for a job. The community manager at the time, Stephanie Bermudez, actually thought at first I was a reporter in disguise because I walked in and asked for a job, haha! After speaking with her she agreed to create a position for me, and that’s when my love for coworking really began.
I ended up working at Connect Coworking for about 3 years, and I loved every minute of it. There is something both equally exciting and rewarding about helping to build a community, especially one made up of entrepreneurs and people who were doing new and fresh things at the time. I became so invested in the people who worked there and I myself wanted them to succeed, which is kind of when I knew this whole coworking thing was going to be around for a long time, and that I would like to be a part of it somehow.
The Idea: What sparked you to start a women’s coworking space?
Along the way in tech and live events, I saw a lot of women struggling to succeed in male-dominated industries or some with juggling the heart of home and parenting with careers.
So Thrive was born out of a desire to provide a place where women who work can find what they need to really push out and succeed. It is women-only for members (men may be present for client meetings, etc) because we have learned that being a women presents unique challenges and that many of us thrive when we cluster together. So while you can work alone in a dedicated office or desk, there’s plenty of opportunity to be together and, frankly - it’s just magical.
The idea for the space was entirely my mother’s, but I don’t think she would have thought to do it if it weren't for my involvement with Connect. I can still vividly remember her telling me of the idea, and at the time I turned her down. I was at such a good place in Tucson and honestly was not planning on ever moving away, hence my reasoning for saying no.
About a year goes by and she was still talking about the idea, but had not found anybody to run it. As I got closer to graduation I realized that it would be too good of an opportunity to turn down, and decided to (begrudgingly) move back to Gilbert, the place I literally never thought I would come back to, ha!
At first I was also against the idea of doing women only, having only ever worked in a co-ed space, I couldn't foresee how it would be. I am so thankful for my mom and sticking to her guns by keeping the space female-only.
On tours I always tell women “you never realize how nice it is to have a female-only space until you’re here, and then you wonder how you ever lived without it”.
There is just something so special about a space specifically for women and we have such an amazing tribe of ladies. I sort of hate the word tribe haha, but at the end of the day we have a group of women who actively support one another in and out of business, want to see each other succeed, and are constantly motivating themselves to always be searching for something greater.
What’s it been like building Thrive from the ground up with your family?
We met a lot in the planning stages at Twelve West Brewing in our neighborhood (by the way, it’s so great to have three daughters who all love craft beer as much as I do!). We did not always talk quietly and were always animatedly arguing at times for how to do things. I had the business expertise and understand the numbers; Braelyn knows coworking. So the vision and the execution had to be hammered out between us. We have always had a no-drama relationship though, where we can argue or get very animated without truly fighting. I have to hand it to Braelyn, as I had so much experience and had a hard time listening to her at times. She really has done an amazing job at building community, which I know nothing about! I just know when it’s working and it’s working!
Working with my mom has been such a blessing, because not only is she an awesome role model but she is a very knowledgeable businesswoman. Being able to have her at my disposal for all questions or issues that came up was so helpful. It was also nice that we could get tough in some conversations, and know that we would always come out of it with a solution.
Working with family is tricky, but I feel it is actually advantageous because you can fight, argue, and work through issues knowing you’ll always work it out, because you don't really have a choice!
Starting a business though, is so much fun. I don’t know if it is just because we are in coworking or because I have my mother’s DNA but even through all the struggles I always was having so much fun. I am sort of the opposite of my mom, she never deals with the public, and I’ve pretty much always had customer service oriented jobs. I love making people feel welcome and at home, and that skill translates perfectly to this job. I would say talking to people and networking is one of the things I am best at, so it really worked out well. The two of us working together was a fantastic combo, because she had the business knowledge and I had the people knowledge.
How is Thrive’s relationship with Gilbert?
Mayor Jenn Daniels pops in now and then just to say hi and feel the happy vibes.
Really, Gilbert has so many women in key positions, I can’t think of a better home for Thrive.
I feel like we are seeing so many women come in who I never would have met or known and I’m just so proud of the talent walking through those doors.
Oh man, Gilbert has been so great in supporting us.
From day one every person I spoke to (men and women) were ready to support us in any way they could. I did not have a single person give us any pushback, and I was meeting with maybe 5-10 different people per week for about an entire year!
Our Chamber of Commerce has been an extremely supportive group of people as well, I don’t think I would have been so successful without them. We had people offering partnerships and member discounts before we were even open! And that’s not even talking about the other business owners in the area, such as Cycle Avenue and Pomo Pizzeria, both of whom have been so great to us.
The community saw that what we were doing was very needed, and were ready to support us in whatever ways we needed. I could not have been more thankful for our Gilbert community.
What do you have to add about where Thrive is at currently?
Well, we’re nearly full in our offices -so we are on track to be 100% full after our 1 year!
We are now offering many more classes and events than we could in the beginning and we look forward to expanding that side of the business even more. We have so much more room for drop-ins, and would love to let women know that this is such a great community to be a part of for all professional women!
If you’re nervous about coming in for whatever reason, please don’t be! I can promise you that behind our doors you will find the most kind and welcoming women in Gilbert. We are not a girl’s club consisting of competition or cattiness, we are pretty much the exact opposite!
There is a special place here for all women, from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we would love for you to be a part of that too.
Our arms are wide open!
What’s the future look like for Thrive?
We want to see it with 100+ members, full offices and tons of events that bring new people into the space. Beyond that, I would love for us to have an educational component where we can start to affect girls before they get into their careers. Thrive will literally be a hub for women in business in Gilbert and the surrounding areas!
And the other question - will there be more Thrive locations? We certainly think so, so we’re refining the plan and execution and will start to look at taking our unique model to other cities and states.
I think it is definitely in our plans to expand Thrive, especially out of state! I think our mission and goals are only going to become more alive now that we are past the initial stages of opening the space. We can finally start to plan more events, do more partnerships, and focus on growing our member base.
As you can see, this dynamic-duo has worked hard to create a safe space for women to work, connect, and thrive in a community driven environment. In just nine short months, they have affected dozen’s of women’s lives, and it’s safe to say they aren’t slowing down any time soon.
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If you’d like to learn more about the space, take a tour, or just say hello, reach out to Braelyn using the form below!