Ahfeeyah Thomas, Founder of The Workroom
Everywhere we look, we're floored by the fierce, funny, and fabulous female voices that make up our community. On the streets, in coffee shops, and all over Boston, these women inspire us and challenge us to be our best selves. They are bakers, makers, and shakers, with big projects and infectious passion. Women We Love is an on-going interview series with one Girlboss we can learn from, laugh with, and lean on.
Today, we want to introduce you to Ahfeeyah Thomas, Founder of Workroom Boston.
Interested in learning more about The Workroom Boston?
We anticipate the official opening of our doors in January 2020 however with the support of women founders and the men that support us, of course, we can make this happen a lot sooner. We invite you to support us and spread the word. Invite your friends to like our social media profiles, drop us e-mails and notes with lots of love. The Workroom is a space for women to come together. It's not another girls club or sorority but a place where badass women in business get things done.
Visit us at www.theworkroomboston.com and be on the lookout for our campaign on iFundWomen where you too can change "Herstory" with us! You can also follow our journey closer on our Instagram at theworkroom_boston.
BWM: So, Ahfeeyah, we hear that accent, where are you from?
Ahfeeyah: I am from Boston but raised between here and Birmingham, England.
BWM: What is your favorite weekend spot in the Boston area?
Ahfeeyah: So, I am a total foodie so almost anywhere with good food and vibes is where you can find me. If I had to choose one though I would say I absolutely love hanging out at The Boston Garden. It's so beautiful and while I'm there with my favorite blanket and book seeing all the many beautiful people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities come together in this one place is always amazing to me, not to mention the many weddings and celebrities I have spotted cruising through.
BWM: Ok, let’s get down to business. You are the Founder of an up-and-coming collaborative + community work space for Women. We love following your journey in making your vision a reality. What was the inspiration for The Workroom Boston? How will it differ from other Co-working spaces?
Ahfeeyah: Inspiration for The Workroom truthfully is a combination of many experiences I've had over the years and throughout my career but most importantly like all great companies The Workroom started because a passionate entrepreneur saw an unmet need and decided to do something about it. For me, I think my first inspiration was from events that I was facilitating in another business Lady Corporate which brought professional women together for "Corporate Conversations". I remember like it was yesterday at a specific event where I asked everyone the question of how we could support each other and what they needed currently to help them move forward. The most amazing thing happened which was that within that very small room at The Blarney Stone in Dorchester, every woman's need was met. There were at least 2-3 women who had a resource for the woman asking for help and vice versa. I continued asking these questions at each and every event and each and every time the experience was more and more magical and meaningful. This taught me that curated spaces and supportive environments were necessary and crucial in the advancement of women, minorities and under-served communities. Another source of inspiration came in the form of the most painful and scariest season of my life. My mother's cancer battle. Because I am an entrepreneur it allowed me to be there in ways I never could working for a corporate employer with a typical 9-to-5 job. Being a former HR professional for Harvard University and completing my HR certification after having my second son, I learned and saw the many challenges and seasons of an employees lives and realized that for some people business was the only way to create their own legacy and take charge of their destiny. During this fight of my life and hers we learned and are still learning that we were never supported in society as women and told we could be anything we wanted and desired to be. We were taught to care for others but often times not how to care for ourselves. I started to think even deeper about the idea of The Workroom and wanted to not only create a supportive space for women entrepreneurs to build their businesses but also opportunity. I wanted to create change and be the difference between a woman having the freedom to stand by her mother's side in her time of need or not have enough sick time or Family Leave Time to support them. The Workroom is different from any other coworking space on the planet. We are intentional about women and the men that support us. We offer more than just real estate. We offer community, opportunity, and collaboration through our programming and membership perks afforded to each member.
BWM: Do you remember the moment that you knew you were going to "go for it"? What prompted it?
Ahfeeyah: If my memory serves me correctly it was during my mother's first round of chemotherapy. I remember asking myself "what would it profit my children and my community if I died never having lived?" My mother a Boston Public School educator for over 30 years looked me in my eyes and said: "I just want to live." I decided that no more would women on my watch go through life serving others and never serving themselves and that they were allowed and deserved to have a safe inclusive space where they could share their stories while also getting things done. I was prompted by the woman who gave me life to give it back to her and so many others by creating this space.
BWM: How have past experiences both personally and professionally shaped your vision for The Workroom Boston?
Ahfeeyah: My vision for The Workroom has definitely been influenced by personal and professional experiences. I think back to my time at Harvard Business School and remember meeting some of the most amazing women on the face of this earth. They all had a side hustle or something they were truly passionate about but they also valued security and wanted to know that their business could make money but also provide them with the life they needed and deserved. I thought heavily about this and what it would look like to have the freedom of business with the security of a corporate job.
BWM: As a small business owner, you always have to expect the unexpected. Can you tell us about a time in the development of The Workroom Boston that something didn't go quite according to plan and you had to "Embrace the flux"?
Ahfeeyah: I am going through this right now truthfully. It started after I launched my campaign and as I mentioned before my mother was diagnosed with leukemia just a month later. That was followed by the space I thought was sure to be ours at the last minute we found out would not work out and most recent hearing of an RFP released for coworking spaces that I was sure would give us a push ahead only to be told that they do not support gender-specific initiatives. The truth is life is like a GPS in my opinion and although there are detours and it may take you a little longer to reach your destination the truth is you'll still arrive so long as you don't turn back, cancel your reservation or give up. So I embrace each challenge by saying simply "I am en route." It's ok to make mistakes and it's ok to hear bad news at times just don't ever give up because you'll arrive just in time.
BWM: We think stories of failure are just as important as stories of success. Can you share a time when things just didn't succeed as you'd hoped?
Ahfeeyah: Truth, I truly don't believe in failures. I believe we don't fail at anything. We simply learn. A time that comes to mind for me and is related to The Workroom is by delay in opening our space. It was to have been opened for some time now but we've experienced delays and setbacks. I worry if people will still support us because its the only way however I continue to as a woman and one of color face challenges accessing capital. I learned that The Workroom is just a step towards many and when we open we will also position ourselves to provide capital to women entrepreneurs in the form of grants so they never have to see a vision of theirs die having never lived.
BWM: If you could give one piece of advice to another woman wanting to kick start their passion, what would that be?
Ahfeeyah: My advice would be to know that nothing that is for you will ever miss you and to trust the process. Cry in private and slay in public. Do what you can do until you can do what you couldn't. These are my guiding principles and I believe in them wholeheartedly. Whatever you do, just don't give up.
BWM: Do you have a favorite go-to business tool or resource?
Ahfeeyah: Hmm, choosing only one for this will be hard as well. Right now, I'd have to say Asana. I love that I am able to manage my various projects and it serves as my go-to for keeping my business operations in place with great reminders and accountability.