The Women of Link
Three members of Link Coworking share the road they took to becoming entrepreneurs.
By Malia Bradshaw, Photos by Korey Howell Photography and Trevor Ray Thompson
Link Coworking, created by March 2013 Austin Woman cover woman Liz Elam, is a modern space where entrepreneurs can establish connections and collaborate with other professionals. Located in Central Austin, Link provides small meeting-room spaces, conference-room rentals and event space for some of Austin’s most innovative and inspiring entrepreneurs. Three women of Link share their stories of success.
When Laurie Loew decided to merge real estate with philanthropy, it wasn’t intentional. After 12 years of marriage, Loew and her husband got divorced, prompting her to figure out how to survive while doing something she really enjoyed. That’s when the idea of Give Realty, an Austin Real Estate company that donates 25 percent of commission to a nonprofit of the client’s choice, was born.
“I was going through a divorce and my ex and I were fighting over money, and then it clicked how fortunate I am to even be in that situation,” Loew explains. “And then it clicked that I should really volunteer so I can understand better just how fortunate I am. And then the light bulb about donating back went off.”
In the four and a half years since its start, Give Realty has donated more than $227,000 to local and national charities, with all donations made in the name of the buyer or seller. Recent donation recipients have included the Wounded Warrior Project, Humane Society of Williamson County and Saint Mary Cathedral. Loew has also witnessed many of her clients establish a continued commitment to these organizations long after the sale.
It was when a mutual friend introduced Loew to Link Coworking that she began to see the benefits such a membership could offer to her business. Loew, who previously worked from home, found that Link provided a way to set definition to her workdays.
“When I’d get to Link, my day would start and then when I left, I could shut my laptop,” Loew says. “And I was surprised by how many times I really didn’t need to open it up when I got home, where, when I was working out of home, my laptop was always open and I was always working.”
In addition, Loew has enjoyed the positive effects of co-working that Link has presented, whether it be gaining clients (one Link member purchased a home through Give Realty), bouncing around ideas with other entrepreneurs, having a professional meeting space or establishing connections.
“[Link founder Elam] is awesome at connecting. She has connected me with all kinds of people who can help me try and figure out how I can get my business to grow, what the next steps are, where my strengths are and where my weaknesses are,” Loew says. “It’s just been really wonderful.”
Based on her experience with Give Realty, Loew believes strongly in the connection between business and philanthropy, hoping to grow the idea that any business can have a huge impact within the community. Loew, who claims she hadn’t given “a darn thing” before Give Realty, would love to share with people how important and life-changing it is to give. Her business has not only had an impact on the community, but also on her.
“My idea of success when I started the business versus what I have now is different,” Loew says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the zip code I live in or what I drive. I measure my success by what I’ve been able to create in our community and that is so much more meaningful to me than just the paycheck side of things.”
With the help of Link and the selfless drive of Loew, 2013 promises to be a year full of giving. For more information, visit Give Realty.
Abby Phenix had a full-time job at a global private equity firm when she joined Link about a year ago. Though she had her own lavish office at the firm, Phenix felt the environment was too conservative and traditional for what she was trying to accomplish.
“I felt like I needed to be somewhere more dynamic,” Phenix says. “So I decided to join Link to be around a more engaging community but not actually have to take on new co-workers.”
For the first few months after joining, Phenix conducted the work for her full-time employer from the Link space. It wasn’t long before Phenix became inspired by the entrepreneurs surrounding her each day.
“I started to feel like maybe I could do what I saw all these other people doing,” she explains.
Phenix reached out through Link’s internal network to inquire about career coaching. Interested in possibly negotiating with her employer about moving up in the company, Phenix spent six months with Allison Crow, an international intuitive business coach and Link member.
“When I started with her I said, ‘Well, I’m thinking about leaving in two years and what can I negotiate in the meantime?’ And by the time I got done working with [Crow], I had quit my job entirely and become a freelance marketing consultant,” Phenix recalls.
Phenix finds that the biggest difference between a full-time office job and being an entrepreneur is that she gets to decide how to spend her time. However, it’s a continued challenge as a first-time entrepreneur to figure out how to use that time most effectively, a challenge she believes can be faced by figuring out what’s important.
“Take the time to figure out what is important to you and then design your work and life around that,” Phenix explains. “Everybody at Link is doing things differently. There’s a million different ways you can design your working life, but you can’t really redesign what’s important to you.”
Once you establish what’s important, she declares that it will help guide you in allocating your time.
Much like her own experience, Phenix also recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs utilize a co-working space like Link.
“All entrepreneurs should take a chance on co-working at some point just to experience it,” Phenix says. “And maybe for them, it may not work. But you never know until you give it a shot. You meet some great people. It’s like working in an office without all the crappy politics.”
One scan around the Link office and it’s apparent she’s right. There’s a different atmosphere at Link than any other professional office. There’s space for collaboration, for laughter and for growth—three things that every entrepreneur should have at her disposal.
For more information, visit Abby Phenix.
When you speak to Sharon Munroe about her life, you wonder how she does it. In particular, you wonder how she managed to start three separate businesses within the past few years, all while raising three young children and maintaining a commitment to the community.
After spending more than 20 years in marketing roles for large corporations, as well as marketing research consulting, Munroe realized her career wasn’t fulfilling at that stage of her life. So she decided to leave her job and joined Link in 2010, using it as a space to conduct her job search. It was there, amongst Link’s entrepreneurs and small-business executives that Munroe was inspired to start her own business.
“I did all my planning from [Link],” Munroe says. “It allowed me to be surrounded by people who knew how to do some of these things or to find somebody who did.”
In 2011, Munroe started Little Green Beans, a children’s resale store. Besides consigning and selling gently used clothing, toys, books and baby gear, Little Green Beans also gives back to the community. Goods that cannot be sold in the store are donated weekly to successful nonprofits that give them away to families in need.
Less than a year later, Munroe reconnected with previous colleagues to establish a market-research agency, ReconMR. Although ReconMR extends to Houston, San Marcos and Phoenix, the headquarters remain in Austin at Link Coworking.
“We made a very conscious decision that Austin is where ReconMR is going to be based, and starting it at [Link] gives us access to incredible resources: a place to meet, great location. There’s a lot of benefits,” Munroe explains.
Lastly, Munroe founded the Advanced Maternal Age Project, a blog of collected stories by women who decided at age 35 or older to start a family, all meant to be inspirational. The blog also shares Munroe’s story: She chose to begin her family at age 40 when she gave birth to her first child. Three years later, she became a foster parent (eventually adopting her daughter), and gave birth to another son.
The goal with the Advanced Maternal Age Project is “getting women to just tell us their story,” Munroe says. “What were their challenges? What was so rewarding? What is it like to be an older mother? Some women just kind of want to sweep that under the rug. And I want to bring it out because I think that younger women are starting to make those decisions now about when they’re going to have children. And if they know they can have a rewarding experience later on, they will wait and that’s OK.”
Based on her own experience, Munroe recommends that aspiring entrepreneurs take advantage of a place like Link.
“To be here with this very modern, open design, surrounded by other entrepreneurs and businesspeople, [aspiring entrepreneurs] are going to get inspired. They’re going to be more productive. They’re going to be happier,” Munroe explains. “If you’re a serious professional, you need a professional environment.”
Munroe believes she could not have started multiple businesses, as well as raise her children in this short period of time had she not had the commitment to being somewhere like Link. Munroe is a living testament to a woman’s ability to succeed, to balance work and family, and to give to the community.