“Everything happens for a reason” is such a common proverb, but it has guided my life ever since I can remember. In life and business things don’t always go your way, so you won’t thrive if you can’t keep things in perspective. I’ve had experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, that have made me exactly who I am today. I know that every experience will teach me something and allow me to manage challenges and not let them manage me. When in doubt, I just try to trust in the process and the unknown.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mara Hauser.
Mara Houser is the Founder & CEO of the independent brand 25N Coworking as well as Founder & Principal of Workplace Studio. A Registered Interior Designer (RID) by trade, she has been bringing innovative concepts and problem-solving designs to workplaces for more than 30 years. Mara founded 25N Coworking in 2014 as a space for suburbanites like her to work. As a working mom, she saw a need for a flexible workspace that supported active parents.
She wanted to run into potential clients and collaborators as often as fellow PTA members and chummy soccer moms. She also wanted facilities where she could seamlessly flow from private, focused work to making useful connections. She wanted the full suburban experience packed into one holistic workday. By using her background in interior design in conjunction with her entrepreneurial spirit, Mara brought this idea to life in the form of 25N Coworking. With three locations in the first 30 months of 25N Coworking’s existence, she developed a flexible Management Services Agreement model with performance incentives and greater upside potential than traditional leases.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I first began my career as an interior designer before shifting into a consulting role. Prior to founding 25N, I spent ten years helping companies optimize performance through change management. Through this experience, I began implementing shared workspace concepts into corporate environments. Since then, enterprise companies from all across the country have come to me to make their spaces more productive. Thus, 25N Coworking was born!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
In 2021, almost everyone is used to working from home. Though I believe that people will want to return to an office environment in the future, I also predict they will require more flexibility. By offering a hybrid office solution that is value-driven, we are able to fill the current needs of the modern employee and custom tailor every function of the workplace. 25N Coworking utilizes a different design model than most urban coworking spaces, offering larger sized offices and desk areas. In addition to the workspace options, we also offer a wide range of leasing options. This, coupled with our hospitality services and emphasis on wellness, makes us a disruptor in the future of the workplace. At 25N Coworking, I am able to provide companies a suite of workspace products and solutions. I consistently juggle corporate partnerships, operations and panels and I also enjoy the design and innovation behind coworking.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made was when we opened our first location! We had created punch cards that allowed use of our space for 10 days. We noticed that a lot of our members were parking outside and then walking to the Starbucks next door. We finally asked them why they weren’t coming in to work and learned they didn’t want to waste a punch on half of a work day. We then came up with a solution to offer half day punch cards to fit these member’s needs, and that’s the way it’s been ever since.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My first and favorite mentor was and is my father. He is an entrepreneur as well and was always looking for opportunities to expand his dry cleaning business. His business evolved into selling draperies and wall coverings and served the hotel industry. He ended up selling all the soft goods for Hilton Hotels. I admired his involvement in the community with the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary. He knew of all the business owners in the community and always wanted to help them achieve their goals. Growing up in this business forward mindset has shaped me into the entrepreneur I am today!
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Coworking is a disruption to the real estate industry, which can be seen as a positive or negative. It is a positive for companies, in particular startups and small businesses, that want to minimize the risk of leasing an office space long-term. However, it is a negative to commercial real estate companies. Especially during the pandemic, businesses have had to adapt quickly to new challenges and it is hard to watch fellow entrepreneurs struggle amidst the crisis.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- My friend Kathy McDonald authored a book called Creating Your Life Collage: Strategies for Solving the Work/Life Dilemma and I think about the advice within it almost every day. The theory behind the book is that everyone’s life is a collage and all the pieces work cohesively within. If any of the pieces “collide” or become out of balance, that’s totally okay, but you will inevitably have to “re-center” to maintain a healthy balance. For me, this book had the most impact when I first became a mom as I had to negotiate every hour of my day and make sacrifices to build my family and advance my career at the same time.
- In 1991, I purchased my first company, Design Unlimited, at 29 years old. I knew at that moment that I would benefit from a support system and from mentors, so I immediately signed up for NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). When I met my ambassador Marsha Goldstein, her advice was to “make sure you manage the chopped liver first.” In other words, if you hate chopped liver, you should eat it first and get it over with so you can enjoy the rest of your meal. What she meant was that we all have tasks that we dread, but if you procrastinate that task will hang over your head all day long. Nothing goes well until you finish it. What she taught me was to attack my day starting with the least desirable task to make the rest of my day easy by comparison.
- “Everything happens for a reason” is such a common proverb, but it has guided my life ever since I can remember. In life and business things don’t always go your way, so you won’t thrive if you can’t keep things in perspective. I’ve had experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, that have made me exactly who I am today. I know that every experience will teach me something and allow me to manage challenges and not let them manage me. When in doubt, I just try to trust in the process and the unknown.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I see a lot of opportunity with multifamily and mixed-use development. I hope to continue reimagining the live-work-play model and offering hybrid workplace solutions.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Balancing family and work life is definitely a challenge faced by women that many males do not have to wrestle. Women volunteer sooner than men to take care of the family, homeschool the children and be the primary caretaker, and I believe COVID-19 has really brought these adversities to the forefront with children being at home.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I absolutely love the “How I Built This” podcast by Guy Raz! It is so impactful to hear about how other entrepreneurs brought their visions to fruition. Every business has its ups and downs and getting the “behind the scenes” look into the business is so interesting.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Back in the Industrial Revolution, Henry Ford created the Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 work week that we are so familiar with today. Before that, individuals and families were struggling to balance odd hours and excruciating long days in good jobs that should have supported a better lifestyle. To me, coworking — and suburban coworking specifically — is an evolution of that. We are creating a new, dynamic shift so that people can work when they need to and how they need to in order to completely balance their lives. I feel lucky to contribute to this movement every day and challenge the notion that a career-focused individual can’t have a great work-life balance. I’m already sitting squarely in that niche, and I’m passionate about bringing its benefits to as many people as I can. I founded 25N Coworking as a space to work for suburbanites just like me: active parents seeking a flexible, productive workday supported by an existing community. I wanted to create a space where professionals could run into potential clients and collaborators as often as fellow PTA members and soccer moms. I wanted to foster a place where coworkers could seamlessly flow from home to focused work and back again. To me, that’s truly the definition of a productive workday and can improve quality of life for many people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everything happens for a reason!” You never know when you are in the middle of something but I am a firm believer that you find out eventually. Failures are all learning lessons that make us stronger individuals and entrepreneurs.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on LinkedIn here and follow 25N Coworking here:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!