WeWork is by far the biggest co-working company around, but numerous niche providers have been trying to carve out space in an increasingly cluttered market. Those include wellness-centric Well Work Win, and women-focused The Wing.
The latest entrant, Blackbird, focuses on women of color and will open its first location in Los Angeles next month. More locations are being considered, including one in Oakland, along with others in New York City, Atlanta and eventually London, Paris and South Africa.
Blackbird’s first location is a roughly 12,000-square-foot space at 10600 Virginia Avenue in Culver City. There will be 40 dedicated desks and 10 private offices, as well as floating desk and communal work spaces.
In the works are a podcast studio, a 12-seat classroom, cafe, fitness room, and meditation room. Programming will focus on women of color, said founder and L.A.-based designer Bridgid Coulter. She said other co-working companies have largely ignored that clientele.
Blackbird operates as a collective, and is funded by a small group of investors, who Coulter would not name. If the first location is successful, she said, Coulter plans to seek additional funding and expand in the L.A. area.
Coulter is a former actress whose longtime partner is Oscar-winning actor Don Cheadle. Blackbird’s executive team also includes producer and director Dayna Lynne North, who most recently was an executive producer and writer for HBO’s “Insecure.”
Coulter said she was inspired to create Blackbird last summer, when her design firm was looking for a new space. She joined several co-working spaces, including The Wing, which has a location in West Hollywood and where she’s still a member.
“I found that I was drawn to spaces created by women and designed for women,” Coulter said.
Coulter said that while she didn’t feel unwelcome in other co-working spaces, she described an intangible benefit of spaces where women of color aren’t in the minority.
“It’s a place where you get to let your hair down,” she said. “It’s a place where you can go see your tribe, talk about things and there’s understanding.”
Women of color are consistently underrepresented in the workplace, studies have shown and in surveys, have described microaggressions, unconscious bias, and double standards, according to a Harvard Business Review article in March.
The real estate industry — and in particular the commercial real estate industry — has historically been dominated by white men. More than half of women in commercial real estate reported experiencing sexual harassment at one point in their career, according to a survey last year by recruitment firm RETS Associates.
Blackbird is a private club but is open to everyone. Around 10 of the roughly 75 or so people who have already expressed interest in working at Blackbird are not women of color, a point Coulter called “vital.”
“If there’s anyone who wants to be in an inclusive space that is majority diverse and wants to have these conversations, they’re super welcome,” she said. “It’s for women of color and allies.”
Last year, The Wing got into hot water for not allowing men to join. Earlier this year, The Wing opened membership to men after a Washington, D.C.-area man filed a discrimination lawsuit.