RISE Collaborative nurtures women in their own workplace

Stacy Taubman talks with guests at an opening event last week of the RISE Collaborative Workspace. Taubman is founder and CEO of the venture, which offers  a shared work environ-ment catering to women. Photo: Andrew Kerman

By Ellie Grossman-Cohen, Special to the Jewish Light

The RISE Collaborative Workspace is no ordinary office. Then again, its founder and CEO, Stacy Taubman, is no ordinary businesswoman. 

Taubman, along with Kate Wiegmann, her business partner and chief operating officer, found a niche in St. Louis, and they are giving women something they crave. 

No, it’s not chocolate, although a glass vase filled with Hershey’s Kisses sits at the reception desk. 

What working women want, Taubman says, is “community, connections, and confidence.” RISE Collaborative, a shared work environment that caters to women (without excluding men), provides those to its members and is at the forefront of a national business trend. 

RISE is centrally located in the Clayton-Ladue corridor inside the brown brick U.S. Bank building at 8820 Ladue Road. The 6,000-square-foot “office away from home” opened its doors last month and has gained recognition from the likes of USA Today and Bloomberg News for  leading the way in female-focused workplaces.

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Taubman, 38, recently won the St. Louis Business Journal’s  Catapult Competition as voted by 800 women at last month’s Business Journal Women’s Conference. It came with $10,000 worth of technology services from MasterCard, the competition’s sponsor.

“Women rank community as highest on their list of needs when it comes to conducting business,” Taubman said. “We are making social capital accessible by offering them a place to work, collaborate, and an opportunity to give back to the next generation. We plan to stay at the forefront and grow rapidly.” 

RISE Collaborative has three levels of drop-in memberships: a “social membership” for $40/month, a “part-time membership” for $200/mo., and a “full-time membership” for $350/mo. Each level provides a progressively greater level of access to the space and amenities so members can select the level that best meets their goals.

For Laura Horwitz, who has a six-month membership,  being part of a community is what it’s all about. 

“RISE helps me plan for my organization’s growth in a realistic way,” said Horwitz, co-founder of We Stories, a rapidly growing organization that uses children’s literature to educate about racism. “I  love to learn about other women-led organizations and expand the audience of potential collaborators and supporters.”

Taubman, a St. Louis native and University of Missouri-Columbia grad with only one college business course under her belt, started as a high school math teacher and counselor. In 2013, with a desire to connect in a more meaningful, personal way with young girls and help build their confidence and prepare them for college, Taubman founded Girls Dreaming Big (GDB), a company that offers academic tutoring and coaching. It remains an integral part of RISE’s integrated business plan.

“It wasn’t until I became a business person and started GDB that I realized how supportive the Jewish community would be for me,” she said. “I was amazed how many Jewish women cared about and supported me. 

“During my journey, I set up interviews with more than 300 smart, strong, successful women who have busy, important careers of their own and yet made time for me. I will always be grateful to them,” Taubman said, crediting Debbie Greenberg, director of college counseling at College Bound St Louis; Erica Zoll, regional director of development and external affairs at KIPP Public Charter School in St. Louis; and Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center.

It was during those conversations that Taubman had an “aha” moment. 

“I wanted to combine my two passions, working with teens and empowering established business women to achieve their goals,” she said. “And I thought, what a perfect way to connect these young girls to wonderful women in a variety of professions. They can help each other reach their full potential. 

“Our community has a shared belief that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’ and these teens are benefiting by working alongside these successful career women through mentorships and internships.” 

The philosophy at RISE Collaborative is all about balance, as evidenced by the ambience created with plenty of natural lighting and hues of navy, purple and earthy gray. The atmosphere is bright, cheerful and inviting with open café seating for members who might otherwise have to set up shop at Starbucks.

“Our community is designed by women, for women, but some of us have male clients,” Taubman said. “We are inclusive and male friendly, while we embrace our femininity and strength.”

In addition to 11 private offices, other amenities include three conference or “huddle” rooms, one large classroom, two phone/lactation rooms (to make private phone calls or for nursing mothers to use), 3,000 square feet of flexible workstations and collaboration space, and free, well-lighted parking. A huge, open kitchen is stocked with snacks and unlimited coffee and tea. 

For Melanie Paticoff Grossman, owner of Hearing Our Way, a magazine for children and teens with hearing loss, sharing a private office with a fellow young newlywed was the perfect solution.

“Being in Clayton does come at a cost, but finding someone to share an office with afforded me the opportunity to be a private office member,” Grossman said. 

“I have access to my office two to three days a week, and Morgan Clark of STL Sitter shares it the remaining days. Like many of the women at RISE, she understands the delicate balance between home and work, and sharing the space eases some of that pressure.”

A handwritten message on a big black chalkboard reminds everyone of the company’s manifesto: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This quote, by Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, sums up what Taubman is so passionate about and what continues to drive her to work so hard.

“The people we surround ourselves with influence our perspective and impact how we feel,” she said. “Our mission is to surround women with other impressive, dynamic women who inspire them to go after their dreams. 

“We rise up through collaboration. No successful woman rose to the top by herself. The media often portray women tearing each other down, and our belief in women helping women should be modeled and encouraged. Our goal is to create a pipeline for success, a continuum of support, and to give back to the next generation.”

For more information on membership perks and a scholarship program for teens, visit riseworkspace.com.