Location: 1311 Summit Street, Columbus, OH 43201
Tell me why you started Zora’s House.
I moved here in 2015, with my husband who is originally from Columbus, Ohio; but, had been gone for about 10 years. When I got here, I was in the midst of life transition, recently married, thinking about having kids and this was a brand-new city for me. I was looking to get connected. I wanted to meet other women of color and not just meet for friendships, although I wanted that too. Spoiler alert, it is really hard to make friends when you are grown. I wanted that; but, I also wanted to be seen and supported in all the transitions that I was moving through at that time. I had a hard time connecting. I had a hard time finding that space and community. That is where the idea for Zora’s house came from.
Describe Zora’s House.
Zora’s house is a coworking space and leadership incubator for women of color. It is a space where you can get connected to other like-minded women of color who are trying to improve themselves and the world around them. We provide a physical space. It is described by one of our members as “imagine your favorite coffee shop and your home girl’s house had a baby, that’s Zora’s house.” I think what she was alluding to was not just the space itself but how it feels to be in a public space as a woman of color and you can take the mask off. You can be you. You don’t have to worry about how your hair looks, how your voice or attitude is coming across. You can just feel like you are at home. We provide that space. We provide workshops and programs to support women of color, in all the things that they are trying to do; but, especially in building businesses, activating their leadership and dreams and whatever into the world around them.
What is the parking situation?
In our current space Weinland Park is in Columbus which is north of downtown and south of campus (Ohio State University (OSU)). It looks like a physical house in a neighborhood. There is street parking across the street for free. On the Zora’s house side of the street, the parking is about $1 per hour. We can validate parking for members who come and park. Zora’s house is wheelchair accessible. We have ramps that allow you to access the coworking space. Usually, people park right in front of the building or directly across the street. It is not usually a huge haul (long walk).
Can you just show up?
We have a meaningful investment membership model. We let people say what they can pay at any given time for their membership. We have folks who pay $15 per month. We have folks who pay $75 per month. It is whatever feels right to you. Our coworking is also accessible to non-members. There is a drop-in fee. If you want to drop in and cowork for a whole day, it is $15. Every first Friday of the month is free for anybody to come and cowork. When you come in, it is like coming home. You check in. We get your parking validated. Then, you come and hang out. Come as you are. You may see somebody suited and booted and someone else at the same table in their pjs or sweatpants.
What is the age demographic?
We are an intergenerational membership. In our leadership fellows program, we have recipients who are as young as 25 and one of our leadership fellows is 55.
Are most of the members writers?
We have a lot of creatives who come to our space. We are named after Zora Neale Hurston who was a well-known writer, anthropologist, and filmmaker during the Harlem Renaissance. Early on, I think we attracted a lot of writers. We are diverse in who shows up, what they want, and what they love. Our events center around supporting women of color to get their work into the world. We are close to OSU; so, that may mean a PhD student comes and works on their dissertation in the sciences. We may have some writers. We may have some entrepreneurs. We have some professionals. We have events that do a little bit of everything. We try to support people across a wide range of interests.
Is there a new member orientation?
If you come to cowork, come, check in and get to work. You may hear a conversation you want to join. IF you become a member, twice a month we have new member orientation. You can come and meet new people who recently joined Zora’s house and OG (original gangster) members who have been members for a while. As a member, you have access to members only programming and meetups. We recently had a game night. It is an experience where you can choose how much structured support you want or if you want to choose your own adventure. There was a time when we were really structured and the feedback was that people wanted to have the choice to come in and do their own thing. It is a mix and it is what you make of it.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you think I should have asked you? If so, go ahead and answer that question.
Zora’s House has a social justice mission. We believe that when women of color have what they need to disregard the status quo, to build lives and careers that recognize all of who they are, it is a better world for everybody. We feel that in doing the work that we do, we are transforming the community in powerful ways and activating women of color who may not otherwise have the opportunity or resources to do the things they really want and that our community needs.
Why did you become an ambassador?
I saw Zora’s house advertised somewhere. I thought, “that looks cool, I should go there.” I put something on the calendar, I missed it. I put something else on my calendar, I missed it. I am currently at Ohio State getting my master’s in dance. My advisor shot me an email that said, “This looks like something that you should be doing.” I said, “third time is a charm.” I clicked the link. They were looking for an ambassador and I signed up. I wanted to open up my pool of creatives that I am around. I have been dancing in the community for quite a long time. I know the same folk. I thought Zora’s house would be a way to get out of my small pool and find some other creatives, some other like-minded folks to share, collaborate, talk, speak and grow.