Hello SOTGC community,
It is with GREAT pleasure that I introduce you to Felena Hanson, founder of Hera Hub, which is a shared workspace for accomplished, like-minded entrepreneurial women. The Hera Hub locations are more collaborative than an executive suite, more professional than working from Starbucks, more focused than working from home, and more flexible and cost effective than full-time office space, and has a spa-like ambiance to it. Gone are the days of cubicles that stifle creativity and hinder collaboration. In are the “creative corners” filled with bright colors, beautiful decorations, and a “Zen like” feel.
The Early years
I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. My Dad launched a floor covering business shortly after I was born, in a small town near San Luis Obispo, California. I did anything I could to make a dime growing up… selling lemonade in front of my Dad’s shop, mowing our 2-acre lawn, or even selling peacock feathers in front of the grocery store (yes, we had a peacock)! I had the great opportunity to work and learn from him as I grew up. I found that I loved business – it just made sense to me from an early age.
While I was involved in my high school’s business club, DECA, I wasn’t a dedicated student. In fact I got mostly C’s – I pretty much just barely got by. I was more concerned about tennis and boys than classes. Thus, going straight to a four-year college wasn’t an option for me. So I went to a community college for two years, which really got me focused. I was inspired and challenged, and I got my act together! I earned good grades and was able to transfer to University of San Diego my junior year. I continued to study business and landed a great marketing internship my senior year.
First Job and Close-to-Death Experience
Although I wanted to get into marketing, I took a job right out of school in sales – more money, more opportunity. Almost immediately after graduating I moved to Los Angeles and took an inside sales position for a large dental company. About a year later I moved to another sales job in commercial office furniture, and was only there about 6 months when I was in a life threatening car accident – a collision with a fire truck that ran a red light at the end of the 8 freeway (obviously I didn’t see or hear them). At 22 years old I came literally inches away from losing my life.
I had a long recovery process – I went through over a dozen surgeries, was in the hospital over a month and in a wheel chair for several months following. It was 6 months until I returned to Los Angeles and was able to get back to work with the furniture company. Within a short period of time I was promoted to outside sales, which was a lot of fun for me. That job really taught me about relationship selling. About a year later I had my first opportunity to move into marketing with a high tech recruiting firm in Torrance. I was elated! My first marketing job!
Meanwhile on the personal side I married my boyfriend of 3 years, who had faithfully stayed by my side during my recovery process. It was remarkable for a twenty-one year-old man to have the wherewithal to stay with me through my recovery. I can tell you I wasn’t pretty – I fractured multiple bones in my face, clavicle, hips, legs and arms. I pretty much looked like a squashed blueberry for a while. When he asked me to marry him about a year after I recovered I remember thinking… I know we’re young, but how could I not marry this man after he stood by me through thick and thin!
I was shocked to find out that only 9 months after landing my first real job in marketing the company was sold and the majority of the staff was laid off. I was devastated… I was recently married and now supporting my artistic husband in his ventures to launch a surf board manufacturing and surf apparel company. I needed to find a new gig quickly. Luckily I landed a job at a marketing agency in Redondo Beach in less than two months. I was an account manager doing web development work for clients such as DIRECTV Sports, Sun America, Fox News Channel, and Epson.
My job grew into a role where I helped manage collaboration projects between companies like DIRECTV Sports and large merchandisers. I continued to help my husband with his business and decided to go back to school a few nights a week to get my MBA. I was laid off again in 2000 when the marketing agency was sold, so I took the opportunity to finish my MBA full-time before moving back to San Diego in 2001.
We bought a very cute 1920s Spanish style home in North Park and I found a job as Director of Marketing at a high tech company where again my role was to manage collaboration projects with large media companies such as CNN, USA Today, and LA Times. I definitely felt like I was in over my head at the time but I somehow had the confidence to take the “fake it till you make it” attitude… which I had routinely applied throughout my career. My other mantra is “say yes and Google it!”
We ended up selling the company to America Online in 2003, which meant I was again out of a job… my 3rd layoff by age 29! I had a couple options at this point… find another J-O-B or launch out on my own. I’d been the family breadwinner for five years and felt like it was my turn to follow in my father’s footsteps. Plus, San Diego is a small business town, so I felt had just as much possibility of success on my own as I would going to work for another company that would be bought, sold, downsized, etc.
The Birth of An Entrepreneur
With a solid background in collaboration and marketing I launched my consulting practice in 2003. I named my business Perspective Marketing, as I felt I could help small businesses see issues from an objective angle… sort of the 30,000 foot level, as I like to say. Over the last eight years my role has been to help small service based companies find a niche and grow their business.
Part of the reason I got my MBA was to eventually teach… but when I was presented with the opportunity to branch out on my own I thought I might try my hand sooner than later. Through a series of connections, CSUDH and CSULB offered me an adjunct teaching position in marketing for their online programs. Shortly after that I also landed a job teaching Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, downtown San Diego. This gave me some stability while I launched my business – I also found I LOVED it… especially teaching young women at FIDM!
At age 31, six years after marrying my college sweetheart, my husband and I split up. Simply put, we married too young and his eyes wondered. I started writing a book titled “30 Reasons to Not Marry before 30” shortly after we split up but realized a couple years into the project that the publishing industry is tough and that I didn’t have the credentials to make it successful.
The Growth of my Network
Shortly after I launched my business I realized I must start focusing on building my reputation in the business community through networking. In 2006 I met Linda Lattimore as she was in the first stages of launching Women’s Global Network. I was one of her first board members and just over a year later took over the leadership of the San Diego chapter as she moved back to Texas to launch additional chapters. WGN is a wonderful organization that not only focuses on building business locally but also helping women in developing nations launch businesses through microloans. Running WGN not only gave me great leadership experience but also good visibility. I continued to expand my network and meet amazing San Diego businesswomen. I did a few speaking engagements here and there and continued to teach part-time.
My affiliation with the Fashion Institute led me to launch a fashion networking organization and do several non-profit projects, such as the current venture with the San Diego Visual Arts Network called Art Meets Fashion – a unique collaboration project partnering visual artists and fashion designers throughout San Diego. In addition to the artist/designer duo, each team is also comprised of a documenter (photographer or videographer) and educator. The goal is to document the creative process between artist and designer and for the educator to take the learnings back into San Diego high schools and community colleges to inspire teens to get into the arts. The work was showcased at the San Diego Airport from March to September 2011 and at various galleries and boutiques in Central San Diego.
About a year and a half ago I had the opportunity to step into a temporary leadership position with Ladies Who Launch. I took over management of the local chapter in August 2009. This was an opportunity to work with a new group of entrepreneurial women, with a national organization that had fairly good brand recognition. I’ve really enjoyed leading the Incubator Intensive Workshops – which are part inspiration, education, and accountability between 6-8 female entrepreneurs.
I took the concept of collaboration to the next level when I joined forces with Michelle Bergquist, founder of Connected Women of Influence, to launch the Business Women’s Mega Mixer in 2010. This is a showcase of professional women’s organizations throughout San Diego County. The first event drew over 25 organizations, 500 women, and raised close to $6,000 for the Women’s History Museum. The second annual event took place March 2011 and allowed us to raise close to $11,000 for the YWCA. The 2012 event is planned for 3/22/12.
And now I’m on my most current adventure in Entrepreneurship. Hera Hub which is thriving in San Diego, California.
For more on Hera Hub please stay tuned for the coming interview on this amazing concept, space, and the wonderful collaboration this company inspires and brings together.