The Devon business network space just for women

A co-working office space.

The Tribe is female-focused coworking space. - Credit: Tessa Bricknell of Headcake

SUE CADE learns about a coworking space for female entrepreneurs 

The phrase ‘finding my tribe’ has been well used in recent years. But for Stacey Sheppard, it was more a case of helping others to find their tribe. Stacey is a force to be reckoned with, after all, she opened her coworking space - The Tribe - just two months before a certain pandemic began.  

She is also a professional content creator. Her multi-award-winning blog, The Design Sheppard, is ranked as one of the top ten interior design blogs in the UK and in 2019 it became her full-time job.  

However, there was a downside. “Working from home was not the dream I’d imagined. I missed the camaraderie and support from office colleagues. It was lonely and isolating.”  

Stacey looked for a local coworking space but couldn’t find anything that met her exacting design standards. “I’d watched the explosion of design-led coworking spaces and the growing trend for female-focused coworking spaces and I wished there was something similar in Totnes.” 

Whilst working from home, Stacey had relied on her online network to combat isolation. She’d spoken with many female entrepreneurs and had recognised that other women face similar challenges in business. And the research supports it. “One of the main barriers that women in business face is a lack of relatable mentors, sponsors, role models and support networks,” says Stacey. “I wanted to create a safe space where women can come to find that network, but in a way that isn’t as intimidating as going to a networking event.”   

A woman holding a watering can and standing near an indoor plant.

Stacey Sheppard is a force to be reckoned with. - Credit: Tessa Bricknell of Headcake

Realising that other women were also in need of a community, the decision was made, and The Tribe opened its doors in January 2020. But we all know what happened next. Workers deserted offices as everyone was told to work from home. News articles declared that coworking was dead and Stacey wondered if she would ever re-open.  

But then came the about turn. “As we moved into the summer, opinions shifted as coworking was heralded as the new way to work!” Slowly women started to return to The Tribe, many desperately seeking that interaction that they had so badly missed whilst working from home. 

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The space attracts entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors and members have included a celebrity talent manager, hypnotherapists, social media and PR specialists, photographers, illustrators, coaches, designers and makers.  

The pandemic may have stalled her progress, but Stacey is now back on course with her mission to help female entrepreneurs to thrive by providing an environment that allows them to unlock their full potential.   

When did it all begin? 

The advent of coworking is a little fuzzy. In 1995, a ‘hackerspace’ called C-Base was created by 17 computer engineers in Berlin, then in 1999, 42 West 24 in New York introduced flexible desks for teams and individuals. But coworking first become a buzzword in 2005 in the US when software engineer Brad Neuberg set up the San Francisco Coworking Space. based at a feminist collective called Spiral Muse in the Mission district of San Francisco.