Melissa and Sandy founded New Women Space—a Brooklyn-based event space and community for women-led initiatives—just a few months ago. Already, they’ve run a successful Kickstarter campaign, hosted a grand opening launch party, and are scheduling must-attend events with names like How To Calm The F*ck Down! Ayurvedic Tools for Self Healing and Stop Adulting, Start Playing.
I first met Sandy last summer at an event for GIRL PARTY, the Brooklyn-based event series she created to bring women together. Later, when I read she was partnering with Melissa to create New Women Space, I couldn’t wait to ask what their big plans were. I loved hearing about Melissa and Sandy’s journey and business-building insights, and I’m so glad to help you get to know these change-making women.
Can you tell me about how you met?
Melissa: We both knew a yoga studio owner who hosted a get-together among women in her network. We met there, and a few months later, I followed up with Sandy. I’d gone to one of her GIRL PARTY events, and I had been doing Up Speak, peer mentorship groups for women, so I thought we’d have some similar challenges, input, and feedback to exchange.
How did New Women Space begin?
Melissa: When we met for coffee, we talked about how we both love hosting events. There’s something special about bringing people together—a palpable energy. When Sandy said she always wanted to have a designated space for GIRL PARTY, I followed up and proposed that we produce a one month pop-up with all women focused programming.
Sandy: We were both independently excited about starting something new. That energy combined sparked something.
"Sandy and I looked at each other, and said, 'Are we doing this?' We went out for soda and pizza and shook on it."
Melissa: We wanted to get feedback from women in our networks about what our pop-up should look and feel like and what services it should offer. Once we started hosting these initial conversations, we started to realize that the time constraint of one month would be not fulfill our desire to create a real living community—what if the energy and relationships we created fell by the wayside without the space to keep it going?
On the last night of our feedback sessions, a woman in attendance offered us to come see the vacant space next to the shop she owns. We walked over to see the space right then and there, and it felt right. Sandy and I looked at each other, and said, Are we doing this? We went out for a soda and pizza and shook on it. A few weeks later we signed the lease.
What’s your work process like?
Sandy: In the beginning, we got input from friends and from a lawyer who helped us. She had started her own business, and she recommended Melissa and I go away for a weekend together to really get to know each other. She was like, “Shit gets weird when you go into business!” It’s important to be able to communicate—you have to be able to talk about things that just friends might not talk about, like money.
"It's important to be able to communicate—you have to be able to talk about things that friends might not talk about, like money."
Melissa: We’ve had to figure out all the operations and details and realities of running a business, and interspersed between all that, have big-picture conversations that are sometimes planned and sometimes random. Like the other day, we were driving to Costco to get supplies for the New Women Space launch party. While we were sitting in crazy traffic, we had this intense conversation about all the future offerings we could have at the space.
Sandy: It’s very much about creating our values together.
Do you have particular values that you adhere to in your work?
Sandy: The term “community” gets touted and co-opted a lot, but we want to really test out what makes community. We’ve both worked in the service industry, and we’ve seen how community forms when you have regulars who keep coming back. You get to know people by name, you’re glad to see them—you might even hug. How do you inspire that across women? We think it comes down to shared values. We hope to become a space that cultivates projects, initiatives, and ideas of women of all experiences. We want to provide not just the conditions for community to be built but also the atmosphere, environment, and the support for women to grow and connect.
Do you find that you have strengths that complement each other?
Melissa: It’s essential that we both have events experience seeing that our core offering is events. Sandy is leading the creative component of the business, like doing the branding and social media. My background is in customer support and thinking about operations and administration. (I obsessively check QuickBooks.) But we also try to have open conversations to ask, Do you want me to do more of that? Does it feel good owning that?
Sandy: At our core, we love welcoming someone into the space and pouring them a glass of water. We have our own skills but they converge under one thing: making someone feel welcome and comfortable.
"We have our own skills but they converge under one thing: making someone feel welcome and comfortable."
How have the people around you responded to the work you’re doing together?
Melissa: Incredibly positively. Friends and family have known I’ve wanted to run my own business with a partner for a long time. Now that I found someone I work well with and have a shared vision with, they see that as a real milestone. They’re happy for me.
Sandy: A friend came into the space the other day and remarked that Melissa and I both have such a welcoming presence. That really matters to us. Also, a lot of friends of mine who are business owners who don’t have partners have mentioned if they could do it again, they would do it with a partner.
What do you gain from your creative partnership?
Melissa: Accountability is the first thing that comes to mind. To have a person by your side the whole time is really nice. It’s a shared experience. You don’t feel alone. You have a feedback loop.
Sandy: Both of us are 29 years old... Sorry Melissa, didn’t mean to put you on blast [both laughing]. I just officiated my best friend’s wedding. Melissa’s best friend just got married. Another friend is having a baby. There are a lot of life milestones happening around us. Something we’ve been talking about is how and where business ownership falls under life milestones. It’s rare! Not many people have the opportunity to do it. It’s been a gratifying experience to have a shared milestone with somebody. We can share in each other’s trials and triumphs. We’re better together. It’s not just about leveling up in your career or getting a mortgage or married. There are other milestones to hit, and this has been a really fun thing.
"To have a person by your side the whole time is really nice. It's a shared experience. You don't feel alone. You have a feedback loop."
Melissa: Before I met Sandy, it was frustrating for me to feel like I was ready to start a business, but I didn’t know what it should look like or who it would be with. For people feeling that same frustration, the advice I’d give to my former self—and eventually I followed it—is that it does take serendipity and chance, but you also have to put yourself out there. I had to first create something on my own, and that gave me something to talk to people about. I told the founder of the yoga studio about it, and that’s why she connected me with Sandy. Then I made sure to follow up with Sandy after we met. It took action and effort. It’s frustrating to feel powerless, but the good news is there’s some control in taking action, even if in small measures. You don’t always know where your path is going to lead you, but you have to take it one step at a time and follow your nose.
New Women Space is run by Melissa Wong and Sandy Hong in Brooklyn, New York. New Women Space cultivates projects by women of all experiences and aims to support the needs of women’s personal and professional pursuits.
Missing collaboration in your work? New Women Space also is home to a work program Co:Lab, a facilitated program designed to give women of all experiences dedicated time and space to set goals, receive feedback and make progress on their professional pursuits