Women in Charge

Make Lemonade’s Rachel Kelly, starts accelerator program for female-businesses

Rachel Kelly
photo by Amber Ellis

As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. And that’s exactly what Rachel Kelly did when she created Make Lemonade, a co-working space for women in Toronto.

Written by Holly Walker

The best lesson Kelly ever learned from her entrepreneur parents is that life is about colouring outside of the lines.

Growing up, her geologist father and linguist mother created an automotive manufacturing company. Their venture on the path less travelled showed her that while education is there to teach you, it should never restrict you. After witnessing first-hand the rewards an entrepreneurial lifestyle can bring and the hard work required Kelly always knew she wanted to be in charge of her own life.

Living a life of trial, her resume is decorated with a diverse set of experiences, from event planning to travel writing to content creation. The last few years were spent working remotely from home or coffee shops. While exciting at first, the romanticism of this nomadic lifestyle soon wore off and Kelly found herself feeling lonely and missing the social aspect of a nine-to-five grind.

In what would be a pivotal moment in her career, Kelly found herself holding a lemon when a full-time salaried job offer soured and fell through in 2016. After finding herself at a crossroads, she turned an obstacle into an opportunity and made lemonade.

With nothing to lose, Kelly let her dreams run wild and opened the doors to Make Lemonade in 2017.

Here she shares what makes co-working spaces so unique.

Make Lemonade office
(Photo: Cameron Bartlett)


Why is having a co-working space, particularly for women, so important?

Having a co-working space is important because whether you are a business owner, a freelancer, or someone who works remotely, there are going to be times when you feel lonely. Having a place where people are going to know you by your name and be happy to see you is something that can completely transform your day and outlook on your life. I was a part of many online communities and I found that women were chatting online but we weren’t meeting in person. When I started to research, I found there weren’t many spaces for women, and that was point of differentiation I was looking for. Men are allowed here too, but this is a space that’s been created for women.

Everything is great inside the walls of Make Lemonade, but the reality is there’s a world out there where women aren’t being treated the way that they need to be, which is why it’s important that there are spaces like this. We’re finding solidarity and connecting, but there’s something more magical when we come together.

How would you describe the community at Make Lemonade?

You will always be greeted and someone will know your name. There’s always music playing; people are not only sharing what they did on their weekend but also their latest business accomplishments. A lot of women are working with each other and building businesses together: there is a business that’s being built out of Make Lemonade right now where every single resource of their company are all people they’ve met through Make Lemonade.

Somebody said to me once that the first time they walked through Make Lemonade it felt like home, and that was really moving to me. When I first set out to create Make Lemonade I just wanted a groovy spot that had Wi-Fi and desks something practical. I didn’t think about how much impact we were going to make. My dream has come true, and now it’s a bit of a dream for other people too.

(Photo: Cameron Bartlett)

What is the Make Lemonade accelerator program?

We have out first cohort running right now. It began in September. It’s a six-month long program run out of Make Lemonade. The whole idea behind it was to reduce barriers. The truth of the matter is even though we want to accept everyone at Make Lemonade and we are an open and inclusive space, we are still a business that has to charge memberships.

The accelerator program is completely free for 10 young businesses to be a part of the program. It gives them access to a business coach, a brand strategist, and a financial planner to help them look at their entire business to make it profitable, impactful and efficient. Many businesses start off at home, alone, with very tight budgets and here we help remove that.

What advice would you offer to people who are unsure of where their career is taking them?

Everything you’re doing right now is for a reason. Everything you have experienced will lead you to your ultimate plan. No matter where you are, you’re exactly where you need to be. There’s comfort in knowing that everyone has felt like they’re in the wrong place at some point.