Business Women Who Lead

Rachel Kelly, founder of Make Lemonade on the Power of Community

In partnership with Facebook Canada, we spoke to eight incredible women entrepreneurs (ranging from a prosthetic fashion designer to a fintech founder) in our She Means Business video series about the challenges women in business face and their journey to success. Visit BSBTV to see more.

— Rachel Kelly —

Founder, Make Lemonade

The life of a freelancer has its perks—endless freedom and a chance to design your own future. But like a lemon it can also be sour. Working from home or out of coffee shops can feel lonely, a sentiment Rachel Kelly knows all too well. Feeling a need for community, Kelly opened the doors to Make Lemonade, a co-working space for entrepreneurial and driven women in Toronto. It has since become a hub for sharing ideas, building businesses, and networking through their monthly lemonade mixer and online platforms. The idea is rooted in community and helping women find success.

PHOTOS BY ELAINE FANCY

What has been the best advice that you've been given?

The best advice I’ve been given is actually the worst advice, but I made it sweet. When I was in university and pursuing a fine arts degree at Ryerson, I was telling a friend about it. He didn’t come from a world where going to school for the arts was something that you should pursue, and said, “Well, you can always change.” I was so offended at first but as time went on, it stuck with me. You can always change, and that really helped me when I started Make Lemonade. If you decide one day that you hate what you’re doing, you can wake up and you can change it. Things are never impossible, they’re just really, really complicated.

How do you feel connected to your community?

When I started Make Lemonade, I did so with an Instagram account before I even had a physical space. That was one of the first ways that I started connecting with my community. It’s so awesome that I can go online—on our Facebook page or Instagram—or to the office and know that there’s people who are going to greet me and ask how my weekend was. We have shared desks and you have to go to the kitchen or the hallways, so there’s always instances where natural conversations are going to come up. We’ve translated that idea into a Facebook group for the community here as well. If we’re looking for advice, we ask those questions there.

What makes a great leader?

When you’re looking at a company and you’ve got this great big leader up top, you want to know that they’re still human. When I think about a great leader, I think of my [parents] and how they ran their business. They were honest, genuine, and kind. Also, everyone who is a part of Make Lemonade, or a part of our community online, is going through the exact same things that I’m going through. I think sometimes being a leader is having to do things when you’re not 100 percent ready to.

How do you define success?

Success is such a tricky topic. I just want to be able to wake up feeling good. I don’t think success is tied to finance or anything like that. My mom always taught me that if you can feed and shelter yourself, [you’re on the right track]. When you reach your personal definition of success, you can give back to people who don’t have those two important things.

How would you advise other founders on using social media to build their community?

Building our online community was, at the beginning, one of the easiest things I did. I just dumped what was inside my brain and put it online — luckily for me it was full of rainbows and pretty things. I think my advice would be to just go for it and try things. Instagram is great, you can archive [content], or repost things. I remind myself that there are less people watching you than what you build up in your mind.