Upflex got together with the head of community experience at one of the unique workspaces on our platform — Rachel Basoco at Luminary — to discuss just what makes this premier women’s workspace such a novel force in the coworking world, how they made the most of a pandemic year, and what lies ahead.
At Luminary, a woman-founded concept workspace in the Nomad district of Midtown Manhattan, the team’s mission is to reimagine the workplace — both physically and digitally.
It was in service of this goal that, two years ago, its female founders decided to launch a global, inclusive collaboration hub for women, women-identified, and male allies, who are “passionate about professional development and expanding their networks.” The emphasis: self-development, wellness, flexibility and giving back. The approach was a hit: Since its April 2019 launch, this community has grown to more than 2,000 individual and 40-plus corporate members, including companies like UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Unilever, Blackstone, Verizon, and Mastercard.
Before Luminary, Head of Community Experience Rachel Basoco was in digital strategy at an established retailer — and she had a side hustle: an online marketplace, by and for Latinas. “We had so much to offer,” Basoco told Upflex. “I wanted to tap this equity for the Latinx community. So I built-out community initiatives and events. Eventually, I was brought to Luminary by a friend who’d noticed my side hustle’s success.” When she got there, she says, she asked: “How can I connect this community? And how can I connect powerful Latinas to this space?”
When the pandemic struck, Basoco and the rest of the Luminary team didn’t hit pause. Instead, they mobilized, launching a digital membership model to boost affordable and accessible access to Luminary programming from anywhere. A few months later, they launched a fellowship program to support women-owned businesses and women impacted by COVID-19, partnering with thier global corporate members to award, so far, more than 500 fellowships to women around the world. They polished off the year with the acquisition of Declare, a premier women’s leadership and coaching platform.
We talked with Basoco about what drives Luminary — and where it’s headed.
Upflex: What makes Luminary different?
Rachel Basoco: We don’t see ourselves as a “coworking space.” Luminary is a membership-based career and personal growth platform with the mission to uplift, upskill, and propel women forward through all phases of their professional journey with “real world” advice, tools, and resources to advance, build, connect, and develop. Through community, we create both physical and digital spaces that offer networking opportunities and collective development. We tap into an ecosystem and an economy that’s created by women, for women. We advocate for women’s experiences inside of the workplace, and outside of the workplace. That all happens within the Luminary community framework. Community comes first.
Upflex: What about Luminary made you take the leap of faith from your previous role in retail?
Rachel Basoco: Honestly, I fell in love with the idea of “community equity” — the value generated by members of the group. It’s a real thing with Luminary. That’s reflected in our programming (with over 76% hosted by members) and our space (products in the bathrooms and artwork by members). Luminary’s message was so aligned with what I believed in; it made sense to come aboard. And when I did, I asked the following questions: (1) How do we build community here? (2) How do we engage members here? It’s been such a fantastic ride. There’s a lot of power within our “four walls:” we’re tapping into the power of women, and of women gathering together no matter where they are. And it’s extremely rewarding to see how that is advancing women forward.
Upflex: What sets Luminary apart in terms of ‘coworking’ specifically?
Rachel Basoco: Whenever I give tours, the #1 response is ‘Wow, I really like the energy and vibe of the space.’
I think they say that because the energy and vibe is not necessarily generated by the space, but by the people that occupy it. Because we have a more open coworking space model instead of just dedicated desks and offices for people to occupy, our members can see each other, connect from across the room, or just jam out to the music playing – together.
A variety of women in different industries and different places in life walk our halls; and they each like different ways of working. You might see in one corner of our space a young woman on a freelancing call; then you may turn the corner and see a team of women from one of our corporate firms sitting around a table discussing a new project, plan or initiative. If you walk further across our space, you may see someone interviewing or pitching to investors or board members. Anywhere you turn, there is something interesting and exciting going on.
Not everyone is heads-down, doing freelance work; not everyone is in their own private offices of their own companies. This is a highly engaging, highly active space. We have a fitness studio, a beauty bar, and more – like free wine on tap. So we’re not a standard coworking space in that sense; you’re going to feel like you’re walking into someone’s home where you are welcome.
Upflex: Last year, Luminary added a podcast studio. Tell us more.
Rachel Basoco: Yes! First, we’re completely self-funded. Second, we’re engaged with our members each day, so we’re able to hear our members’ requests—we can take an accurate pulse of the community. We had a bunch of creatives coming in, wanting to start podcasts. So because of those two factors, we had the freedom and the conviction to transform our conference room into a podcast room; and we offered it as a perk to our members.
Upflex: How have you seen it contributing to Luminary’s success?
Rachel Basoco: As we continue to grow and expand, we always ask the questions: What do women want? What do women need? What are women searching for? And we’re building that for them.
It’s a constant, evolutionary partnership with our members. The physical space and digital platform is theirs as much as it is ours. So I’d say that Luminary’s biggest success is its Member engagement. Our success is equal to the successful engagement of our membership: valuing who they are and what they bring to the space. And it shows in that one central way people find us is through Member word-of-mouth. Our NPS score is through the roof.
Upflex: How has Luminary adapted to the pandemic in the past year — and what lies ahead?
Rachel Basoco: Like everyone else, when we first shut our doors we didn’t know what was going to happen. Initially, we naively thought this two-week shutdown would be a quick temporary closure.
At the time, we were primarily focused on our physical space and building our Greater New York City (and visitors to the area) community. So we went from holding in-person events of 150+ and offering more intimate hands-on workshops in our space for our members to a lockdown with no physical gatherings. Even so, we immediately transitioned all of our planned upcoming events to Zoom and added additional community programs built around uncertainty and unity.
As we continue to grow and expand, we always ask the questions:
What do women want? What do women need? What are
women searching for? And we’re building that for them.
But we knew that even with our physical doors closed, we couldn’t stop providing what was so needed, especially during this time, to our members: community. We connected with each of our individual members about their personal experience during that time, whether that was them leaving the New York City area, losing business or seeing a decline in clients, family dynamics changing, battling mental health during this time, adjusting to a new way of work, or caring for themselves or loved ones while sick.
Because we had first-hand experience with these women, we knew we had to do something. Not just for our New York community, but for women all around the world who were being affected by this global pandemic. So in the summer of 2020, we launched our Digital Membership plan, creating more affordable and accessible access to our programs and membership that could be utilized no matter where you were, and in fall of 2020, we created our Fellowship Program, supporting both women-owned businesses and women impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting ‘She-cession’. These fellowships deliver access to ongoing education, mentorship/coaching, business resources and tools, critical content and training, as well as community and connection. Currently Luminary has established partnerships with Unilever, Verizon and UBS—awarding 500-plus fellowships both in the US and abroad.
Moving forward, we will continue to invest in and curate the Digital community for our members all over the world, reimagine what ‘in-person’ work life looks like, and support all women’s advancement through partnerships and thought leadership.