International Women’s Day | Interview with Gaby from Huckletree

International Women’s Day Exclusive Interview: Gabriela Hersham, CEO and co-founder of Huckletree

International Women’s Day Exclusive Interview: Gabriela Hersham CEO and co-founder of Huckletree

This International Women's Day, we’re kick-starting our new women in business series – a month-long collection of essays and interviews with some of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs

Starting your own business is never an easy course, in fact, trials and tribulations are something of an inevitability. While the opportunity is great – being your own boss, working on your own terms, fuelling a passion project, to name but a few – the risk of failure looms large. Yet with it can come some of life’s greatest lessons.

So, who better to put in the spotlight this International Women’s Day than Gabriela Hersham, CEO and co-founder of Huckletree? A business where community is nurtured, diversity is championed and women are empowered, it shook up London’s co-working scene and became a safe space for women of all backgrounds.

“Gaby and her inner strength have been a true inspiration for me,” says TONIC15 founder Jin Kwon. “She runs her business so bravely and innovatively and I truly admire how she balances driving her company forward with prioritising life with her family. She’s been my advisor and a supporter of my business and is someone I would comfortably seek out for advice. She always helped me to push forward whenever difficult moments or challenges come. She’s a maverick,” adds Jin.

Here, the wife and mum of two talks balancing work with family life, why entrepreneurship can be a lonely road and how to push through tricky times and make difficult decisions.

• How did Huckletree come about?

I first came across the co-working concept in New York, and I was so inspired by the thought of lots of interesting and exciting businesses and entrepreneurs working in the same space – being able to meet, collaborate, share ideas and overcome obstacles together. Although the movement had already begun in London, I was confident that there was room for a new player with a different approach. When I moved back to London, I was determined to be that new player. My market research and gut instinct kept pushing me forward. That’s how Huckletree came about.

 

• Tell us a little bit about your background – what was your life like before Huckletree?

Before Huckletree, I was working in the film industry, on the production side of things, in New York. It was a very different world, albeit one that merged business, commerciality and creativity together, which has been a common thread throughout my career.

 

• What was the experience of starting your own business like?

The experience of starting my own business was hairy and completely uncertain. I felt like I was treading in freezing cold water and it put me firmly out of my comfort zone. It was also the best thing I ever did.

 

• What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during the process that you’d share with other female entrepreneurs?

I believe it’s crucial for all entrepreneurs to get very comfortable being able to negotiate for themselves. I learnt the art of negotiation by observing my father over the course of my childhood. He was comfortable with it, it was a game for him, but he would never let the other party walk away thinking that they were the loser. That’s the key.

As entrepreneurs we must be comfortable negotiating for ourselves. Whether negotiating the detail of a term sheet, negotiating our own salaries or equity schedules, negotiating the terms of a partnership or negotiating diplomacy between two of your team members. Each and every day, the life of an entrepreneur is filled with hundreds of micro-negotiations and both parties need to always come away feeling like the winner.

 

• Women are often scared of failure but it’s how we learn – what’s been your biggest setback and what did it teach you?

In terms of setbacks, I can't say that I’ve had a single biggest setback, but the life of an entrepreneur is such that every day you have dozens of tiny setbacks that you need to overcome.

More importantly, you need to learn to be resilient, so you don't dwell and get stuck. If you lose something, so be it. Whether it’s something small or something big, be it losing a great candidate or losing a deal, it’s all part of the process. At Huckletree, we try to extract the learnings. We unpick whatever’s happened to take a look at what we could have done better, how can we change it next time, what we can take to learn and grow and then we move on. That's really important. To keep things moving.

 

• Who is your biggest female inspiration and why?

My mum! She is completely and utterly fearless and has been through so much adversity in her life. She was a refugee and left Iran just before the revolution because she was Jewish and she had to seek asylum in the States. She came to London then met my father and she's always been a working mom. My parents got divorced when she was really young - so at 28, she was divorced with two children and she fought every day for us.

She taught me what looks like to be a woman in business and how to demand equality for yourself and I really respect that. I remember once the front door was open and somebody just walked into our house obviously intending to take something, steal something or do something bad and my mum chased him out of the house and chased him down the street.

 

• You also do a lot to champion diversity – why is this so important in business, particularly start-ups?

We do a lot to champion diversity. Yes, we think it's important in business, but we also believe that it is just important. Full stop. We are aware of our growing platform and the responsibility that comes with and we want to use it to help spur positive change.

 

• What does a typical day look like for you?

I don't have a typical day, but I'm a very inward-looking CEO. I spend a lot of time on strategy, on vision, operationally with my team, on building and tearing down projects and new initiatives, on sales, on brand building and PR opportunities for us and on culture and people and recruitment. There’s nothing typical about any of my days, which is how I like it.

 

• How do you switch off? What does self-care look like for you?

To switch off – which I normally do after the children are in bed, once we’ve had dinner – I usually either sit down and make music or I have a bath with candles and bath salts and oil and music. I lock the door so no one can disturb me.

 

To find out more about Huckletree and Gabriela, head to www.huckletree.com

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