Balanced Hustler: Meet Amy Nelson, Founder and CEO of The Riveter
Being an entrepreneur can seem glamorous. We own our schedules, build our companies based on work we love—and sometimes we can even work beachside. But the glamour is second in command to the hustle.
The hustle is what really defines the ups and downs of the entrepreneurship journey. And to shed some light on the work it takes to build a business, I’m interviewing fellow entrepreneurs who are ready to get real about their journeys. I’ll ask them how they manage to balance the hustle with the passion of what they do, and they’ll share what they had to overcome to get where they are today. It’s all in service of inspiring, supporting and illuminating the path for you, and we’re calling it the #BalancedHustler.
“Gender inclusive” coworking spaces weren’t even on my radar until I learned about the incredible company The Riveter. Started in Seattle, this built by women, for everyone coworking space is more than just a place for people of all genders to buy into for a little camaraderie and community. It’s a movement that we want to get behind, one that wants envision a world where workplaces are rooted in equality of opportunity for all. Amy Nelson, CEO and founder of The Riveter, is a force to be reckoned with, and I was eager to speak with her about what makes her company stand out, how she balances motherhood (she’s got a fourth child on the way!) with foundership and what advice she’d give to other entrepreneurs. I know you’ll get some great tips from her!
Fast Facts: Amy Nelson
When did you launch The Riveter?
We opened our flagship location in May 2017, located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
In one sentence, tell us why you started The Riveter.
I started The Riveter because I saw that, like myself, women in business needed access to resources
How much did you invest to get the business started?
I didn’t invest personal funds but raised money instead.
How did you get capital to start?
I asked as many people as I could to be our angel investors to get the first location off the ground. We quickly opened our second location in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood a few months after our first location, and it was clear that I should be pitching for VC investment to scale.
Are you growing your business to sell? Or this is your dream job and you want to be doing this in 10 years?
This is absolutely my dream job! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to build this company and work with so many incredible women.
How many hours a week do you work when you started vs now?
The same. It’s a lot of hours. I don’t really track because work weaves in to so many different areas, but I can say I take one dedicated day off every week.
How many employees do you have?
What two business goals do you have for 2019?
Our business goals are to expand The Riveter nationwide and build an incredible digital platform and content engine that allows anyone to access programming and resources from The Riveter, no matter where they are located.
How Amy Balances the Hustle
Your motto at The Riveter is “Built by women, for everyone.” Tell us what that means in practice for you.
“Built by women, for everyone” signifies to me that we’re building a national platform, community and coworking spaces that center on women but are inclusive of all. We see a world in which equity of opportunity in work and business is not a promise, but is a reality—and that’s what we’re working to build across the country.
You have three (almost four!) kids and a steadily growing business. When things get busy and crazy, what do you prioritize and what do you have to let go of?
Early-stage startup life is intense. When life gets busy, I focus on prioritizing my family and our needs first. I make sure I’m taking at least one of the kids to school or to childcare, and being home and present for dinner and bedtime. That doesn’t always work since I’m traveling so much and I often don’t get enough sleep (as parents of young children often say), but I try really hard to meet those goals.
Women in general are starting businesses at a rate five times higher than men, currently. How do you see The Riveter supporting that growth?
The Riveter is the place were those ideas come to life and connections happen to launch those businesses. When I was thinking about starting a business, I couldn’t find accessible, practical workshops on how to write a business plan or what to know when pitching VC funds. At The Riveter, we provide those types of programming each week for our members to gain the skills they need to build companies. We also see our members often asking for network connections or collaborative partners to test their own business idea. I see those connections happen every time I’m in one of The Riveter’s six locations.
In other interviews, you’ve said that you were told to “hide” your third pregnancy while looking for investment/funding. How did those kinds of comments make you feel, as a working mom? And did you experience discrimination being a pregnant woman looking for investment?
Women in business receive advice all of the time, and that advice increases when you start pitching for funding. Those comments anger me because you don’t hear investors telling male CEOs and entrepreneurs that they should hide the fact that they’re a dad as they pitch their business. It is absolutely possible to raise a family while growing a business at the same time.
We see lots of businesses expanding on the coasts, but you’ve said you want to reach Middle America too. Tell us why that’s important to you too.
I grew up in the Midwest, and it is a place near and dear to my heart. At the same time, we want to reach women in business who may not live near one of our locations. We know that women are starting businesses at five times the rate of men, and they deserve to be supported in their community and have access to resources to grow.
Amy’s Advice to Entrepreneurs
What do you want to leave our readers with?
I would love to share a piece of advice that I lean on a lot. So much of a start-up’s success depends on the founder’s ability to wake up every day and keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep making decisions, to keep taking risks. You have to stay in the arena, even on the hardest days.
What failure have you learned most from?
Our philosophy is to learn quickly and move on from missteps that we take. I learned very quickly that I cannot build this company alone, and that I needed to hire an incredible team that is invested in the mission to help drive this business forward. If The Riveter’s success was only up to me, we wouldn’t be able to do a fraction of the work we want to do.
How did you overcome it?
We’ve strategically built our team to scale, both at HQ and in new markets. We identified places where we very much needed additional resources and staffed around us. Once we recognized that our teams would look different at every lifecycle stage of our company, we were better prepared to bring in the right team members and hire for culture fit.
What is your number one piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. I often tell my team to get our ideas to 70 percent before we start executing on them. That philosophy has allowed us to stay nimble and build upon opportunities coming our way.I
What does being a #BalancedHustler mean to you?
To me, it means to get very clear on what you want your life to look like and then ask yourself every day if you’re living up to that standard. My balance is different than yours—and everyone else’s. And that’s okay. We should all live the life that works best for each of us!
Interested in more inspiring advice from female entrepreneurs? Check out our full Balanced Hustler series.