Welcome to our new series "Women at the Helm" in which we feature newly founded companies founded and run by women and how they did it. For inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few years ago when Meesen Brown was working and traveling in Shanghai she noticed that the coworking spaces she would go to were mostly full of men. Coming from a corporate finance background this was nothing new but it was a bit tiresome, especially when you are a woman alone in a foreign country. It was around this time that the wheels began turning for Brown on how she could make it better for women who wanted to work abroad. After meeting her co-founder, Thomas Maher, while traveling they both began brainstorming when they kept running into the same problems (bad WiFi, being the only woman in the room, etc.) and their company behere was created.
In simple terms, behere allows you to become the traveling digital nomad you have always wanted to be. For $1400 per month they not only find you a short-term apartment but also a gym membership and very importantly, a coworking space for women. They also host networking events for you to make connections with not only the local community but other ex-pats as well. So far they have 12 cities on their roster in Europe and Asia. This company will help you quelch your need for wanderlust and have a career.
When I talked to Meesen she was in Thailand working on getting behere established there before heading off to Bali to do the same. Quite a change of pace for a former financier from Canada. Even early in her career she felt quite constricted by the corporate structure. "There is just so much red tape. It was by men and for men when you are working 7 to 7," she said. After her energy could be drained no more she moved to Australia to work at a company that helps to educate leaders before she started consulting her way through Asia. "When you are working and traveling [alone as a woman] so many things come up," she said noting that in addition to just technical difficulties safety also becomes a big concern. She and her co-founder started working on the company and they launched last September.
People have always wanted to travel and the thought of being able to do your work from a beach in Bali or a Parisian coffee shop is many people's dreams (also not working on a beach in Bali or in a Parisian coffee shop is a dream but not a reality for most of us.) But Brown also believes it is the shift in work culture that also makes this the perfect time for a company like this. First of all, remote work is at an all-time high. There’s been a 115% increase in telecommuting over the last 10 years, and 43% of the U.S. workforce currently work remotely to some degree. And we are seeing this kind of flexibility emerge in industries where even 5 years ago it was unheard of to not be in an office every day.
Plus, more and more women are freelancing. A recent studyof nearly 2,000 freelancers commissioned by Freelancers Union and research firm Edelman Berland, found that the majority of full-time freelancers, 53%, are women. Brown said,
"There is so much happening in the states. Just more flexibility and with behere being female focused our goal is to empower women to embrace more flexibility. Women value flexibility so much whether it is wanting to pick up their kids from school or live in LA or Europe or Asia. I think great work can be done from anywhere. There is no more work life balance just work life integration."
And let's face it. Being in a different country, interacting with people you would never have met otherwise is priceless to many people, especially millennials. According to a study by Airbnb in partnership with market researchers millennials would rather spend their hard-earned money on a big exotic trip than on a mortgage for a house or apartment. "Being able to work remotely is a retention tool. People value experiences more than things. They don't want to buy houses and cars. They want to travel! There is a really interesting cultural shift happening," she said.
Brown said right now the majority of their clients are freelancers but more industries are starting to come pop up. behere also provides women with a strategy, including exactly what to propose to their boss to work remotely and the benefits of working in this capacity and tools they can use to help them do their jobs from anywhere.
The real benefit of behere (besides basically making you the living breathing version of Carmen Sandiego) helps women find that support network you absolutely need when you are in a new place. One of their most recent events in Asia had women from over 14 countries. "It is just awesome to have that feminine energy," she told Levo.