One Roof breaking the glass ceiling

By Daron Jacks

A passion for supporting women in business steered former lawyer Sheree Rubinstein towards a new career empowering female entrepreneurs.

A desire to help women succeed in business led MLS alumna Sheree Rubinstein (LLB, BA 2011) to depart her legal career and create a working space that nurtures and mentors female-driven start-ups.

In 2015, together with her then business partner Gianna Wurzl, Rubinstein founded One Roof, a hub and co-working space that provides entrepreneurial support, mentoring and networking opportunities for women-led businesses.

Now solely based in Melbourne, One Roof is itself an entrepreneurial success story, having also operated in Sydney for a year, Los Angeles for two years and New York for five months.

“I never set out to own a business or become an entrepreneur – I had no idea,” says Rubinstein.

I just dabbled in things that were always around supporting women in business, and followed that direction.

Before establishing One Roof, Rubinstein worked in communications roles and was a lawyer at Allens, specialising in privacy law. It was while working there that she discovered her real passion was empowering women.

“I had this realisation that as a woman there are these setbacks in the corporate sphere,” she says.

“I found this passion for supporting women and for gender equality in business leadership.

“It was that passion that took me in different directions, and I just followed that.”

Rubinstein and Wurzl first tested the One Roof concept in February 2015 through a pop-up event at an AirBnB home in St Kilda.

They turned the mansion into a working space, designed a program and had it “jam-packed with workshops and experts” for a week.

“We had 400 people come through that week so we knew that it was a concept that people were really into and loved,” Rubinstein says.

With One Roof in its infancy, Wurzl moved to the US but the pair were determined to build a global business. This gave them an insight into the challenges start-ups face.

“At Allens, there were incredible resources, infrastructure and opportunities to take your time and perfect things,” Rubinstein says.

“But then when you start your own business you don’t have that.

You’ve just got to move very quickly and ‘done’ is much better than ‘perfect’. So I really had to shift my thinking from lawyer to start-up.

Such was the immediate success of One Roof that four months after moving into its Southbank premises in Melbourne in 2016, it doubled its size to 1000 square metres to accommodate 73 businesses.

“Setting up One Roof has been timely,” Rubinstein says.

“People have been very interested in it simply because (women in business) is a topic of conversation.

“It’s a constant ‘how do we get more women? Where are they? How do we find them?’

“I think it’s just so important to have honest conversations and that’s a big theme at One Roof – we do a lot on what it really takes (for women to succeed in business).”

Looking back, Rubinstein says the path from student to lawyer to entrepreneur was filled with uncertainty and frustration.

Her advice?

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable all the time.

“It’s all part of the process of finding what you love and it’s constantly evolving.”

Banner image: Sheree Rubinstein is the co-founder of One Roof.

Credit: supplied.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 18, November 2017