I decide to start off these series of interviews highlighting some of the female founders and CEOs from around the country with Los Angeles’s own Cameron Kashani Rasouli (@CamRasouli) of CoLoft. I’ve had the honor of knowing Cameron for quite sometime now and she’s a wonderful person. She’s also half of the team that built the ever growing Coloft in Santa Monica, CA. For those that are unfamiliar with the Coloft (you’ll learn a ton soon), it’s the premier co-working spot in the LA area (I say so). Now I’ll let the interview take it from here.
Kyle: Cam, tell me about yourself:
Cam: Founder of Coloft, and lover of tech, innovation, and community. MBA. Wife. Extremely goofy. Always smiling/laughing. Fave quotes: “Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyways” “Coffee is for closers” & “The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny”. I’m also a die-hard hip-hop fan.
Kyle: How did you get started in the entrepreneur world?
Cam: I always wanted to work for myself. Started out working for my dad’s company, and learned a ton. Also learned I don’t have the personality that can work for someone. Then when Avesta (husband and biz partner) and I decided to start working together, it just made sense. We have opposite skills with marketing minds, so it worked. Besides, I always wanted to be that successful super woman that can do it all. Business-owner, wife, mom — I got two of the three down for now ;)
Kyle: Is this your first company?
Cam: No. Avesta and I have done a BUNCH of different things together but the most significant one was our first stab at a startup. It was an online document delivery portal for the medical industry. It failed. Badly. We learned some hard lessons from that first go. Invaluable ones though.
Kyle: What made you want to start Coloft?
Cam: So after a failed startup, we were kind of lost, and in the midst of a tanked economy, I was in the middle of my MBA. We leveraged our skills and started appshows.com but we were working out of an executive suite. It was expensive, isolated, and depressing. Gave that up and moved home, then coffee shops –> still depressing. So we were up in San Francisco for a client meeting one weekend and we’re told by some people that we should try working out of a coworking space and we thought it was great. We came back looking for something in LA, and didnt find it. So we decided it would be cool to create a place where people like us, you know, crazy entrepreneurs, can hang and work. We had our own take on it though. We wanted no walls, no cubicles → we wanted collaboration. Did a lot of research and surveys, went the whole lean startup route without knowing the lean method. Threw up a website and leveraged social media to see what interest was out there in the community. It took a while to get it up and going though. Then once we did open, there were lots of sleepless nights and times where we didnt know if it would make it, but we kept working hard.
Cam: People. Nothing better than hanging around these brilliant people. People come in here and see the value of the community and want to contribute. We’ve made so many friends. I never feel like I’m going to work. It feels like we are hanging with friends all day.
Kyle: What’s your favorite part about Coloft daily?
Kyle: How many members are rocking out at Coloft?
Cam: Over 100 members strong, and a growing waiting list.
Kyle: Did you ever expect such growth?
Cam: We set out with a goal of 100 members and we crushed it.
Kyle: What was has been your hardest hurdle to arise over?
Cam: Any entrepreneur encounters so many hurdles. But you have to rise above it, and crush it. We were pretty empty the first few months at Coloft and we were scared. We had rent and overhead, and no money coming in. But that makes you work SO much harder. And once it starts working, it’s the BEST feeling ever. Like, I can finally take a deep breath.
Kyle: You’ve seen people grow since starting Coloft, do you think the environment of coworking spaces has help cater to that growth?
Cam: Hell yeah! You encounter opportunities here that you wouldn’t get at a private office, home, or coffee shop. The collaborative environment puts you in a position to grow and make things happen.
Kyle: What’s your favorite thing that Colofters give back to you?
Cam: They give me so much energy, happiness, peace….just total bliss. I don’t know how to phrase it, it’s just a feeling I get when I walk into these doors :)
Kyle: As I’m sure you’ve seen recently in startup news outlets there’s been discussions about the the bias some VCs may have towards investing in women, what’s your opinion on the discussion about VC/Angels holding back from investing in women founders/CEOs?
Cam: I say let their work speak for them instead of their gender. But I have to admit, that there is a part of me that does understand that when you are putting in your own hard-earned money you want that person to be 120% committed to you, and I guess they assume a mom wont be. But in my opinion that’s a flawed mentality. Who’s to say the same doesnt apply to a random guy with a startup and a brilliant idea but lack of dedication? How do you know if the guy you’re investing in is *that* committed? I’ve seen startups get funded, take it easy and blow the money. So isn’t it hypocritical to say no to a hardworking mom that would work around the clock for her startup and her family? She has that much more to work harder for.
Kyle: What other issues/hardships do you feel women founders face in today’s startup world?
Cam: I think it’s gotten a lot better, but it seems like a lot of women still aren’t taken seriously enough and sometimes we have to work harder than the average guy to make it happen. But hey, no pain no gain :)
Kyle: What advice do you have for other female founders or those looking to join the startup world?
Cam: Follow your heart. Always be closing. Just do it and don’t let anyone hold you back, especially dudes. :)
Kyle: What’s next for you and Coloft?
Cam: Expansion. World Domination. You know, the usual ;)