FoundHer-Rebecca Brian Pan
FoundHer blog series. Showcasing amazing female founders and sharing her story. As a female founder myself, I have found inspiration through connecting with other women founders, sharing our stories, our war wounds, lessons learned, how we are navigating the funding struggles, and our Why’s for starting our businesses. Entrepreneurs are a rare breed- we tend to be extremely passionate, determined, resilient, innovative, visionary, and with a slight bit of crazy (a good kind of crazy that keeps us going). Women founders tend to also have an incredible amount of “heart”, which I think makes us even more extraordinary and awesome!
The women profiled have inspired me and I hope they will inspire you! We will share stories of founders across different industries and not just focus on Tech. If you know an amazing female founder you feel should be profiled, please let me know!
Let me introduce Rebecca Brian Pan!
Location: San Francisco, California
Tell us about Covo
Covo is the culmination of many year’s work, a ton of people’s insight and experience, and the actualization of a dream. Specifically, Covo is a place people can find balance in today’s chaos. Calm in the storm. A place to focus and get shit done. It’s a workspace with a bent towards living life-or perhaps a lifespace with a bent towards purpose and productivity.
Why did you start Covo?
In 2014 I was fired from the first and only job I’ve ever had. It threw me for a loop, making me question myself, my work, why I committed so hard to something that didn’t believe in me in return. My ego took a huge blow, but out of that pain and recovery, I found my path, which turned out to be Covo.
When did you know you wanted to start Covo?
My husband had the original idea when we were traveling in China and I had a chance to decompress from the trauma of being fired. I wasn’t excited to jump back into coworking initially. It took some discussion and thinking through of what would be different, what would be inspiring, what would help the community and the world more directly than coworking typically does.
What is your vision for Covo?
My vision for Covo is to be a centralizing, stabilizing force in cities and
communities around the world. The world economy is more and more volatile as things are more and more connected, and I expect market swings to be faster and more extreme as the decades proceed. Our cities will need calm centers in the global storm. A way of protecting our historical landmarks as well as the entrepreneurs who are putting themselves on the line to make the world better. I want to create this safe environment for entrepreneurship and social impact to catalyze and thrive.
What about entrepreneurship excites you the most?
The possibility and promise. It’s like looking at a child. Like my 7-month old baby, Sawyer. He is so sweet, so innocent, yet needs a world of guidance and learning to succeed. But with that, and his own gifts, he has the ability to do anything and everything. No pressure, Sawyer.
What/who has been your greatest support?
My husband and parents. I am honestly not sure who gets more credit, so I need to include them both. Jason has been perhaps my greatest fan, supporting me emotionally and financially, doing so much around the house and for our child, so I can really focus on Covo and creating massive change in the world. My parents have always been my advisors and advocates, especially my dad. He’s mentored me since my first business out of college, and everything I’ve tried my hand at since. I’m so incredibly grateful to these three humans for helping and supporting me.
What have been the greatest challenges?
I think there is a continuum of greatest challenges! First it was fundraising, which none of us had ever attempted before. Next it was finding property at the height of the market in the most competitive city in the country, as a startup no less. Third it was getting the change of use permit we learned we needed after we secured the property, without going out of business first. Fourth it was managing a complex build-out in a short time period with a small budget, without running out of funds before we even opened.
Are there any additional hurdles in being a Female Founder?
I really, really wish the answer was no. That the answer was, “No, business is business.” But time and time again I have encountered situations and scenarios where my co-founders (both male), are approached to address issues that are most certainly CEO issues. Where vendors talk about me behind my back as “that woman”. Where my cofounder and younger brother, Dan, is tasked with parroting my words in a “man-face” as needed. It’s despicable and offensive that we need to use these tactics and tools, but it’s fact in 2016, even in perhaps the most progressive city in the country. To counter this, we support as many women and women-owned businesses and women-run events we can, because at the end of the day, it’s all about numbers and getting ourselves out there. Once there are 50% or more women in a room / on a board / leading our top companies, the biases fall to the wayside. But getting to those numbers is a huge uphill battle.
What have you learned about yourself in starting this company?
That I am fierce. That I am human. That I am not detail-oriented. That I care a fuck-ton about Covo, family, members, staff, women, listening, and feeling like I make a difference. That business challenges excite me. That the world is small. That our ideas can become reality. That we are each our greatest roadblock and advocate.
How has starting your own business been a life changer?
So, this question is a funny one for me, because with that one exception I mentioned earlier, I’ve only ever worked for my own businesses. And life has been really amazing. Super-challenging at times, heart-breaking at others, life-affirming as well. Rarely calm, rarely dull, rarely dependable. But incredibly fun, terrifying, exciting, and rewarding (when I’ve had the wherewithal to take a step back and look at my accomplishments).
What advice would you give to other founders?
Just get started. And do a little bit to move forward every day. Don’t get stuck on making it perfect.
Who inspires you the most?
Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandburg. He is a brilliant badass who doesn’t apologize for living life to the fullest while making a huge impact in the world. She because she empowered me to lean in, to do the work necessary to be taken seriously and considered an equal, to ask for what I want and to fight for it.
How do you feel you can empower other women?
By speaking my truth, building Covo, and harnessing a global platform for change.
Favorite quote or life motto?
“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” I read this on the wall of a porta potty at Burning Man 2015. I couldn’t agree more.
What are you most proud of to date?
My two babies — Covo and Sawyer. They emerged into the world at the same time, one tiny and sweet and a crybaby really only concerned with the next slurp of milk, the other huge and cumbersome and voracious and not concerned about anything at all. But both, as of September 2016, healthy, beautiful and thriving!