Angela McHaney Valavanis: Making an Impact in the Industry with Creative Coworking

The 10 Most Inspiring Business Leaders Making a Difference, 2021 Vol. 2

The passion for doing something worthwhile, rather than just looking for a big paycheck, is a rare trait nowadays. Angela Valavanis, Founder and Owner of Creative Coworking, is one such gem who strives for personal fulfillment.

She adds, “If I can feel good about the service I’m providing to my community and about the work environment I’m providing for my employees, I think that’s a success.”

Behind the scenes

Angela completed her schooling at Bullard High School and graduated (BA-English) from California State University, Fresno. To add more arrows to her quiver and expand her academic base, she completed her MA in Literature from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

She started her educational publishing career at a small development house, then stepped into the corporate world as a supervising editor with Heinemann-Raintree. After that, she continued to work her way up, gaining valuable experience along the way.

In 2010, she began freelancing as a writer, editor, and marketing consultant. No doubt, the freelance thing had its own perks, but she missed having coworkers. Seeking a remote workplace where she could still collaborate with coworkers, she began to lay the foundation of her company, Creative Coworking.

Getting better while climbing the ladder of success

It can be hard to see any positive aspects while dealing with challenges, but once they are over, a person feels the change and has better confidence to face future challenges.

Renovation of the Colvin House was a learning curve for Angela. She fell in love with a Chicago landmark building and decided it would make a great second location for her business. Before starting the project, she might have backed off if she had known then that the road ahead would be so bumpy. So, she feels fortunate that she didn’t know enough to scare her off, because completing this project has allowed for personal growth.

She mentions, “I went through many challenges like getting the building rezoned, getting permits approved with as few structural changes as possible, and overseeing the renovation. I learned a lot along the way, with the help of a team of experts who knew far more than I did about how to make my vision become a reality. Give me a couple of years, and I might be willing to do it again.”

Angela considers herself an accidental entrepreneur. She expresses, “I saw a need for a type of business in my city, so I created it. Since I didn’t go to business school first, there were many things I didn’t know when I started out, and plenty that I still don’t know. From my personal experiences, I now have a clear sense of what questions an entrepreneur might ask, and I am here to help answer them or to find someone who can.”

Redefining coworking with Creative Coworking

When Angela opened her Evanston location ten years ago, coworking was a fairly new industry. This gave her a lot of flexibility to create a kind of space that appealed to her personally, hoping that others would appreciate it too. Her aim was to make her coworking members feel very comfortable in the space. She adds, “I want them to feel inspired by the beauty of their surroundings.” So, she structured her company based on this notion.

Creative Coworking is a shared workspace, meeting place, and small events venue. The core motto of the company is “independence without isolation.”

Angela believes that the ability to provide high-quality services while retaining the style of a small, local business provides them with a cutting edge over the competitors.

She states, “We get to know our members as individuals and connect them with other local business owners. I also volunteer my time with local business organizations to give back to the community at large. I’m a firm believer in the idea that we are all stronger together.”

Life as the founder and owner of the company

At the dawn of the company, Angela used to wear several hats and handle everything. As she fueled the growth of the company, she was able to structure solid teams to create better results.

She expresses, “A regular day of work for me involves an awful lot of email and a few Zoom calls, in between billing members and paying vendors. I also have one-on-one meetings with members of my staff, coworking or event clients, potential vendors, and entrepreneurs I’m mentoring.”

As she always wanted to create an impact, she gets her motivation from the benefits that her company brings to the clients. She mentions, “Having a pleasant work environment is a productivity factor that matters more than people realize, until they’ve found it and recognize it for what it is. Local artists have also expressed their gratitude for our Evanston gallery. It gives them a place not only to display and sell their work but also to connect with one another.”

Having a sense of shared responsibility motivates the team at the company. Angela delegates the work to her team members and provides them ample space to create the best results so that they can each grow on an individual level.

As she loves mentoring other entrepreneurs, she quotes, “We spend more time working than almost anything else in our daily lives, so be sure to do something you love! If you enjoy the work you do, it will fulfill and inspire you, and then you will inspire others.”

Achieving work-life integration

Angela found balancing both professional and personal fronts much easier before the pandemic. She sees great benefit in creating some separation between the two.

However, she believes that flexibility is the key element to create the best out of any situation. She learned to delegate the daily responsibilities and reduce micromanaging everything so that she could focus on the growth of the business and provide ample time to her family.

Future prospects of the company

The team recently added a business incubator to their offerings to formalize the mentoring Angela has been doing for many members. The Gallery Incubator offers a $10,000 grant toward Creative Coworking services and ongoing support from a team of mentors to help people set goals and grow their business.

Angela expresses, “I enjoy mentoring other entrepreneurs and connecting them to other people who can help take their business to the next level, so I’m excited about my new role within the business incubator.”

She is also enjoying hosting events at Colvin House this summer, as people finally feel comfortable gathering again.