Nicole Gray: Building a Working Space for Creative Entrepreneurs

Top 10 Empowering Women Leaders to Follow in 2024

In the startup industry, long-term community was severely lacking. Support systems have distinct beginning and ending points for their programmes or are location-based, so when someone departs, they lose the community. This leaves entrepreneurs and startups alone once again. Startups are delicate and sensitive, and long-term assistance is frequently required for sustained growth.

Nicole Gray, Founder and Virtual Co-working Facilitator of Boxed Community, set out to create a community where consistency and stability are a long-term guarantee – something she honestly believes would benefit the startup environment. She thought it was her responsibility to accomplish this since she believed she was capable of doing so. She says, “If you are able to lead competently, then it is a moral obligation to do so—to yourself and to society.”

From a young age, Nicole demonstrated entrepreneurial tendencies. Printing t-shirts, makeup artistry, and selling paintings helped lay the foundations of her career. She shares, “It was my brother-in-law who clearly demonstrated to me that entrepreneurship is a feasible career path. When I realised this, it marked the beginning of my career.”

Nicole had a number of business ventures prior to starting Boxed Community. She started Talent Box, a creative management firm, as well as SA Startup Academy. This was a self-funded programme for underprivileged South African communities.

Nicole was also the creator and Project Director of the Urban Youth Festival, where the team promoted creative entrepreneurship as a viable career option. She says, “It was then that I decided to travel across Europe eventually finding myself in London, working in a coworking space. It is there where I saw the opportunity to launch Boxed Community.”

Boxed Community

More than a skill sharing platform, Boxed Community is a virtual coworking space and a network of creative entrepreneurs working towards maximising business productivity in the digital space. Launched in September 2020 with the aim of improving the remote working experience, Boxed Community offers tailored virtual workshops in all aspects of creating and sustaining a business—in both individual self-improvement and business-wide strategies.

Indifference is the Key

Nicole finds that success, albeit a positive thing is something that can hinder progress. Particularly as a leader, one must understand that neither failure nor success is a reflection of their worth. She asserts, “Indifference to either outcome is key for long-term motivation. Leaders must remain stoic.” She believes that it is important to measure one’s own endeavours and that people naturally look to categorise events in terms of success and failure. Nicole states, “We have the issue arising of the cost of success; both in attaining and maintaining it.” She further discusses, “Sometimes, it means undergoing drastic personality and behavioural changes—whether conscious or not. Which brings me back to my original point: indifference is key.”

In order to recognise success, an individual must first know what it is. Nicole finds that each person will have an idea of what it means to them, but no two definitions will be the same. She asserts, “As a leader, having an idea of your followers’ success metrics will greatly help you guide and motivate them on the right path.”

Nicole considers herself lucky to have received praise for her efforts throughout her career. Most notably, she was named one of the top ten Most Influential Women Leaders of 2021 by Industry Era Women Leaders. And the fact that she was a Global Workspace Association Community Manager Award Finalist in 2019.

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone

“If you were never tested, you would never know what you are capable of, and you’d be surprised at what you’re capable of,” says Nicole. She sees that it is important, however, to remind yourself of what it’s like to win. She opines, “Pushing through your comfort zone is imperative for progress, but you must always put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.”

Accepting how Nicole envisioned Boxed Community’s services to be used and how they are actually being used by members was her first major roadblock. She emphasises the necessity of listening to members and adopting their input in order to deliver a service that is truly beneficial to them.

Another obstacle, according to Nicole, was learning to delegate cooperatively, notably with the talents she does not have and does not have the time to develop. She goes on to say that this was something that needed to be fixed in the name of efficiency.

Redefining the Virtual Coworking Space

Nicole finds her key contribution to the sector has been the sustained support offered to startups and entrepreneurs, which includes accountability coaching, at an accessible rate. She says, “It’s more than your standard coworking facility.” She further adds, “It’s a place to contribute, collaborate, and grow your business and yourself personally.”

As Nicole states, Boxed Community feels like home, where real life and business discussions can take place knowing this is a support network you can return to indefinitely.

A Responsive and Effective Work Culture

The nature of Boxed Community instills a sense of obligation. Providing a service that assists individuals in realising and achieving their goals is motivation in and of itself. In terms of work-life balance, the corporation has a four-day work week and is quite rigid about off-days.

Nicole’s key job at Boxed Community, as with any leader in their sector, is the well-being and efficiency of the Boxed team. Nicole’s employment also includes B2B networking, which is establishing and maintaining relationships with like-minded firms and community leaders.

Moreover, it is Nicole’s responsibility to listen to and apply the feedback the team receives from the members. She asserts, “Ensuring their happiness with our service is my priority. To do this, we strive to facilitate amazing content for our daily activities and workshops.”  

Day-to-day, Nicole begins with a focus on her body and spirit, ensuring she is putting herself in the best possible mind-set to lead. She shares, “We as a team also start our work day with this in mind.”

An In-person Version of Boxed

According to Nicole, Boxed Community will begin a free training programme for UK-based companies in April of this year called Boxed Trailblazers. In addition, the company hopes to establish further development initiatives in the following months. Nicole explains that the objective is to establish 150 communities, each with 150 people in each, and all around the world. Nicole is considering an in-person version of Boxed in the future.

Nicole, personally, would want to resume travelling while expanding the company’s community impact and finding new relationships. While doing so, she hopes to establish herself as an industry leader for creative entrepreneur groups.

As for a message to aspiring business women, Nicole states, “You need a community to grow to your highest potential—you’re limiting yourself if you think you can do it alone. The more we grow as a collective, the more you will grow as an individual.”