St. Louis entrepreneur creates a 'third place' to help women thrive and reduce isolation
As guests and members walked through the heavy wooden door of a Central West End home built in the late 1800s, they were greeted by two women who provided drinks and put away their coats. The two-story hideaway is a place for women and mothers to create community, relax or work remotely.
Entrepreneurs, students, doctors, creatives and mothers gather at korédé House to build relationships to help fight isolation and improve their mental health. Recent reports show that more people are experiencing loneliness, which the U.S. surgeon general calls a public health crisis and is negatively impacting health.
“The loneliness that a lot of people experience creates a lot of issues,” said Ronke Faleti, founder of korédé House. “If we have more spaces like this to gather — and specifically targeting women and targeting mothers — I think that we will be nicer people.”
Like many women during the pandemic, Faleti worked from home while caring for her family simultaneously. She crammed in work, home school and family time and could not carve out time to mentally take care of herself.
“It was October 2020 … my body started to ache in ways unknown,” she said. “I remember going to a functional medicine doctor, and when I left their office, I sat in my car and I cried because it was the first time I did something for myself in months.”
Faleti said she felt alone, and her mental health was failing. She toyed with the idea of having a place other than home or work to relax and learn from other ambitious women. And this summer she created korédé House out of necessity.
“Korédé House exists as a third space, a space where productivity is optional,” Faleti said. “A space where you can just be, you don't have to have an agenda.”
A third space is any public place, such as a neighborhood park, a coffee shop or a library, where a person can leave home and the workplace and interact with people or be in close proximity to people to escape social and emotional isolation.
Faleti, a former banking firm senior vice president, refers to korédé House as a mental health gym that offers women and mothers child care, laundry services, therapy and yoga sessions, creative work spaces and postpartum care, which includes a nap room.
Third places increase diversity in the community because people who visit them come from different backgrounds and social classes, said Narae Lee, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Lee, who has researched third places, said the pandemic increased the need for places like korédé House, which in Yoruba means to bring goodness.
“If you go to third places that have specific purposes, then you can expect that you're going to experience what you pursue,” she said. “I think the concept of korédé House can be successful if they have specific goals, so then people with similar interests will get together and enjoy the place, expand their social networks and obtain self-actualization.”
Leslie Holloway has attended a few relationship building and networking events at korédé House because she needed a break from the stressors of work and caring for aging family members.
The fundraising consultant said women need places to retreat to other than a coffee shop or the gym that can help them unwind for the day or to spark creativity.
“I'm constantly running, and I don't live by myself,” Holloway said. “I live with my dad, but it's just that I don't have a space that I would consider my space.”
Korédé House offers memberships on a sliding scale starting at $39 a month. Most of its members are Black women, but the space is inclusive. Through storytelling, networking and events, Faleti hopes women find themselves less lonely and restored.
“We are constantly not only as women, but particularly as Black women, trying to prove that we deserve to be where we are,” Holloway said. “I just think that this offers some options for achieving all the things you need to achieve and also options to physically, mentally and emotionally just stop for a minute … and just breathe.”