Up Speak & Co:Lab

Accountability and support through peer mentorship



Project Management

Content Strategy


Team: 1

Time Frame:  Iteratively over 2 years

My Role:  Program Designer

Designed and facilitated 6 week program for intimate groups of women solopreneurs and freelancers testing out new projects and business ideas.

During my own entrepreneurial journey, I grew fatigued of the panel event format which creates a physical and psychological gap between “successful” panelists and audience members aspiring in their careers. My solution: peer mentorship through facilitated conversation.

I created Up Speak to provide a resource for women who could benefit from being able to both give and receive insight to others.

Up Speak in numbers:

  • 2 sessions of 4 concurrent groups of 8 women met once a week for 6 weeks with a culminating event for all participants

  • Curriculum developed from 10 in person interviews and 2 small group feedback sessions and in person competitive research

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Testimonials for Up Speak

“I highly recommend Up Speak. Melissa is a gracious, grounded facilitator--she brings together women who are smart, vibrant, and kind. I looked forward to my Up Speak meeting each week, because I knew I would have a chance to discuss important topics with an intimate group I could trust. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you're lucky enough to do this, you'll see what I mean.”
-Wes Kao, Seth Godin's altMBA

“Participating in UpSpeak was a wonderful and insightful experience. It gave me a much-needed opportunity to step back and examine my career path from a new perspective and get encouragement and advice from inspiring, smart and fun women. I have no doubt it will have an impact on my future path - whether it inspires a radical change or helps me to be more mindful and intentional about where I am now. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a dose of inspiration and motivation.”
- Ashley Antar, Ashley Swartz Communications

Up Speak became Co:Lab

Same spirit, different format

Incorporating original material from Up Speak and New Women Space survey data, I designed a new format for Up Speak. The biggest differences were: (1) The meetings were day long instead of a few hours to go deeper into each person’s work (2) I facilitated a more formal way for participants to receive feedback through lunchtime feedback sessions.

The Result

I ran 3 different 6 week sessions of Co:Lab, where 6-10 women paid $300 to come to New Women Space once a week for a mixed day of structured and unstructured work time.

This hybrid of work styles allowed for new ideas to spark from group goal setting and collaboration to be processed and put into effect.

This also deepened relationships between Co:Lab participants and New Women Space, with several women going on to host events at the space.


Testimonials for Co:Lab

“Co:lab kick-started my year and kicked my butt to start writing a book. I felt energized being surrounded by smart, creative women, and grateful for the invaluable feedback sessions.”

“Meeting each week with my Co:Lab group gave me a sense of community and support that I needed to build my business. So often women business owners spend their days home alone working so coming together with other women who were also building a business made me feel more supported. The feedback sessions were my favorite because I received so much valuable and unique feedback from each woman. “

“When I lost my job, I wasn't sure what the next step would look like. I wanted to find a supportive group of women to help me clarify my own thoughts. Co:Lab fit the bill perfectly. The program was a wonderful blend of structured discussion and goal setting coupled with independent work time. Not only did I receive tremendously helpful feedback on my own projects and ideas, but I learned a lot from my Co:Lab colleagues. We encouraged each other to hold out for what we wanted, validated our own skills and abilities, and critiqued each other to foster improvement. I feel stronger and more focused than I did six weeks ago. So glad I joined this cohort!”