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Catherine Hover: “You have to double down on you!”

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Catherine Hover is energy in action. Her effusive personality is not only engaging but at times mind-bending. She not only talks about the next big idea; she goes out and executes it into reality. 

Catherine is the owner of Palette Community, women-centric co-working spaces located in Saratoga Springs and Schenectady, New York, and Saratoga Paint and Sip. She, along with her husband, Mark, are the parents of three daughters, and to see her in action balancing family and work life is like watching a mashup of the Energizer Bunny and the mom from The Brady Bunch—gracefully keeping all the plates spinning. 

Catherine grew up in New Orleans as part of a large extended family of aunts, uncles and 11 cousins who all lived on the same street. This experience during Catherine’s formative years taught her the importance of community.

Live Fearlessly 
Catherine’s mom lost both of her parents when she was only 14 years old. She lost them suddenly and within a month of each other, and she learned some important lessons from that experience that she passed on to Catherine. “Life is short and can be taken away at any time,” Catherine reflected. She taught Catherine to live life fearlessly so there would be no regrets.  

Most of Catherine’s extended family of cousins were boys when she was growing up. As a result, Catherine was more comfortable with boys than with other girls. So how did a girl more comfortable around boys become a woman who fosters a community of women and champions “girl power”?

The transformation began 11 years ago when her husband, Mark, took on a project in Saratoga Springs that was scheduled to last only a few years. They thought the move would be temporary; however, like so many others, Mark and Catherine fell in love with Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region.

The Beginning
Catherine noticed that a business concept successful in other parts of the country was missing in the Capital Region. In 2012, a year after Catherine and Mark moved to Saratoga Springs, Catherine channeled that fearlessness and entrepreneurial spirit inspired by her mom to open her first business in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Paint and Sip on Henry Street.  

What Catherine loved about Paint and Sip was that people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities were all on a level playing field. Everyone there got the same blank canvas, the same paint and brushes and they all left with something they created and that was uniquely theirs. Catherine went on to open two more Paint and Sip locations in Latham, New York, and Burlington, Vermont. She has since closed the Latham location and sold the one in Burlington.  

Starting a new business is always an adventure, and as Catherine grew her business, she and Mark began to grow their family. Catherine said she always believed she would be a “boy mom” but the universe had other plans. During the early years of Saratoga Paint and Sip, Catherine and Mark welcomed the first two of their three daughters, Posey, eight, and Ruby, four.  

Breaking Out of a Fog
Catherine also explained the impact a friend, Kiki Wagner, had in her life. During a coffee date one morning, Kiki invited her to LUNAFEST, which her husband, Brad Wagner’s, company, Merrill Lynch’s The Wagner Sheffer Group, was sponsoring. LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival featuring films about women by women. Catherine wanted to go but was in such a postpartum fog she could not embrace the reality and the logistics of how to attend. Kiki stepped up and arranged for childcare and transportation and Catherine was able to attend the event. It was a defining moment, one of the first times she witnessed and experienced first hand a woman lifting another woman up. It is a moment that stays in her heart and continues to inspire her to this day. 

Feeling inspired and in a better place post-partum, in November 2018, Catherine attended a Girl Boss Rally in New York City that changed her life. “That event put me on a path to clarity and a better trajectory. And what stayed with me was one speaker who said you have to double down on you,” Catherine exclaimed.  

Catherine missed the camaraderie and support of the community structure she had growing up and knew her next venture needed to be something that cultivated community. After becoming a “girl mom,” Catherine began to understand how important it was for her to be a role model of a strong, fierce, fearless female for her daughters, quite like the wisdom her mother imparted to her when she was a young girl.

Taking Action
It was that chain of events that inspired Catherine for her next venture, Palette Community and Cafe, the vision that Catherine had for a co-working space that is really a community of women who not only share a space, but also support each other and lift each other up. “The mission of Palette is to advance members in business and life. We efficiently and effectively connect our members with each other to level up and expand through mentors, sponsors or expanders,” she explained. “If you think bigger, you take bigger action.”

Catherine’s vision became reality; I reviewed the cafe for HERLIFE Magazine and toured the co-working space shortly after it opened in 2019. It was feminine, professional and I was entranced by the concept. It wasn’t just another co-working space. It was a co-working space with a vibe, a true sense of belonging and community.

Palette Community is a joint venture between Catherine and the members of Palette Community. Each member pays monthly, based on the type of membership. Currently, there are close to 400 members. In the past three years, memberships have tripled. 

Catherine laughs to herself when she thinks about each time she opened a Palette location. She found out she was pregnant with her third daughter, Zia, one week after she signed the lease on the Saratoga space, which opened in June 2019, and her second Palette location, in Schenectady, opened in March 2020, just as the pandemic hit. She did not lose a single member. She hosted twice daily Zoom events to keep the group connected and also during that time she developed the concept for Here For It Live, which started out as Facebook Live interviews on inspirational and current topics and is also uploaded on YouTube and LinkedIn. She has also taken Here For It Live on the road to cities such as New Orleans and Houston.

The pandemic helped Catherine understand that she didn’t need the cafe aspect of the business for Palette Community to be successful. She closed the cafe in Schenectady and sold the one in Saratoga Springs. These decisions helped her to put all of her focus on Palette Communities and Here For It Live. At Palette, the goal is to connect women organically through programming and member-hosted and -led events, pulling the expertise from Palette members to create value for the community at large. 

Share Your Best 
Another example of support the Palette community provides is the Shero Fund. Sixty percent of Palette members have household incomes of $100,000 or below. “This is not a community of just the affluent; we want to meet our members where they are and scale them up. Some of our members who are able, contribute to a fund to scholarship new members who cannot afford the full year membership,” she explained. Those who are approved under the Shero Fund pay half of the annual membership and the other half is paid by the fund. Catherine smiled, “A lot of women who benefit from the Shero Fund now contribute to it, to help other women come into the community.”

Catherine has even established national affiliated partners in similar like-minded co-working spaces across 12 states. Palette members can enjoy reciprocity in New York City, Texas, California, Montana, Missouri, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Virginia.

Asked what advice she would give women starting their own business, Catherine mused, “Share your ideas with other people, so that they can pluck you for an opportunity, whether it is expertise or investors. A scarcity mindset is a discredit to your efforts. The faster you build your community, the faster you will be able to grow.” 

Often times people think the life of an entrepreneur is easy, or they must be lucky. What Catherine Hover can tell you is that it’s about the way she lives her life that she learned from mother, “fearlessly and without regret.”

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