To enter 52 Mercer Street, a five-story building in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, on a Wednesday this past June, a visitor had to shimmy through a gaggle of paparazzi and three bouncers issuing wristbands and whisking ticketed guests to a single elevator to the top floor. Inside, the co-working space-slash-women’s club the Wing had been transformed into an assembly hall. There was a murmur of anticipation among the crowd of roughly 400, most of whom contentedly sat for nearly an hour under instructions not to rise from their assigned seats. It was barely 8:30 a.m.
At 9:30, Audrey Gelman, six months pregnant and wearing a button-up jumpsuit the color of porcelain, took the mic. Facing a sea of women, with a massive bookcase dripping with greenery behind her and light from an atrium pouring down on her, Gelman finally spoke: “I feel like a schmuck doing this.”
It was a charming bit of self-deprecation from the 32-year-old CEO, who co-founded her New York City– based company with Lauren Kassan in 2016 and has raised $117.5 million in venture capital. The Wing has eight locations across the U.S. and plans for three more before the end of the year and another nine around the globe in 2020. It will hold some 2,000 members-only events in 2019, lots of them featuring A-list guests from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, professional sports, and politics. So Gelman was hardly uneasy in the spotlight— subtly working the crowd and setting a ca