COLUMBUS (WCMH) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of people looked for a safe space where the people around them understood what they were feeling.

L.C. Johnson created a co-working space designed to do just that for women of color in Columbus.

When Zora’s House shut down like everything else, Johnson found out how important her house had become.

“I used to joke Zora’s House is just a side hustle,” Johnson said. “It’s the most expensive side hustle of all time, but it’s still a side hustle.”

Johnson’s so-called side hustle opened its doors in April 2018 as a co-working space for women of color while she worked full time, first in social justice for the YWCA, then in entrepreneurship for Franklin County.

When the state shut down in March of 2020, she was pregnant with her second child.

“Every role in my life was demanding more of me and I felt like I had the least amount to give,” Johnson said.

And the community she built with Zora’s could no longer gather.

“I think it allowed us to think about community in a much broader sense and how to be inclusive with people who are not physically present,” said J’Hanna Appleby, Zora’s House ambassador.

Their local community became national when they offered virtual healing circles, with up to 500 women sometimes joining online.

“We ended up launching a virtual membership option just because we had so many people attending those healing circles saying, ‘I need this community in my life,’” Johnson said.

“It was interesting because our membership grew over the pandemic because a lot of people were looking for ways to feel connected,” Appleby added.

Virtual writer’s sessions, poetry night, feminist night school, and when the doors reopened, dinners and block parties.

“We come together to celebrate wins, we come together to rant, we come together to grieve,” Johnson said. “Whatever it is when the community is feeling something big and women of color are processing that, this is their space.”

“There’s a comraderie and spirit in the house,” Appleby said. “I feel like you can feel it when you come in.”

Post-pandemic, Zora’s House has become home.

“I have to keep holding on to the hope that we are doing something different and that we’re building something special,” Johnson said.