Welcome to Community Corner, a series highlighting the work, passions, and impact of our community teams around the world.
Walking through the basement of his WeWork building early one morning nearly three years ago, Ariel Victoria saw a stuffed toy on the ground. It was a bear—odd-looking, a little rodent-like—but he bent down to pick it up all the same.
“I felt an instant connection to this bear,” says Victoria, 27, who at the time was a cleaning associate at WeWork 54 W 40th St. He took the bear up to the office with him and started taking pictures of it whenever he finished a task at work. When he wiped down the windowsills, the bear was there, holding the rag. When he restocked the milks in the fridge, the bear took a break among the cartons.
One day, the bear’s former owner, member Jeizel Rosenthal of Stylus Media Group, returned from maternity leave and spotted the bear in the office. “She told me the bear had been a baby gift from a friend,” recalls Victoria. Rosenthal told him she’d found the bear so ugly she feared it would scare the baby, so she’d thrown it in the trash.
By this time, the ugly little bear had a name—“WeBear”—and its own Instagram account. Members had been playing hide and seek with the toy around the office and holding “bear hunts,” complete with riddles.
“WeBear took on a life of his own,” says Victoria, who is now a community associate at WeWork 450 Lexington Ave. He took WeBear with him to Summer Camp outside London. “As I walked around, this bear was getting all kinds of affection and admiration from other WeWork employees,” he says. He felt he couldn’t stop posting photos of WeBear’s adventures, because people wanted to see what the bear was up to at all times.
Today, Victoria is still posting to WeBear’s Instagram account, and he’s even added some product promotion. “When we have a pop-up shop [of member products], I put WeBear next to the product,” he explains.
WeBear now proudly sits at the front desk of his WeWork building. And Rosenthal, the member who had originally thought the bear so ugly, was ultimately charmed by it. She recently bought a stuffed toy just like WeBear for her son, who is now 3 years old.
We spoke with Victoria about his role at WeWork, his passions, and more.
What inspires him: At WeWork, Victoria says he feels genuine human connection and draws inspiration from the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the members he gets to know—and that helps him figure out how to be better at what he does. It’s a contrast to his old job as a bartender in an airport lounge. “I never saw myself in the celebrities and upper-class people I served in the first-class lounge,” he says.
The member who’s impacted him most: Victoria met former WeWork member and comedian Tyler Fischer when Fischer put on a show in the building. “Tyler thought I was funny, so he challenged me to write five minutes of standup material,” recalls Victoria. He would never have thought to do that himself, he says, because he hates public speaking—but he rose to the challenge. “Practicing my material has helped me overcome a lot of fear and self-consciousness,” Victoria says. He found a lot of material in his first role at WeWork: “Cleaning a building, you see a lot of crazy stuff!”
Plans for the future: “I’d love to travel with WeWork around the world,” he says, noting that his dream would be to help open buildings in new locations. “I’d love to see South America, and if I found the right fit, I’d move to another country with the company in a heartbeat.”
Favorite pastimes: Victoria loves to paint. “My girlfriend is a sculptor—a real artist—and we often work on projects together.” At the moment the two are doing a series of flowers. “Seeing my childlike drawing next to a real, detailed piece of art is pretty fun,” he says. And while Victoria has never painted a picture of WeBear, he did sculpt him out of clay once.
Photographs by Matthew Salacuse