If you haven’t ever heard of co-working, that’s not surprising. I hadn’t either, until very recently. This is not to be confused with “job sharing”, which is a strategy some women use to work part-time in a full-time position at a corporation. No, this is really a new concept, or perhaps an old concept with a new structure. You’ve probably gone to a coffee shop to get a bit of work done, where you congregate with other people doing the same thing, but independently.
Aliza Schlabach, herself a working mom, has launched a group who comes together to work in their own businesses, but in a shared space. She schedules the events, once or more each month, and finds the space so that (mostly) business owners can congregate and benefit from the engery and resources that workers in an office take for granted.
Update since originally published: Aliza’s business has been renamed the JuiceBox and is currently on the hunt for permanent real estate.
The really exciting twist on this is Aliza’s addition of childcare to the mix, since her market is mostly moms and dads who usually run their business from their homes and around their kids. Is this a brilliant idea? Here’s the interview, where Aliza buckles down and shows how it’s done.
How did you come up with the coworking concept?
This past fall I took part in DreamIt Ventures startup accelerator program in Philadelphia; for three months I worked as a User Experience consultant for one of the startup companies. We worked in a crowded open room, and while it wasn’t particularly comfortable, it was still wonderful… we (15 startup companies which consisted of about 45 people) bounced ideas off each other, learned to network like crazy, and collaborated. Even though my company consisted of only three people, we were in an environment that was much bigger and more exciting; it fostered enthusiasm and creativity beyond what could have happened from our small group working alone.
During that program I also became familiar with Indy Hall, a cool coworking space in Old City Philadelphia that was founded by Alex Hillman, who is extremely well known in the coworking community worldwide. DreamIt and Indy Hall were my introduction to coworking.
One day in November I was driving home from a school we were considering sending my five year old to for kindergarden, and was fretting over how far apart my home, my work, his school, and my daughter’s daycare were. And suddenly I had one of those lightbulb moments; the Coworking for Parents concept was born.
Are there other similar models in operation elsewhere, in other parts of the country?
So far in all of my Googling, I have only found a handful of other businesses with this concept worldwide:
Third Door Workhug & Nursery London (UK)
Bean Work Play Cafe (Georgia)
The Work SPot (Georgia)
Cubes & Crayons (San Francisco) (closed their doors – I heard for personal reasons)
Who is it ideal for? Who else might benefit?
This facility will be perfect for most work from home parents of young children… anyone who spends the majority of time on their computer and who also has young kids to attend to. We will also welcome anyone else who wants to cowork in our area… parents of older kids, and those without kids as well; they just won’t need the childcare services. Finally, we are considering including a commercial kitchen in our space. This will be great for event hosting, as well as for renting to those with bakery and other food related businesses who might sometimes need a larger facility (and maybe childcare) to handle larger orders and grow their businesses beyond the capacities of their home.
The childcare side of the business will allow entrepreneurial and telecommuting parents the ability to be more productive than they could possibly be at home without childcare.
The coworking environment will foster a true community spirit and opportunities to inspire, be inspired, network, socialize, learn, and be happier and more productive. It will of course also offer traditional business services such as access to conference rooms and print facilities.
Do you see this as a mentoring/networking possibility as well?
Absolutely! I think networking in a space of fellow entrepreneurs is a given. We will likely also set up a program of monthly networking events, speakers, and perhaps also a mentoring program for startups.
What kinds of work might a parent actually get done in a few hours?
Hosting a business meeting in a board room or participating in a conference call (with no screaming children in the background). Designing a few mockups of a web site. An intense session of programming. Writing a proposal, or a magazine article. Finances. Getting through a big pile of email. Cooking in the commercial kitchen. The possibilities are endless!
How will you address concerns about quality of child care?
Quality child care is all about the people who are providing that care. In addition to thorough background checks and references, I plan on interviewing all candidates personally. They must demonstrate warmth, responsibility, attention, a youthful spirit, and creativity. Part of the interviewing process will include having them provide examples of activities they would love to pursue with the children they work with. I will also institute both a parent and peer review process to make sure we reward the teachers who excel, and dismiss those who don’t perform.
Do you see this growing into a business, or is this just a really great networking opportunity?
The facility will either be set up as a for profit business or a non-profit organization, depending on how the revenue plan works out (currently a work in progress). I could see large family friendly organizations potentially sponsoring us, as an effort to support family-focused entrepreneurship on a community level. Ikea, Wegmans, and Whole Foods perhaps? (Is this wishful thinking? 🙂
How have you been getting the word out about this option?
I have been very active setting up my email newsletter mailing list on CoworkingForParents.com, and getting the word out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CoworkingForParents) and Meetup.com (www.meetup.com/CoworkingForparents). Locally I have been talking to people in person and online from Philly Startup Leaders, Main Line Parent magazine, have posted on Craigslist, and have been meeting individually with many local business owners.
Would a pregnant woman be welcome?
Absolutely! How wonderful would it be for her to be supported in her business and through her pregnancy by others who have been through it.
What is the one biggest success you hope to have?
Just one? That’s tough. 🙂 If I can open the doors to this business, have it be even a little bit profitable within a year or two, and make a few parents happy and productive enough to spread the word, I will be a very happy and content woman.
For more information, contact Aliza Schlabach Founder | Coworking For Parents
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