The Trend of Co-working and Childcare

Brainstorming a new business model

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Last year while in an Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation class at UCLA Anderson, myself and a team of three guys spent some time developing a model of combining together a co-working space with flexible, on-site childcare. In talking to potential customers and doing a market analysis, we found that there was real demand for the service, but our capital investment numbers for getting something started in West LA caused me to pause and take a step back. In the last few weeks, I’ve come across an article and a Google Group of over 30 people around the world who are either currently running, thinking about starting, or interested in this model.

Telecommuting, Freelancing and Working at Home

The business of providing desk sharing or co-working together with childcare or day care center is starting to boom. We are in the era of mobile technology, and a lot of companies are already considering or offering telecommuting for their employees. More and more parents are taking advantage of the option of working from home, especially when they have little kids, so they can combine taking care of their children and working.

Work at home mom
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If you ask these work from home parents about the advantages of their situation they will often say that it’s the financial stability and being able to take care of their kids personally. When asked about the downside, many will tell you tales about their kids wanting their attention much of the time, as well as household chores that need to be taken cared of. If you’re at home, it’s easy for your mind to wander to the dishes that need to be washed or the laundry that has to be done. It can be challenging to be 100% focused on your work, unlike if you’re already in the office and you can’t be pulled away by other tasks.

While telecommuting and working from home is being pursued by many employees and independent workers, most of them are still faced with some problems. Even if you don’t have a kid to tend to at home, there are other issues that would soon arise. Some people get lonely working all day alone in their house, and miss the personal interaction with co-workers. Having a desk at an office shared with other telecommuters can be a solution.

Working and Childcare = Peace of Mind

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One of the first companies to start a business merging a workplace for freelancers and self-employed with an onsite nursery in the UK is the Third Door. They were featured on the Women2.0site last year because one of the co-founders and director of the company is a woman, wife, and mom of 3 kids, Shazia Mustafa. She was nearing the end of her maternity leave and realized that she didn’t want to go back to the corporate world, but she also didn’t want to be completely disengaged from the professional world. She and her husband researched about this new business and launched it in May 2010.

A similar company in Austin, Texas is Plug and Play. While coffee shops and libraries, which are the usual hang outs of freelancers, cater to patrons, they cater to professionals. This company was started by another mom, Amy Braden who faced the challenges of balancing work and family life right after giving birth. The plug side is related for people plugging in their laptops/Mac’s and having wifi access to work, while the play side is for their kids, who are just in another room interacting with a childcare professional.

A third example of this model is Ellie’s Childcare in Seattle. An article in the Economist is what brought me back to this topic – you can find the story of Jessie Rymph starting up this business with other co-founders as challenging but optimistic and determined.

I’ve been excited about this model again for the past week, and am doing some more research and having more conversations to understand what could be a good fit in the West Los Angeles area.

Let me know what you think – is there a need for something like this? Is it too challenging to force two business models together? Do you need to build the community first? Share your thoughts below.

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
This entry was posted in Ambition, Entrepreneur, Family, Flexible, Mom, Networks, Resources, Startup, Uncategorized, Work and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The Trend of Co-working and Childcare

  1. Curtis Haby says:

    Any new business model is a challenge. The question that matters the most – is there a market for this?
    One of the greatest benefits I’ve experienced operating a business at home is the extra time I could spend with our children. They grow up fast.
    This could be an alternative for those who are employees who would like to do the same thing.
    I would think if they are disciplined enough to hold down a job they would get their work done even if the children were close by. The children would also realise, when they are a little past the toddler age, that what Mommy or Daddy is doing is important.
    The children watching their parent work would be another positive in that they could experience a work day and all that goes with it first hand instead of what they would see on TV.
    Commuting time between daycare and the office would be eliminated too giving people more time every day to do something else.
    The employees/participants could also taylor the childrens activities through the day which is probably not an option at a conventional daycare.

    • Thanks for the response Dad! This idea does have some roots in the experience we had growing up.

      I hadn’t thought about the benefits of children ‘seeing’ their parents work, as well as the ability to tailor activities and interaction. I think there is a market for in in terms of demand, but getting the right location and price point, as well as a critical mass, would be important.

      • Claudia says:

        Hi Tamra,
        I’m actually living in France. I start working on a coworking and co-playing project (workspace + an area with children. I still have a lot of work about the projet.
        I didn’t find a lot on the web in France since it seems to be a really new concept.
        I thanks you in advance about all the informations et tips you could send me.
        Do you know if Google Group of over 30 people around the world working on this model is still alive?
        Thanks a lot,

  2. Nicole Lewis says:

    Wow, what a fantastic concept! As a fellow entrepreneur and telecommuter, I LOVE this idea! Thanks so much for the information and I will definitely be sharing this with my followers via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn! Blessings!

  3. Aaron Wilson says:

    I’m a big fan of this idea! One thing to consider, since we’ve been thinking about childcare a lot recently – if you’re catering to professionals having extended hours is very important. There will certainly be evenings or weekends when both of us will need to work, so we felt the need to use a nanny rather than daycare in order to have flexibility with hours. I noticed that Plug & Play isn’t open on weekends, so maybe the Austin workforce is less willing to work themselves to death after hours? 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback Aaron. Would you be willing to pay a premium for a daycare that had both core hours and extended hours? Would you be willing to have a regular daycare, and then a different daycare you used for those extra work hours on nights/weekends? And yeah, maybe TX has their priorities right :-).

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  5. Ajeet says:

    I just came across this idea. I think it’s really innovative. My husband is an entrepreneur and I work remotely for a company in ny. I just had a baby and have no idea how we will manage. If something like this existed we would definitely give it a try. I also think there are other add on options that would be great, like child or baby related classes in the space after work hours.

    • Hi Ajeet – thanks for your response. My groups that I’ve seen started out of a situation like yours, in which a family is trying to figure out how to make things work. If you could find a partner, or an exiting co-working space in your area, you could take advantage of the work they’ve done to start adding on the childcare resource.

      • Ajeet says:

        Tamara, do you know of any places out of LA? I noticed you live here too!

      • Hi Ajeet – I assumed you were in NY, but I realized I read your post incorrectly – that your husband is remote with a NY company. There are a few flexible childcare places in LA, but not a coworking/childcare place yet. Send me an email if you’d like to talk about this some more!

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  8. rymph says:

    Tamra, I just found this! Thanks for mentioning us. We are still optimistic and challenged here in the Seattle area. Are you still pursuing this yourself?

    • You’re welcome! I haven’t done anything more to move it along the last few months (been working on another business), other than to talk about the idea and see if I can find others with similar interests in the LA area.

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  10. Kate says:

    Hi — Is the google group still going and/or private? I am very interested in this concept and would like to start a feasibility study in my community–a midwestern college town.

    • Hi Kate – the google group has been active off/on over the last few years. There are several of the coworking/childcare spaces which have come and gone in the last 5 years, and a few others that have been trying to start but have been met with challenges – overall cost, regulations, finding a right space, etc. Are you looking to do surveys, start an interest group and then go from there, etc.?

  11. Juliana Hess says:

    Hi Tamra,

    I’m currently researching the idea for a space in the NorthEast and that’s how I got to your post. I’d love to correspond with you to hear your thoughts. I will drop you a line directly.

    Kind regards,

    Juliana Hess

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