Brainstorming a new business model
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.
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
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.