To say that “co-working” is the hot new way to work is an understatement.
Last week, research firm JLL forecasted that by 2030 “flexible space” will grow to 30% of all office stock, and noted that 43% of the employed US workforce works remotely from their main office some of the time. Remote employees, entrepreneurs, freelancers - anyone who wants a flexible working environment, but doesn’t want/need/have access to a traditional office - seems to be flocking to the co-working world.
Along with “office” space, co-working provides a creative and professional community and often boasts a number of amenities - free coffee/wifi/conference rooms… even beer. Many host professional development events and networking happy hours. Some allow you to take your fur babies to work, others cater to professional women, but few are truly family friendly in the sense of providing on-site childcare.
Enter Entreprenursery, a nursery AND co-working hub designed with parents in mind by Dahlia Dajani, a #MINDRMAMA of 3 under 10 years old in London. We spoke with Dahlia about how working at her dining table was not working for her, design choices she has made that are focused on mom and baby, and why flexibility is the key to supporting parents returning to work.
How did you come up with the idea for Entreprenursery? Can you give us a brief summary of how you got to where you are now and the choices that led you down this path?
In 2014, I was freelancing and working from home. My youngest was just a year old, we had a nanny and I missed the office interaction, talking with other adults. I was working at my dining table and was constantly being interrupted by my baby, the nanny, or other household obligations. So I started looking for a co-working space which had a nursery. I found a great one, but it was just too far away. So I decided to start one myself. I had wanted to start my own business for awhile, and as I conducted my initial research, I found that flexible childcare was a real need. Parents were feeling pressured into committing to more hours with a nanny or nursery than they actually needed.
Entreprenursery launched in January 2017 as a pop-up in a church. It did really well, and I had regular customers and great weekly workshop speakers. I then got the opportunity to team up with a new women’s business club and move into their space. Since March, my nursery has been growing each month and we now have regular children in the nursery. I have three team members and we are even looking to grow to new locations!
What are the primary benefits of having childcare co-located on site? What are the challenges? Anything surprising that you've discovered?
There are so many benefits! Nursing moms can continue to be there for their children, parents don’t have to disappear all day, they can always pop in to see their kid and have a hug or share a snack or lunch. Parents also love coming on our little field trips with the kids from time to time. We’ve found that our primary challenges stem from public transport near Entreprenursery. Our local tube station is not very stroller friendly, so that can affect the mom’s decision to join or not. Otherwise, moms that choose to walk or take the bus find reaching us quite easy.
At Mindr, we are focused on building community. Speak to us a little bit about the community aspect of Entreprenursery? How do you support your members, both professionally and as parents?
I offer my members one hour of free mentorship when they join to help them organize their thoughts and create an action plan, including a focused plan for growth. I also host regular meet-ups for our parents. We celebrate achievements - big and small - and showcase ways parents can collaborate and help each other. In the future, we plan to bring in a parenting coach for a few sessions.
In thinking about the creation of Entreprenursery, what design choices did you make to cater to the needs of your members?
When designing Entreprenursery, I always thought about the mom leaving her little baby for the first time in a nursery. This can be a scary time for both the parents and baby. It’s crucial to make the baby comfortable so that the parents feels reassured enough to leave. Even an hour or two can feel daunting. So we created a calm and inviting environment to welcome the children and plan fun activities to keep them excited to come back. We always communicate back to the parents about each child’s development and their day-to-day activities are recorded so that there is always a 2-way communication to help each child flourish.
Has becoming a parent changed or impacted the way that you approach your career?
Yes of course! I was a marketer and now my work fits around my kids. My non-negotiable is that I still drop the kids off at school and mostly pick them up. My aim was to create a child-friendly business and my team understands that. We all work flexibly as well.
What are some go-to strategies that you've relied on as a parent (great pieces of advice you've received, life hacks etc.)?
I believe strongly in the Montessori philosophy. Go at your child’s pace, look at things through their eyes. Don’t rush them. Let them enjoy looking for snails in the grass, pointing out the colors in the leaves or flowers - it’s teaching the children mindfulness from a young age. In today’s fast paced world full of gadgets and gizmos, it’s important to teach your child to take it slow, and enjoy your time with them! Also, get to know your child’s interests and nurture those interests. If your child loves space, take them to the museum, read books on the topic, talk about it together.
What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats motherhood/parenthood?
There are so many mothers who feel they cannot go back to work because childcare is so expensive or they just don’t feel ready. Jobs need to be more flexible to allow mothers and fathers to work flexibly. Many European countries do this very well - many in The Netherlands finish work early on Fridays and parents in Norway enjoy long parental leaves. This shouldn’t be a taboo topic.
Also, companies need to work around parental obligations. If you give more to your employees, they’ll be more productive in turn. Treat your employees as three dimensional people, not just members of staff, and be understanding if their child is home sick or if there are other family obligations. Children should always come first, and companies should celebrate that.
Dahlia is a mom of 3 children under 10. She started Entreprenursery as a flexible coworking space and nursery for working parents, as she felt there was a real need for this in the market. She comes from a marketing background having worked in companies such as Nestle' and the producers of NIVEA (Beiersdorf). She is passionate about helping parents and children to thrive!