Starting Up a Business, With Little Ones Close By

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Start-up culture is defined by long days and nights. Shoestring budgets, thin staffing and lots of trial and error are hardly ideal conditions for any entrepreneurs, let alone working parents.

To address those challenges, a new crop of workspaces are aiming to make it easier to start a business with little ones in tow.

Funded in a variety of ways that include bootstrapping entrepreneurs and corporate behemoths like Google, these spaces all perform vital functions. Some host meetings with a bank or investors, others help entrepreneurs learn all facets of starting a business, while some simply provide a common space to meet and talk with peers.

One such space in Durham, N.C., called Nido was exactly what Ali Rudel said she needed to fulfill her dream of starting her own bakery while juggling the responsibilities of caring for her 3-year-old and 6-month-old daughters. They attended a Montessori preschool on site while she worked next door on developing her idea over 14 months.

“It was especially wonderful because I was able to breast-feed, take breaks to see my kids, and I felt I was able to be very involved with what was going on in their classrooms,” she said.

At Nido, whose name is Italian for nest, Ms. Rudel also attended workshops on starting a business and sought feedback from the other members.

“Nido enabled me to set up a foundation for my business,” she said. She set out to raise $20,000 through Kickstarter and ultimately raised over $24,000.

Ms. Rudel started selling pies to local cafes and farm stands in 2015 and will open her first storefront in East Durham this summer. She already has plans to sell savory varieties of curried pies and hearty potpies with seasonal vegetables, as well as top-sellers like rosemary honey apple pie and sour cherry honeysuckle pie.

There are 3,900 co-working spaces in the country and approximately 11,100 worldwide, according to a 2016 report by Emergent Research, a research and consulting firm. Although there are no formal numbers on how many of those offer child care, Emergent estimates only 15 do nationwide.

“Co-working spaces with child care are a great idea,” said Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research. “The challenge is in the implementation.”

The main difficulties, Mr. King said, are the stringent regulations for running a child care site. Furthermore, running two very different businesses — an office-space firm and a day care operation — can be tricky, he said. “Still with the growth of the broader co-working industry, we expect to see more,” he added.

Nido has beaten the odds. It began in fall 2014 in the living room of Tiffany Frye, one of its co-founders. When she was returning to work after the birth of her daughter, she wanted to build community with other like-minded parents. Seven families gathered, allowing some parents to work while others watched the young children.

In 2015, an early participant, Lis Tyroler, joined forces with Ms. Frye to found Nido. They secured as office space a cheerful yellow house that used to be a glass shop built in the Craftsman cottage style. Inside, Nido has two classrooms, a nap and feeding room, and an airy co-working room that fits 12, as well as a conference room, kitchen, lounge and private office. There is also an outdoor space for the children.

Today, 28 families have memberships, which start at $405 a month for two half-days a week of co-working space and school and run to $905 a month for five half-days a week.

With a waiting list growing for their infant room, the founders are looking to find a new facility to allow them to expand to four classrooms from two. Ms. Frye has also hosted webinars for women across the country who hope to replicate the setup.

A twist on the concept has been to add child care to existing hacker spaces — community-operated places where people who like to tinker with crafts, technology or food can meet and work on projects.

“I was working on an unfunded start-up project but I also had a newborn son, which is a very real obligation,” said William Fertman, who lives in Berkeley, Calif.

“My wife had a steady job and steady paycheck, so it was obvious I would be the one taking care of our son,” he said. “But I couldn’t simply disappear into an incubator for two weeks or longer and remain married.”

When his son, Leo, was a few months old, Mr. Fertman started looking for a workspace where he could also take his son.

Mr. Fertman said he felt unwelcome at the hacker spaces he tried first. “Many of the local hacker spaces were full of 20-something males and none of them had kids yet.”

His wife introduced him to mothers who shared ideas on balancing parenthood with careers.

“I generally felt like a wet blanket showing up,” Mr. Fertman said. “I wasn’t exactly welcome when the conversation turned to chapped nipples and residual spotting.”

Then in 2014, Mr. Fertman joined Mothership HackerMoms in Berkeley, a hacker space with affordable child care on site. Within six months, he helped start the Monger, an online platform to connect importers, distributors and retailers of specialty cheeses.

“It was a godsend. This was a place I could go with my baby,” Mr. Fertman said. “When he was a bit older, I brokered several deals with my cheese distributors with Leo playing next door.” HackerMoms uses Berkeley students as babysitters, who charge parents $3 to $5 an hour per child.

Mr. Fertman’s company, which he started with a business partner, Stephanie Skinner, now has 100 active users on its test site. The site will have its formal start in September.

Child care costs can be prohibitive to many start-up founders whose businesses are yet unfunded. Some entrepreneurs are applying to a Google-sponsored start-up program for parents called Campus for Moms.

In 2016, Zuzanna Sielicka-Kalczynska had three young children and a new business, Whisbear, that had enjoyed success in Poland. The business sells teddy bears that create white noise to soothe crying infants. She came up with her idea after spending hours in the bathroom at night, running a hair dryer to ease her son’s colic.

She wanted to expand abroad but had no idea how to tackle other markets. “We were more like a manufacturing company with one product,” she said. “We had no proper business plan.”

Ms. Sielicka-Kalczynska was accepted into the Campus for Moms in Warsaw in 2016. She received an office and went in for workshops once a week for 10 weeks.

Nearby were crying rooms, feeding spaces and playrooms for her young children. “The play area was a great solution because I could bring my children and not miss any of the workshops or meetings,” she said.

She also connected with various mentors at Google and was invited to a workshop in Palo Alto, Calif. There she learned Americans preferred stuffed animals that feel fluffier and sleeker than those favored by European shoppers, who are accustomed to simpler cotton.

Google started the first Campus for Moms in Tel Aviv in 2012 and now has six such campuses outside the United States. Five hundred parents have gone through the Google program, 10 percent of them fathers.

Google does not charge for the program or take any equity in the new companies.

“We began as a start-up in a garage, so backing start-up communities is part of Google’s DNA,” said Mary Grove, the director of Google for Entrepreneurs, the Google division that runs Campus for Moms. The company does hope to draw on participants’ loyalty by introducing Google’s tools to start-ups.

Ms. Sielicka-Kalczynska now has a group of Google mentors in several countries. Whisbear just won the top award at one of the biggest baby trade shows in Europe.

“Having a start-up is like having another child,” she said. “You really need to care about it. Sometimes it’s really disappointing and then five minutes later it gives you energy and you’re positive again.”