This Mom-Founded Business Is Turning On-Site Child Care From Luxury Into Reality
Workplace-provided day care is costly for businesses–but a huge benefit to employees. To women’s co-working company The Wing, it has always been part of the plan.
The Wing, in New York City, is a membership-based, female-only co-working-space-meets-social-club that raised $8 million in funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins, NEA, and the co-founders of SoulCycle--and plans to scale nationally. CREDIT: Krista Schlueter
The cost of child care exceeds the cost of rent in most of the country. Workplace-provided care is a rare luxury; few businesses can manage the necessary logistics, expenses of setup, and regulatory compliance. For co-working spaces, it's perhaps even more difficult.
Women's co-working company The Wing, however, is thumbing its nose at those concerns, announcing Tuesday it will provide babysitting services for its members in two of its locations in the coming months. "The Little Wing," will be an on-site play space for children--essentially a mini day care setup--with a separate entrance.
The Little Wing is a pilot program, which will start at The Wing's Soho location in New York City around the turn of the new year. West Hollywood, California, will follow when that location opens to members early in 2019.
It's an audacious move, considering The Wing is just two years old and is in the midst of a rapid international expansion. It currently has six locations, and will more than double to 13 in 2019, adding spaces in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, London, Paris, and Toronto.
The new child care offering at the SoHo Wing will allow members to drop off their small children with professional caretakers for two-to-three hour chunks of time--enough for a meeting or networking event. It will also have its own free-to-members children's programming: events tailored to kids age 1 to 6 involving music, art, and movement. Pricing for babysitting services will be competitive, Kassan said.
Of more than 4,000 co-working spaces in the United States, only roughly two dozen offer any form of child care. How precisely did The Wing accomplish a feat so many other businesses claim they cannot? Turns out, it has been on the minds of the co-founders since they began operations under the mission "the advancement of women through community."
Still, co-founder and COO Lauren Kassan said, "we didn't know exactly what that would look like or how that would take shape." Then, in 2018, two things happened. One: The Wing surveyed its members. It found 20 percent were moms, and that they highly valued the potential benefit of on-site child care. Other members, too, ranked it as a high priority.
Two: Kassan had her own baby. Audrey Gelman, who founded The Wing alongside Kassan, wrote on Instagram Tuesday: "Watching my co-founder balance a 9-month-old and a fast-growing start-up has reinforced how incredible women are, but just how much the deck is stacked against us to have it all."
Kassan and Gelman enlisted the help of Keri Snyder, the former COO of Citybabes, a New York City-based child care center, as well as that of Gelman's mother Lisa Spiegel, who co-founded SoHo Parenting, a counseling and family-support center.
Renderings of the forthcoming SoHo space, on an additional floor of the building where The Wing operates, reveal all the classic preschool bookshelves and wooden stacking toys--but inserted into a miniature version of The Wing, with tiny midcentury armchairs and a baby loveseat. "We had many Pinterest boards going," Kassan laughed.
Kassan hopes other co-working spaces and companies will follow suit and develop their own child care facilities. "There's a perception that it's incredibly challenging and a daunting task," she said. "But people just don't prioritize it."