Trying to work from home and take care of kids at the same time is a challenge on any day – often resulting in working late into the wee hours in order to meet deadlines. Thankfully Third Door has arrived in Wandsworth, just in time to help us all become a little more productive, more content and ultimately more rested. The concept behind Third Door is simple: drop your child off in the on-site nursery and work in the fully loaded office facilities. Facilities include open plan offices, conference rooms, lounge areas to meet others and yes they even have a water cooler. It’s a win/win situation. Kiddies get some playtime and parents get some uninterrupted work done. In addition, Third Door also hosts a series of events-most recently a successful networking event was held to bring freelancers together.
WLM recently chatted with Shazia Mustafa, one of the founders of Third Door.
What inspired you to start Third Door?
My story began back in 2008 – my maternity leave was coming to an end and I had realised that corporate life just wasn’t for me. So that May, I scheduled a full day to brainstorm possible new business ideas with a like-minded friend. However, most of the day was spent tending to our daughters needs instead. It was right then I had my eureka moment. I wished for a place where myself and my friend could work productively for a couple of hours and leave our children in trusted care. And so, the ‘Third Door’ concept was born.
My husband Yusuf was studying for an MBA at the time and since it was self-funded, I persuaded him to write a business plan for Third Door as part of his dissertation. He didn’t need much persuasion, as he works from home and found that he was ousted from his study shortly before our daughter was born. He spent many months working in the corridor of our flat before the desk was moved into the bedroom so he could lock himself away from a curious and noisy baby!
In October 2008, I returned back to work and reluctantly placed our daughter into full daycare. The business plan was handed in late 2008 and was awarded a distinction! This gave me added confidence that the Third Door concept was a winner, so I jumped at the chance of voluntary redundancy when it was offered the following March and left work, 4 months pregnant, to set about making my Third Door vision come alive.
What advice do you have for working parents?
Many parents now have the statutory right to ask their employer for flexible working arrangements, usually to fit around childcare. Currently about 10 million workers in the UK have this right and about 90 per cent of requests to work flexibly have been granted to date, a positive sign that employers are keen to keep staff happy. So my advice is: Ask! Even working from a location closer to home just one day a week can have an impact on your work/life balance. Parents returning to work after the birth of a baby often find it difficult. The guilt of not being there for their child, mothers wondering how to continue to breastfeed and the stress involved trying to get back from the office to fetch their child from a carer, all take their toll. Being closer to your child and home makes everything a lot easier.
By using a space like Third Door, you can show your employer that you take your job seriously and that you’re working from a professional space, not a hall closet – yet you still have the benefit of having your child on-site. And if they need any further convincing, tell them that you’ll be happy to be a case study for their PR team to demonstrate how family friendly their organisation is! For self-employed parents, using Third Door helps project a professional image and because it can be used on a pay-as-you-go basis, you only need to pay for childcare when you have work to do, not when you don’t. You can also use our meeting rooms when you don’t want to take clients into your home. And you can even use the Third Door nursery as a drop in facility on the days you have to go to meetings elsewhere.
What is your favorite place in West London?
I love Westfield for its family friendliness – loads of shopping, things to do, kids clubs, eating out. It makes going out with kids easy.
What is your favorite child friendly place in West London?
Well besides Westfield, I love both the Natural History Museum for the dinosaur exhibits and the Science Museum as there is so much for the kids to do and it’s free!
How to you spend your downtime?
I don’t have too much downtime right now! Running a new ambitious business like Third Door is very time intensive, but I do try to make sure that I spend quality time with my children on the weekends. We love going to the places mentioned above but also just love going for walks in the park and playing together as well as seeing family and old friends.
How do you juggle running your own business and being a mum?
Balancing life with a young family and starting up a business like Third Door is very difficult. Both require your attention and it means there is very little down time. This has been made more difficult as my husband who works with me in the business (although he still has a full-time job!) seriously injured his ankle and was unable to walk for a good period of the time post launch. I know that it won’t always be like this. I could have waited until my children were older to start Third Door up, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. There is no other business like it in the UK and we wanted to be first to market. Once it is established with more staff in place to run the day to day operations, I hope to free up more time to spend with my kids. But at least they are in the same space as me, which means I can pop in and see them whenever I like, keep breastfeeding my son and know that they are doing ok throughout the day. It’s a crazy life but it works for us.
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