MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — A local mom and her business partner are launching a co-working space that will also provide child care — a first for New York City, she said.
For the past two years, Wendy Xiao, 28, has experienced firsthand the difficulty of balancing her professional life with tending to her new baby. While attending Columbia University's business school, she juggled classes, networking happy hours and internships with nursing her child and getting in cuddle time, she said.
"I felt that for the rest of my life I would be always torn between my responsibility as a mother and my responsibility as a professional," Xiao said.
The struggle is familiar to many working parents, but not to the majority of entrepreneurs and startup founders, she noted.
The tech world is full of people who "are single, in their early 20s, and male" and "can’t really relate to parenting," because they haven't reached that stage in life yet, Xiao said.
So Xiao teamed up with her business school classmate Susann Friedrich to launch CoHatchery, a co-working space complete with child care services — which will be the first of its kind in the Big Apple, she said.
Though childless herself, Friedrich, 27, believes strongly in CoHatchery's mission of helping more women move into the entrepreneurship space, Xiao said.
Both women were depressed by a figure they came across stating that 43 percent of women leave the workplace after business school. Part of the reason for this stems from the lack of flexibility in the American workplace, Xiao said.
"Work and life are kept very, very separate," she explained. "It’s a big flaw of American society."
Though they've found there's a lot of demand — CoHatchery's waitlist has grown to a couple hundred people just through word of mouth — other barriers have kept the idea from taking off in the past, Xiao said.
While finding the right real estate for a co-working space is a challenge in itself, adding child care services requires following strict regulations, she said.
Right now, CoHatchery is on the hunt for space, possibly on the Upper West Side or in other family-friendly neighborhoods, which will dictate how the child care component takes shape.
If they're able to find a space with a ground floor, they can offer licensed infant care. Otherwise, they could offer part-time childcare or a preschool, she said.
However, something akin to a babysitting service like what can be found at some gyms is not what the founders are aiming for.
"It’s going to be high-quality, licensed-teacher-led," Xiao said of the program, adding they are still exploring which early childhood philosophy will govern the program.
While working on site, parents could take their children out for lunch or drop in to breastfeed, giving them more flexibility than they have when work and child care are in two separate locations, she said.
Since Friedrich and Xiao formalized the idea in late August, they've been running trial sessions at a few residential buildings, offering child care and workspace in one place, while also surveying parents to see what they're interested in. The hope is to open CoHatchery by the end of 2016.
While they haven't sought funding yet, Friedrich and Xiao believe the concept can work beyond the city's borders and has the power to change the options and choices for working parents.
With the freelance economy exploding and parents wanting more options, "the timing is absolutely right now," Xiao said.