The Story Behind Third Door (Co-Working in London)

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By Shazia Mustafa (Co-Founder & Director, Third Door) Third Door has been lucky with the amount of press coverage we have had since we launched the business back in May 2010. We have been covered by BBC Radio London Breakfast show, BBC London News, The Guardian (twice!), FT, Nursery World (three times), won a few awards along the way (best Start Up, best local business by Lloyds TSB, Smarta 100 2011 winner...).

It's been great and really helped us stamp ourselves as the first in the UK to enter the area of merging a workspace for the self-employed/home workers with a flexible onsite nursery.

The concept of Third Door is such a brilliant simple idea that has left many people asking why it it hasn't been done before. However, more importantly, I believe the story behind Third Door has helped us gain much of this press coverage. It is a lovely story and I would recommend that everyone starting their own brand or company also pulls together the story behind their business. People are always interested in stories and we have used our story countless times. It is one that I will never tire of telling as the story has led to me launching and working passionately on Third Door and also as a result I am lucky enough to take both my children with me to work everyday!

When my daughter was 5 months old and I was halfway through my maternity leave, I realised that I didn't want to go back to my corporate job (Global Brand Research Manager), which as wonderful as the company I was working for is, I just didn't want to do any global travelling or commute full-stop.

I had always harboured ambition to set up my own business so I decided to get together with a like minded friend and brainstorm as many ideas as we could. So with our daughters in tow we started our brainstorming session. However, what we didn't expect was how difficult it was to get into the flow of 'brainstorming' whilst tending to the needs of our girls with one of the girls constantly needing some kind of attention, be it nappy change, feeding, entertaining, holding etc.

So in a bid to get them to sleep we went to the local Starbuck's and then the local park, both of which made no difference. I remember clearly feeling very frustrated and saying to my friend how great it would be to leave the girls somewhere where they could be looked after whilst we worked nearby!

Being a researcher, I started looking into this idea and found a similar idea based in the States. Additionally a number of insights were revealed, some new, some old; many new mums are to reluctant to return back to work as they are nervous about placing their child in childcare.

More dads want to spend more time with their child during the workday instead of just mornings, evenings and weekends. More and more people are able to work from home with the advent of mobile technology; all one needs is internet access, a laptop and mobile phone and they can work from anywhere in the world.

However, with this comes the added problem of loneliness, missing the office buzz and having the distraction of household chores. Third Door would solve many of these problems and through creating a membership space we would enable networking, collaboration and a sense of community. One of the most important insights was lack of flexibility in the traditional nursery model and at Third Door, members would be able to pick the sessions they needed as long as they give enough notice.

My husband and co-founder, was studying for his MBA (self-funded) at the same time and was just finalising his dissertation project. I suggested he focus on this idea I had been researching. He thought it was a no-brainer as he was feeling all the pain points I had already identified of working from home around a small child. Yusuf worked hard on a feasibility plan of our concept. We were thrilled when he received a distinction for it. At around the same time, my employers had announced that they were making redundancies so I decided to take voluntary redundancy (despite just finding out we were expecting baby no.2).

The next big step was to get funding for our project. We worked hard to turn the feasibility study into a fully functional business plan with all the right numbers for the bank, only to be told a big 'NO' by the bank! We were informed that they could not compare our business against anything similar so they didn't want to take the risk (at around this moment of time, the recession had just been officially announced, hence the reluctance by the bank).

Obviously we were gutted but rather than give up so early in the process, we decided to pool together all our savings. We remortgaged our home and sold some equity to friends and family. We then went ahead with logo design, finding premises, strongly negotiating everything so we could save money. I worked right up to the night our son was born -- I had a week's rest before I was back working towards the launch. We decided not to give up and to persevere as we totally believe in Third Door and we knew we would end up being grumpy old people if someone else ended up doing it instead of us! That's enough to get the fire going, new baby or not!

We launched the business when our son was 6 months old and it's been quite a journey to date. The business model has evolved with time, but we are still true to our vision of excellent customer service and helping make the lives of working parents that little bit easier! Our long-term plan is to have a Third Door in every urban town in the UK and we would love to meet any interested parties along the way who help us realise our vision and be part of the journey.

I'd love to hear you comments and if you also have a story to tell, we'd love to have you as a guest speaker at a Third Door event.

This post was originally posted at Third Door's blog.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Shazia Mustafa is co-founder and Director of Third Door, the UK's first flexible workhub with an onsite nursery. Launched in May 2010, Third Door has won a couple of awards and had some great coverage in the press (BBC London News, The Guardian and FT to name a few). Shazia's background is in marketing and consumer research with experience at Nokia and the BBC. Shazia holds a BSc in Mathematics and an MA in Marketing. Follow her startup at @thirddoor.