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Storytime: A look back at a 2021 pivot

Photo by Jen Brown

In 2017, a short clip on NPR inspired what quickly became Haven Collective. You see, I had been working remotely for more than a dozen years by then. Six weeks earlier, I married my best friend and we had big plans to expand our family. So I had a ton of questions floating around my mind when I heard the story that changed my life. Some of the questions top of mind were surrounding the logistics of bringing a baby into not just our home, but what was essentially my workspace. How would I be able to continue working with all the additional distractions that would come from a new baby? 

Working from home already has many challenges. For starters, there are loads of distractions and plenty of things that help you procrastinate when you are trying to avoid getting some work done: groceries, workouts, laundry, dishes, and on. Add in another human to the scene and the distractions compound.

So, when I heard NPR interviewing coworking operators around the country that included childcare on site, I lit up. I looked in Columbus for something like that, but all we had were a few local operators that were primarily focused on renting offices and supporting young, digital nomad-types. I had coworked from them all and never found a space that fit how I worked and fostered a connected community. They certainly were not interested in supporting working parents with a childcare option.

Over dinner one night with my best friend, Melissa, I voiced my frustration over Columbus’ lack of support for working parents and my wish for a space like the ones I heard about from NPR. I should mention that this dinner wasn’t supposed to be about me. Melissa was exploring her options to start her own business and I was her sounding board. This dinner was focused on her next move, not mine. But no sooner were the words out of my mouth and her eyes lit up. She and I basically founded Haven Collective that night.

Haven Collective would become Columbus’ first coworking community with drop in childcare on site for work from home parents. It was important to us that the space didn’t revolve around our littlest members, but around adults needing to connect and get their best work done. Haven’s Kids Club supported dozens of families who wanted to work from home and spend more time with their kids, but who needed some quiet time to be able to focus on projects uninterrupted or take meetings with clients. Watching our members’ businesses flourish with this support was incredible. Most months Haven broke even on the use of the Kids Club space, but we wanted to keep it affordable for our members and watching the kids interact with the sitters and one another was incredible.

For more than two years, Kids Club successfully supported families. Then the world experienced COVID. In Columbus, nonessential businesses were closed for a number of weeks and everyone who could work from home, did work from home. They also held virtual school and our members were put under a great deal of stress trying to manage it all.

Throughout the myriad of changes that we all experienced in 2020, we stayed in touch with our members to see how we could support their families. Our members needed connection and support at home. Reliable childcare providers were hard to come by and most families wanted to keep their kids near, not in a third-party space. Each month, we made the call to keep Kids Club closed but always hoped that it would reopen to our smallest and most vibrant members.

After months of Kids Club standing empty, we made the decision to close it indefinitely. At first, we converted it into additional coworking space so our members could work in a more socially distant manner. More recently, it’s become a private office for a team to work together on a daily basis. 

The decision to pivot away from coworking with childcare was difficult. It’s what motivated and inspired us to found Haven in the first place. But it also came at a time when the world was in a constant state of flux. We had concerns that this shift would hurt the community. We wondered if the need for childcare would come back the minute that we pivoted away from it. By staying in touch with our members, we didn’t have to wonder for long. They supported the change and understood. Because the way they ran their businesses and handled childcare had changed during the pandemic, the need for Kids Club as it had always been was unnecessary.

The Haven Collective members not only stuck by us through this change, but the community has grown. By constantly listening to our members and taking their needs into consideration, pivoting becomes a far less stressful decision to make. We still miss the energy and camaraderie that came from having Kids Club open, but we don’t regret our decision to make the change that the Community needed.

It’s in our foundation to listen to our members. So, if the day comes when a Kids Club is once again needed, we’ll listen. For now, we embrace the pivot. Haven Collective is still a connected community of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers without Kids Club. And we’re thrilled to see how members continue to grow and thrive here.

Written by Danielle Lim

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