It’s about time you met Shazia Mustafa: entrepreneur, trailblazer and multi-tasking mum. Shazia is the Founder of Third Door, the first co-working space with childcare in the world. A champion for gender equality, flexible working and support in the workplace for parents, Shazia has campaigned on policies around parental leave, equal pay and gender representation through the Women’s Equality Party in the UK. Shazia will be speaking at #SheStartedItLIVE on Saturday 14th September at Home Grown, book your ticket here and take advantage of our Bank Holiday special offer. We sat down with Shazia to talk business, parenting and her future plans:

What is the idea behind Third Door? 

Third Door is the UK’s first co-working and flexible nursery hybrid business, based in South West London. I co-founded the business nine years ago with my husband. Back then and even more so today, Third Door has been about removing the parenthood penalty and creating a better work/ life balance for mums and dads. We have created a solution that allows parents to be able to work near their children, thus saving them time and money by cutting their commute time, as well as removing parent-guilt.

Our nursery solution is super-flexible allowing parents to choose between fixed days and flexible packages, upgrade and downgrade their childcare package depending on their needs. With the flexibility we offer, we have helped countless families, especially mothers who may not have otherwise returned to work and continue their careers on a full-time or flexible basis. We also have many members who are freelancers or run their own business and they say they couldn’t have done this without the services we offer. We always designed our services and amenities to be inclusive of fathers, and as a result, are delighted with all our dad members who also regularly use the Workhub.

Our vision has always been to create a community of like-minded individuals and join them all together as a force for good. And this is exactly what I want to continue to do with Third Door. I’m committed to creating a movement to bring about a change in the culture of working families, where it is normal to work near your children and also focus on your own career. As such, I want to encourage many more to join our movement of creating places where family and work can grow together and hopefully in the process remove the parenthood penalty altogether.

How did you make Third Door a reality? 

A few months after I had my first child back in 2008, I knew one thing for certain; I wanted to be a working mum and further my career. However, like most new mums, I was reluctant to be far from my baby and wanted somewhere I could work in peace whilst my little one was cared for nearby. My husband was also studying for a self-funded MBA at the time and therefore his working hours weren’t what you might call ‘traditional’ hours either. Yet as hard as we looked, nowhere seemed to offer us a workable solution to our childcare conundrum. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands. As such, me and my husband, Yusuf, decided to set up Third Door, the UK’s first co-working space with an onsite flexible nursery. In fact, my husband even decided to base his dissertation on the concept of a co-working space with onsite nursery – he was that invested in it.

What is your greatest success story to date? 

We have countless stories of where we have helped families, but where I find most happiness is seeing members of my team grow both in terms of their confidence and skills. I am so proud of Megan who is our Nursery Manager. She started with us as a newly qualified Level 3 four years ago and in her first three years of working for Third Door, she worked full-time and studied for her Early Years degree. In that time, she moved up to Room Leader and then Deputy and was promoted to Manager earlier this year. She is only 24 years old and epitomises all our key values of Respect, Kindness, Curiosity and Independence.

What’s on the horizon for Third Door? 

We are launching more sites, taking on board all we have learnt from our first site over the past nine years as we have evolved and continually improved both the nursery and the workhub. For us, it all comes down to finding the perfect location and venue. We won’t settle for second best.

How can new parents sign up for Third Door? 

It’s really simple. At Third Door, we offer monthly flexible packages and our customers book in their hours which they can use on the days that best suit them. They just need to book at least 48-hours in advance using our online booking system. They can book their child into the nursery for as little as two hours a day, or for the full day from 07.30am till 6.30pm. Within our fixed packages, parents can swap their days (within the week) and buy additional ad-hoc days. They can also upgrade and downgrade their package depending on their childcare needs. What we would always recommend however, is that new parents come and meet us first, spend some time with us and ultimately get a real feel for how we work.

Who uses Third Door? Do you get a lot of freelancers, people who usually work from home? Salaried staff? 

Members who use both the Workhub and the Nursery tend to be self-employed, freelancers, remote workers including those who are employed but can use the Workhub at least once a week to work from. Interestingly we also have members (usually those who work in professions such as teaching, doctors, lawyers and in the city) who just use the nursery service, because they love the flexibility we offer. We also find we have parents who come out of their way to drop their children off with us and use the co-working space. That’s a nice feeling to know how much they like coming to us and is definitely a key rationale for opening up more sites.

You are also on the policy committee for the Women’s Equality Party, can you tell us a little bit about the manifesto behind it? 

I am a trustee with Pregnant then Screwed and on the Policy Committee for the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). For WEP, I am the movement builder for the Equal Parenting policy which means I help the party make connections with other organisations and people connected to the Equal Parenting policy. I’ve always been interested in politics, but never thought I would be an active role within a political party!

The WEP manifesto and policies aim to recognise and address the fact that many women experience additional inequalities due to the intersections of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, immigration status and gender identity. WEP does so recognising that globally and in the UK, women are the biggest single group subject to disadvantage, discrimination and oppression, and that is why WEP is called the Women’s Equality Party. WEP works across the political spectrum to achieve seven core goals: Equal pay and opportunity at work and in our economy. Equal parenting and caregiving so that everyone has the same opportunity in family life. An end to violence against women. Equal representation in politics, business and industry. An equal education system that creates the same opportunities for all children. Equality in health care and medical research to ensure better health outcomes and access and provision of treatment and support. Equal treatment of women by and in the media. The great thing about WEP is that it is happy to work with other political parties, with businesses, public bodies, organisations and institutions all across the UK to achieve these goals.

Do you have any advice on how parents can juggle the demands of family life and a successful career? 

Each family is different, but what works for us is communication, sharing responsibilities at home and believing that whilst both parents careers are equally important, spending quality time as a family and with the children is even more important. We have also learned to let the small things go, our motto is “a perfect home is a happy home, not necessarily a tidy home!” Being organised and outsourcing small jobs really helps too as it keeps your mental wellbeing in check. Also, remember to spend quality time (away from the children) with your partner even if it’s just for a couple of hours at a time (I highly recommend Bubble as a babysitting app). You’re never going to get a perfect balance, so just do what you can to try and ensure you swing that work/ life pendulum both ways.

Women are often pressured into focusing more on family life than their career. Do you have any advice for mothers seeking a fulfilling career? 

My question back is why is it always the mother that needs to focus on family life? More and more fathers also want to spend quality time with their children, not just at weekends or evenings. So, if mothers want to work, but find there is pressure to focus more on their families, yet fathers want to spend more time with their families but find it difficult to do so, surely there is a problem with how our society is structured? Working flexibly whether for an understanding employer or understanding clients, is the way forward. As a society, we need to address the mental pressure parents face and create solutions to help them. The solution we offer at Third Door is not just for our members, but also for the team we recruit, for example, we offer flexible hours, contracts and shifts for our employees, as well as giving time for appointments. It’s these things that make a real difference to an employee to ensure they can balance it all.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a female entrepreneur and mother in business? 

The entrepreneur journey over the past decade has had its ups and downs, but I love it! As an entrepreneur, I would recommend you find excellent people to delegate to. Don’t do things on your own just to save money. Trust me, you will save time and money if you delegate and brief well. And let’s face it, the job will be done quicker and better.

Being surrounded and supported by other amazing business women (and men) certainly helps and it is an important one for us all to remember. I live by the famous Madeline Allbright quote “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women”. Do check out my amazing support group Sister Snog.

As a mother in business, I would remind mothers to remember to look after themselves – both physically and mentally. Step away when you need to and work on your own schedule, not somebody else’s. Relationships with loved ones are more important than building your legacy or money. Because when all that fails, it is only relationships that you can fall back on to support you. Nurture yourself first and your relationships and everything else will work out. I step away from my work for a few days and then go back to my ‘why’. I also make sure I have downtime for myself, as well as my family. I can’t stress how important self-care is. Likewise, to aid this focus on self-care, I also try to work shorter focused bursts, rather than long stressful days.

Shazia will be speaking at #SheStartedItLIVE on Saturday 14th September at Home Grown, book your ticket here and take advantage of our Bank Holiday special offer.