We speak to Shazia Mustafa, founder of Third Door, about how she found the right technology to make the UK’s first coworking and flexible nursery hybrid business a reality.
What’s the story behind Third Door?
“Third Door is the UK’s first coworking 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.
The initial idea came from my personal experience. I needed a solution and couldn’t find one to suit my needs, so we decided to come up with the solution ourselves. A few months after I had my first child back in 2007, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to return to work 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 as well as working full-time as a remote employee.
When I suggested the idea of Third Door to my husband, he immediately understood the concept and based it as a feasibility study for his MBA dissertation. When he received a Distinction for his work (and only two years after the initial idea) we launched Third Door, in Putney, London.
Our nursery solution is super-flexible allowing members 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 otherwise have been able to return 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.
How did you go about establishing what type of technology you’d need on-site?
Safety for the children, and of course our staff, is our number one priority at Third Door. We needed technology that was innovative and secure. We established that we needed CCTV cameras and a method for member to enter the building that did not require the receptionist to get up each time to let people in.
We also wanted something that allowed us to manage the door from our Workhub (upstairs) if reception (downstairs) was unmanned. We invested in Biometric reader that allows members and staff into the building using a biometric reading from their fingerprint.
The technology takes a reading from three points of the chosen digit and converts it into a series of numbers that is recognised by the door entry system and allows the member in. It is not a direct fingerprint, but a code that is unique to each person based on their fingerprint.
It means that our staff or members are not left outside when reception is unmanned. If a person who is not a member rings at the doorbell, we can view from the video entry point in either the nursery or Workhub and allow them in. This has freed up time and allowed us to have events in the evening without the added cost of manning reception.
What were the most important factors for you when selecting the right technology provider? How did you research and narrow down your options?
We knew that we needed to work with a provider that understood our needs from both perspectives of allowing members to enter the nursery and Workhub. We researched online and also visited both coworking and nursery trade shows to meet suppliers. For us, it was essential to go with a reputable provider who works in our industry and knows our concerns around child safeguarding.
Was future-proofing/a long term investment a priority for you? Or were you looking to fill an immediate need?
This was a both to fill an immediate need of ensuring child safety and fulfilling a long term need to have innovative and ground-breaking technology at our site, and others, as we grow the business.
How did you calculate the potential return on investment and costs for the technology you chose?
The potential return was based more on preventative measures; ensuring that both my staff and the children were protected, as well as saving money on staff payroll to always have someone on reception.
What were your key areas of concern when making the purchase? How did you minimise any risk factors?
As with all new products, my main concern was around the costs. We also were greatly aware that some members may be wary of the biometrics. However, when we spoke to them, we have had a very positive response from all our members, and we all agreed that safeguarding the children was a key priority over any Big Brother fears.
What would your advice be to other small business owners when buying a new technology solution?
I would say, always do your research and be sure on what your needs are before you speak to a salesperson. Often when it comes to new technology, we can sometimes become baffled and drawn into purchasing things we don’t need. It’s important to remain fixed on what you need the technology to do and not be persuaded to buy more than you need.