The first year of a business is often hard. For Shazia Mustafa, it has been harder than for most. Not only has she had to face all that starting a business throws at you, but she has had to contend with a baby who is not a great sleeper, an injured husband, an Ofsted inspection and moving house. Workingmums.co.uk spoke to her.
“It’s been a challenge,” she says. Shazia set up Third Door last year. It provides office space and childcare under one roof and is aimed mainly at self-employed or freelance workers and those who are working from home. Increasingly, though, people have been getting in touch with Third Door just for the nursery places. The kind of childcare it offers is extremely flexible, catering to those working irregular hours or days. Users book the hours and days they need in advance and vary them if they need to.
Only six weeks into opening the doors of the business, which is based in Wandsworth, London, Shazia’s husband ruptured his Achilles tendon, meaning he could not move for a while. This meant she had to do more of the childcare and housework than normal – Shazia has a one-and-a-half year old and a preschooler. “It seems like little things, but you do not realise how much your partner does until they can’t do it,” she says. “Thank goodness it was only temporary.”
Shazia says the business is on track, though, and she has over 100 customers signed up and 30 regular ones. “The number is going up all the time,” she says. The majority of customers were self employed at the beginning, but now a growing number are people working from home at least some of the week. “They want to work close to where their children are and they like the banter,” says Shazia. “They feel part of something.” They include one lady who works for a US-based company. They are paying for her childcare. Shazia is keen to do more work directly with employers.
She also has plans to open up a new Third Door centre, probably in another part of London, in the next year. “It may have been a bit crazy starting a business in a recession, but more and more people are working from home and there is a real need for childcare when people need it,” she says. She must be onto something as the business has already won several awards.
She says one of the things which has been hardest for her has been getting the right team. “When you employ someone you tend to expect them to work in the same way you do. I have realised that not everyone has the same initiative and ideas and they need guidance,” she says, adding that she is 120 per cent happy with the staff she now has.
Shazia does a very long day, getting to the office between five and six o’clock in the morning. Her husband brings the children in later in the morning and they stay at Third Door to the end of the day, which is around six o’clock. Her husband works mainly from home, but has one day a week in the office. “I do the day to day managing of the business,” says Shazia. “I like being under pressure.” Her husband helps, particularly with strategy. She has a receptionist. She also employs childcare staff, a PR person, website designer, events manager and health and safety officer on a freelance basis. Employing people freelance means she keeps her costs and red tape down.
“I could not do a job where I do these hours and do not get to see the children,” she says. “Here I can put the hours in and see them.”