A new Portland coworking space fills a gap in services for women.
After moving to Portland from Los Angeles seven years ago with her infant daughter, Melanie Marconi worked remotely for two years from her living room. It was a set-up she soon tired of. She yearned for human interaction and a place nearby where her daughter could be cared for while she worked.
That yearning turned into a business idea. In July she launched VIDA, a “coworking community” on NE 19th and Sandy Blvd., which offers onsite amenities with parents in mind. Members have access to a drop-in child care center for children aged between three and five. There are also onsite fitness and wellness classes, and monthly life coaching sessions.
Coworking spaces are popping up all over Portland, with WeWork opening a new location at 830 NE Holliday and Chicago-based Deskpass launching its shared workspace subscription service in the city in July.
But Vida serves a gap in the market that few coworking spaces offer: onsite child care. Businesses have in the past sought to provide it, but without much success. The most recent was Women’s Plaza, a coworking space concept built on offering child care onsite. The founder, Glaucia Martin-Porath, was unable to find a Portland location that could have accommodated the child care component.
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Marconi sought advice from Martin-Porath before launching Vida. She decided to have pared-down child care component rather than lead with that service. Vida's onsite child care is uncertified and doesn't take infants. She plans to expand it later based on client demand.
“Vida was built to support our members. It was unclear who the members would be. We wanted the concept to be flexible,” says Marconi.
The 15,000 square-foot shared workspace provides care for a maximum of eight children starting in the fall. This service would be able to support 16 children with an additional teacher, says Marconi. Children of members can be supervised up to 20 hours a week over five days.
VIDA is located on the second floor of the former offices of women’s swimwear company Jantzen, which launched in Portland in 1916 and, ironically, was mostly run by men in the 1950s and 1960s. The company was bought by clothing company Perry Ellis International in 2002.
The workspace contains some original features from the 1960s, such as built-in cabinetry and the original Janzten board room. But it also has a contemporary feel with colorful rugs and sofas dotted about. The building “had a dark, Mad Men-style mid-century modern aesthetic,” says Marconi. “We kept it original but it also has feminine aspects.”
The new venture’s goal is to eventually have 150 members. So far it has around 65 members, nine of whom are men.
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Daily yoga classes, onsite hypnotherapist and massage therapist are some of the additional perks. A nursing room and child-friendly second kitchen are also onsite.
“We have moved beyond work-life balance,” says Marconi of the add-on services.
“Now it is about how to you integrate all those things.”
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