After a successful career in higher education, Alyssa Cairns launched an online business in interior design that would allow her to stay home with her two children. When her youngest turned three and began preschool, Cairns decided it was time to grow the business and replace her original salary. However, she found that working from home while dealing with kids and household tasks was more difficult than expected.
As she chatted with friends who were also mothers working from home, she discovered she was not alone with her challenges. When she researched solutions, she found none in the Grand Rapids area. So, she reached back out to her working-mom friends to ask what kinds of support would make working while parenting more successful—and less stressful. After sifting through the conversations, Cairns came up with the concept for momHive, a women-only co-working space that provides on-site childcare and opportunities for social connections.
“I needed it — momHive was purely an invention of necessity. It has really been inspired by the community of working moms in town,” she says. “As I chatted with friends and other moms, I realized, wait a second, I am not alone in this. There are so many of us working remotely for an employer or own our own business and really struggling to balance all of it.”
Located on Wealthy Street in Eastown, momHIVE connects women in a lovely coworking space that provides an environment where they can focus on creating career success. They escape the isolation and interruptions of working from home to focus on work, forge friendships, and relax, knowing their little ones are a few steps away.
“A lot of us don’t have other childcare or don’t want to put our children into childcare yet. The reason we’re working from home is we wanted to be with our kids,” Cairns says. “Having the space and time carved out to focus on one thing at a time makes a huge difference.”
In addition to coworking space and childcare, momHIVE members have access to social and community events, discounts on rentals of momHIVE gathering spaces, a listing in the member directory, and, of course, free coffee, refreshments, printing, and Wi-Fi. A variety of membership options provide up to 10 days of coworking space and eight days of childcare per month. Cairns’ current 32 members include entrepreneurs, attorneys, graphic artists, writers, and women working remotely for employers who value their contributions and so support them in their dual roles as mothers and employees.
“We’re really encouraged by the willingness of employers to pay (for momHIVE membership),” Cairns says. “The number one thing employers can do to increase retention of women is to offer flexibility. That is what we give. It keeps moms happier, less stressed, and more balanced.”
Open since July 1 of this year, momHIVE has exceeded its September 2 membership goal of 25. Cairns opened a second childcare room and plans on expanding space to meet the demands of additional members.
“There’s a crazy double standard in our society. You can almost directly tie the wage gap and glass ceiling to the status of motherhood: ‘the motherhood penalty.’ Women in executive roles largely don’t have children,” Cairns says. “We’re saying that is completely unacceptable and unfair that women get passed over for promotions or are expected to put their careers on hold. There has to be a better way. Women deserve it.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Alyssa Zuiderveen