Two months ago, Kontor helped to introduce a first to the coworking industry – Cuckooz Nest, a flexible workspace with its own on-site creche. Founders Charlie Rosier and Fabienne O’Neill already run a growing co-living business Cuckooz, but this was their first leap into the coworking sector.
Finding the right space for such a unique – and at that point unproven – concept wasn’t easy. It was a lengthy process, but the result is a relaxed, design-led professional workspace for parents to work in, safe in the knowledge their child is only metres away. Charlie tells us about the search for the right property.
Cuckooz Nest has been open about two months now – how’s it going?
It’s going well! Through word of mouth we quickly reached 100 members, people from many different industries – both men and women quite evenly, which is interesting. People love the flexibility we offer for childcare.
We understand that a lot of our members are self-employed or project-based and cash flow is important, so we introduced weekly invoicing for the time they used the previous week – one week they might use eight hours, the next 40 hours. This pay-as-you-go system allows parents to scale up and down depending on their commitments.
We had a real coup recently – our creche is now Ofsted registered! Getting them to understand our flexible set-up is an industry first. We can now have children for eight hours at a time instead of four, which gives members even more flexibility to go off-site to meetings, lunch or even a haircut!
Where did the idea for Cuckooz Nest spring from?
About six months after we launched Cuckooz, our co-living business, I had my first child. I went back to work after six weeks and found it almost impossible to find childcare that was both affordable and flexible. London simply wasn’t addressing the problem. Cuckooz Nest was born from our passion to support families, to help bridge the gap between work and life.
We started planning Nest about two years ago, but it’s taken this long to get to this point. The biggest challenge has been finding the right space.
Why was the search for the right space so difficult?
Mainly because we were looking for a space between 2,000-5,000 sq ft, but with two separate entrances. Not many offices that size have that.
We wanted to be able to split one space in two – about two thirds workspace and one third creche – to allow parents to visit their children whenever they wanted, to accommodate breastfeeding, for example. We wanted parents to relax, knowing they’re in the same space as their child while being able to get on with work.
It was difficult to find the right space, but Kontor managed it!
Why did you decide to work with Kontor?
They were recommended to us and straightaway we knew they’d be able to help us. We love Kontor! They’re well connected, they work with great brands. I knew they wouldn’t waste our time, showing us spaces that we didn’t want. They only showed us spaces that reflected what we needed.
Other than two entrances, what other criteria did you have?
We had already decided on the City Fringe as a location, because previously we had found a space in Kings Cross that fell through. The space had to have lots of natural light, a good amount of character and the opportunity for us to create the design aesthetic we were after.
Why did you choose this property?
We could create the space we really wanted. The fit out and design are unique – the walls between the two spaces are soundproof but it’s very much designed as one space. As it’s an old electricity warehouse the high ceilings and wooden floor give it a great character.
We also really like Clerkenwell as there are so many great restaurants and shops. Farringdon and soon Crossrail give us a great reach to a larger demographic.
How did you design the layout of the space?
We worked with a wonderful designer, Leo Wood who founded Kinder Design. Leo is a working mum, which was important to us as we wanted to work with someone who understands the needs of both the child and the parent – not an easy person to find. She is also founder of PlayPen, a pop-up coworking café and creche in Mile End and owner of two coworking spaces in East London, so she had previous experience in this concept.
Leo’s design work is amazing so we knew she’d create the space we were after. She and her husband recently won the RIBA London Award 2018 for their home in Bethnal Green.
Was it difficult to find a landlord that would accept your concept?
Although we already had Cuckooz, Cuckooz Nest was essentially a start-up so we had no bank balance or track record. This is a problem a lot of start-ups face and we had to find a landlord that would take us on – for all they knew we could go out of business within two months! This is where Kontor’s great negotiating skills came into action!
We’re lucky to have found a landlord who went above and beyond to help us get going. It took us six months to get planning permission for change of use to incorporate D1 use class. We’re located in an employment priority zone and the council want to protect B1 office use. We ended up going to committee and received unanimous approval.
What are you planning for the future of Cuckooz Nest?
The model is going to evolve as we respond to members’ needs. We’re small enough to listen to what our members want and change accordingly. We went from five packages to just two after receiving feedback.
We’re hoping to open our second space later this year in another great City Fringe location and are already talking to landlords about schemes further east and north next year.
We’re getting a lot of requests to open more from up and down the country, which is amazing! Honestly, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from everyone.