Everything was falling apart.
Shelly Weiser, a graphic designer who worked from home, received a call that one of her clients' websites had been hacked. In the same moment, her two children, then 2 and 1, had meltdowns.
“I’ll always remember that night, the chaos of the client’s website hack and my kids screaming,” says Weiser, recalling the incident from three years ago. “(I thought,) 'I wish there was a place where somebody would watch my kids for an hour or two.'”
When her husband, Brent, returned later that week from a work trip, she told him about a dream she had to build a place for working parents that would offer the three C’s: coworking, child care and coffee. In October 2017, she turned that dream into reality when she opened the Hive inside a revamped house in South Austin.
“There’s so much going on that it’s hard for people to understand until they walk in,” Weiser says. “You’re like, 'Is it a coffee shop or coworking or child care?' The answer is yes — they’re all three equally important and used.”
During a recent morning at the Hive, Allyson Davidson, a cell therapy and biotech consultant, scrutinized an article called “Quality Cell Therapy Manufacturing by Design” at the coworking desk she rents by the month. Inside the bright supervised child care room across the building, her son, Lance, 3, and daughter, Artemis, 1, happily sifted through toys as Jewel’s “And the Green Grass Grew All Around” serenaded them in the background. Child care is available for up to four hours per day, and parents must stay on-site and be responsible for potty breaks and diaper changes. Child care is mainly geared toward the 5 and younger crowd. The drop-in rate is $10 per hour, although discounted bulk memberships are available.
“They love it here,” says Davidson, who works 30 hours a week and utilizes her desk at the Hive almost every weekday morning. “Most days I have to coax them or literally pick them up to get them to leave.”
Creating an inviting atmosphere where kids and their parents don’t want to leave was not without challenges for Weiser, who spent nearly two years searching for the right space. And while she has had entrepreneurial endeavors in the past — in the early 2000s she ran a kiosk at a mall in her hometown of Baton Rouge selling homemade dog treats and clothes — running this type of business included a learning curve.
“I would sit up late researching commercial leases and tenant improvement dollars and triple net,” says Weiser, 40. “It was totally 'fake it until I make it' for probably two years.”
Weiser, who enjoys do-it-yourself projects, handled much of the decor inside the multi-room building herself and asked local businesses, primarily those owned by moms, to sell their artwork, photography and products on-site. In addition to a coffee truck, the Hive has two food trucks, RWB’s Chow Bus and Thai Ful Rolls by Thai 2 U, and an on-site manicure trailer, Adamo Nail Bar, where proceeds benefit survivors of the sex trafficking industry. The coffee, beer and wine sold are also from Texas providers.
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“We focus on everything local,” Weiser says. “We really try to support small families and moms, but not just moms.”
When it came to naming the space, Weiser says it was important to pick something that would appeal to men, too.
“One goal I wanted for the logo and the name is for it not to be mom-focused,” Weiser says. “Is a dad going to be comfortable telling another dad about it? I wanted it to be conducive to men as well.”
Weiser says 40 percent of the Hive’s customers now are men, and only 20 percent of customers bring their kids in. And while the space includes rooms with dedicated desks that are available for monthly rentals, the main coworking space is first-come, first-served seating. There are also picnic tables and playground equipment outside for parents who want to keep an eye on their kids while they check some emails.
“The whole spot is a hive; there’s business bees and worker bees and mama bees,” she says. “In a hive, everyone has a job, but they’re all working together.”
On a recent morning, Chelsea Greenwald, a local doula, and Jacqueline Chandler, co-founder of La Mama Care, a postpartum care box company, discussed the doula business in plush seats while Chandler’s infant daughter, Aila, cooed in her lap.
“The space is so warm and inviting and doesn’t feel like a typical coffee shop,” Chandler says. “There’s noise, it’s not too quiet, which for me as a mom is huge. I don’t feel bad bringing my 7-month-old who's going to make noise.”
That warm-and-not-too-quiet atmosphere was created by design, Weiser says.
You can go to Chick-fil-A and try to work, but you still have to make sure you keep an eye on your kids, Weiser says. “And you certainly can’t go to a coffee shop with them, because you’ll get death stares.”
Weiser adds that it’s been an honor getting to fill this niche in Austin.
“One of my favorite things is when a mom comes in and gives me a hug and says, ‘Thank you for doing this for us,’” Weiser says. “That really makes it worthwhile.”
Davidson says in addition to working at the Hive nearly every day, she’s found a new friend base, adding that her family also frequently attends social events there including the popular Friday night happy hour.
“It’s really a home away from home for us,” Davidson says. “The kids love it, and it’s somebody that understands, that can give me the time that I need. It’s everything I need at this point in life.”