When Nicole Dash opened Play, Work, or Dash (PWD) in 2015, she ignited a revolution by introducing a new concept: reliable, drop-in childcare for working parents. Every working parent understands the struggle of finding safe and affordable childcare that aligns with a busy family/work schedule. “At PWD, our co-working space offers no distractions, so our clients can keep revenue coming into their family while providing an opportunity to work with kids happily occupied on-site,” says Marcia Sheehan, PWD’s Community Manager.
Not long after opening, however, Nicole started to realize the challenges her new co-working parents face expand well beyond childcare. The logistics associated with managing both work and family life greatly impact the time and energy of working parents. The majority of PWD’s clients are freelancers, entrepreneurs and business owners -- and for many of them, they’re in the weeds of managing a business. As Nicole and Marcia started building relationships with their customers, and understanding their unique challenges, they began to see that they could play an even greater role in their customers’ success.
This January, PWD expanded their customer experience to incorporate professional development resources into its mission. They started with a series of monthly networking events that skip the typical networking small talk and move right to the heart of building personal connections. They have accomplished this by offering structured networking with a relationship facilitator who helps keep the conversation flowing and inviting all attendees to participate actively. PWD currently offers two professional development theme-based networking events per month with each limited to only 10 attendees. They find that limiting the number of attendees ensures more authentic networking and that everyone can walk away having made connections and grown professionally.
“We approach networking from a humanistic aspect with the hopes that by gathering people interested in common business and professional topics, they will find common interests and further connect on an organic level,” Marcia says.
Through these networking events, PWD is investing in their customers’ success as the events are included free of charge to existing PWD members. The events provide free parking (which can be a luxury in Northern Virginia!) and free or discounted childcare depending on the customer’s membership level. These new services help PWD standout in the booming co-working market and demonstrate continuous value which keeps customers coming back.
The second expanded offering is a series of events focused on pairing seasoned experts with those just starting out. PWD has held two of these events to-date and each has followed a round-robin approach where participants get dedicated 1-on-1 time with subject matter experts and walk away with actionable plans they can implement immediately to grow their businesses. Past mentoring topics have included public relations strategy, branding, financial planning, and strategic planning. “We’ve found that many of our clients are in survival mode to just get their work done while their children are cared for we also, conversely, have an audience of clients that are slightly more established in their businesses.” These events provide PWD’s community with expert coaching at a fraction of the cost they would pay elsewhere.
It’s easy to see the value that PWD’s networking events and mentoring partnerships provide when you consider the fact that attendance has doubled in size. The services were designed to address customer needs, but as a result of the high-value business resources and connections created through these services the PWD community has grown beyond its existing paid members. PWD now finds marketing value from these services with people attending that do not use their co-working and childcare services. PWD has found that building valuable business connections in our hyper-busy, digital age is a challenge for many business professionals; not just working parents.
Play, Work, or Dash continues its focus on building a supportive community and advancing the conversation for working parents. This mindset also permeates employee relationships. Marcia is moving on this week to become a full-time entrepreneur herself, and Nicole continues to believe in the power of their expanded customer experience. With Marcia’s departure, Play, Work, or Dash is doubling down on these efforts with a new Community Manager and a new Events Manager.
“At the end of the day,” Nicole says, “when you listen to your members’ needs and provide a unique, authentic opportunity for them to connect and grow, it’s a recipe for success that not only boosts business but grows an ardent and passionate community.”