Many new mothers are forced to choose between focusing on raising their children and having a career. Durham small business owners, Tiffany Frye and Lis Tyroler have come up with an innovative small business that could not only do both, but help other working parents at the same time.
A Juggling Act
Lis Tyroler was in grad school in 2013 when she had her first child. She never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. Then just three weeks after her son was born, she was asked to return to school. “It physically hurt me to be away from him,” said Lis. She decided to throw herself into her original passion of photography. Owning her own photography business gave her the flexibility she needed, but things still were far from easy. She was able to raise her son during the day, but would stay up most of the night working on her business. Feeling run down, she turned to online groups of other working moms for support. That’s where she connected with Tiffany Frye.
Tiffany was experiencing all the same struggles after starting to work from home when her daughter was three months old. The more Tiffany talked with other mothers, the more she discovered working moms need more than just a flexible work schedule to be successful. Lis and Tiffany decided to join forces and Nido (the Italian word for “nest”) was born in Tiffany’s living room in the fall of 2014. Membership grew rapidly, and in less than a year they moved into their current location on Broad Street in Durham.
Building the Nest
Nido is a co-working space, a place where people who don’t have an office to work from can go and have a place to focus on work. What makes Nido unique is the addition of childcare. The idea began when moms would take turns watching the children while the others worked in Tiffany’s living room. Now at Nido, it has grown to be a full-time Montessori school. All the members have children between 6 months and 5 years old. Parents have a quiet place to work, while still having the peace of mind of knowing their children are just around the corner.
Community, Not Competition
It isn’t just the little ones who are learning in a collaborative environment. Members at Nido have a strong sense of community, not competition. “You’ll hear conversations about a new logo design and 10 minutes later the talk turns to how to get kids to go to sleep,” said Tiffany. Nido gives parents who would otherwise be isolated a professional work environment where they’re not distracted by the dishes, the laundry, or toys all over the floor. It also gives new entrepreneurs the chance to get career advice and referrals. “Many of our members know a lot about their trade but are just beginning to learn how to be business owners,” said Lis. To help in that regard, Nido offers socials and business development workshops every month.
Disagreements between partners is a common reason businesses fail. But Tiffany and Lis say having each other for support is what makes Nido work as well as it does. “We each have our own strengths and weaknesses and we balance each other,” said Lis. Their advice for other partnerships is to never let disagreements be about winning or power struggles. When they approach a decision, they are careful to listen to each other and truly consider the other’s point of view. They also say the secret to working well together is being aligned philosophically. “It is important to us that we treat each other, our members and their children with a deep sense of respect that you don’t always see in workplaces or childcare,” said Lis.
As small business owners themselves Tiffany and Lis are a great resource for their members just starting out, particularly women. “People didn’t always take us seriously just because we are women,” said Lis. “We’ve been called ‘sweetie’ and ‘girls.’ Sometimes sexism is subtler like body language or tone of voice.” They say there were times they chose to speak up, but only when it was essential to do so for the success of the business. Other times, they say it was best to let it go. “We had to learn to be confident in our own decisions and abilities,” said Tiffany. “No man in business has a fraction of the power of a tantruming two-year old. We started a business with two toddlers. Who is going to mess with us now?”
Padgett’s 3 Wise Questions:
- If you could bake a success pie, what would the ingredients be?
Mentors, collaboration, tenacity, resilience, respect.
- If you could go back in time to the beginning, would you do anything differently?
In the beginning we tried to save money by purchasing a lot of cheap or used equipment that had to be quickly replaced. We ended up spending more money than we saved.
- If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tiffany: Michelle Obama. She has had such an amazing life and I would love to know more about her story.
Lis: Maria Montessori. We have based so many of our business principles on her teaching. There is so much I would like to ask her.