Sisters create family-friendly shared work space in Towson

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and Towson resident Anna Grace Paulovkin is settled at her work station, peering into her computer at photos she’s editing for her wedding photography business. If she feels the urge to check on her eight-month-old daughter, Payton, Paulovkin knows she can slip around the corner and observe her little girl, who at that moment happens to be sitting on the lap of her babysitter in a room surrounded by brightly colored toys, plush rugs and a baby-proof gate.

“A lot of times I’ll pop my head in and see her smiling or playing,” Paulovkin said. “It’s good to know she’s safe.”

Paulovkin is a member of The Cube, a shared work space at 6905 York Road, in Towson, that celebrated its one-year anniversary Nov. 7. As the “gig” economy and entrepreneurship gain traction, so too has the concept of shared work spaces, which are expected to be used by one million people globally by 2018, according to business consulting firm Emergent Research. There are more than a dozen such operations in the Baltimore area, and three in Towson.

Its owners tout The Cube as Maryland’s first membership-based shared work space that offers on-site babysitting.

Housed in a second-story, 1,100-square-foot space in the Stoneleigh Shopping Center, The Cube contains all the amenities typically associated with shared work spaces: WiFi, a copier and printer, individual work stations, free coffee, mailbox rentals and meeting rooms.

In its first year, its co-owners — sisters Tammira Lucas, 30, and TaKesha Jamison, 38— have signed on 25 members, welcomed 106 entrepreneurs to on-site career workshops and related events, and babysat 62 children.

‘Hey, why not?’

By the time The Cube launched last year, Lucas had proved herself a seasoned entrepreneur. Named the 2015 Small Business Innovator by the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce, Lucas four years ago co-founded Moms As Entrepreneurs, which runs eight-week entrepreneurial training sessions on Mondays evenings at The Cube for women interested in starting a businesses. To date, the organization has supported the launch of 36 local mom-owned businesses.

Lucas developed the idea for The Cube after struggling to find a work space that would allow her to balance her own career with the tasks of new motherhood. Applying the skills she honed while earning an MBA, Lucas began researching the demand for a business model that incorporated a shared work space with babysitting.

In 2015, she surveyed more than 100 mothers, receiving overwhelmingly positive responses regarding the model. She also analyzed data from the Maryland Department of Commerce to discover where, locally, the highest concentration of potential clients existed; the results showed the area between Towson and Cockeysville.

Ready to act on her plan, Lucas enlisted the help of Josh Rosati, a local real estate executive, who showed her commercial rental properties.

“I drove the man crazy and half-gray,” she said with a chuckle. Eventually, he led her to Stoneleigh.

“When [the rental] popped up, I thought it might work out,” said Rosati, a senior real estate adviser at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC, in Lutherville. “She’s targeting mothers as business owners … I said, ‘I think I have the perfect client for that space.’ ”

Lucas had a vision for what she wanted The Cube’s office to look like.

“I’m a big fan of vintage; I wanted something with character,” she said, adding that she deployed her husband, Robert Lucas, to paint the inside of the space in Stoneleigh in bright, cheery hues.

Her sister joined her in launching the business.

“She had this great idea; she wanted us to do something together, to build a family business. I went on her hunch and said, ‘Hey, why not.’ I’d been doing the same thing for so long,” said Jamison, who is the Cube’s CFO. A recent empty-nester whose daughter began college this year, Jamison said the time was right for a new pursuit.

“Building something within the family that we can pass down to our children — that was the most important part to me,” added Jamison, who has kept her day job as field supervisor for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation while fulfilling her duties for The Cube.

The sisters are not the business’s only family connection; their grandmother, 80-year-old Lucille Beasley, babysits the clients’ children at The Cube.

“They [clients] love the fact that it’s a grandmother watching their children,” said Lucas, who lives in White Marsh with her husband, her 7-year-old daughter, Ryann, and Beasley.

Beasley recalls that when her granddaughter asked her if she’d like to come out of retirement to serve as the Cube’s babysitter, she responded tentatively: “I’ll give it a try.” Now, she loves it, she said.

“She’s bonded with my daughter,” an appreciative Paulovkin said of Beasley. “She talks to her the whole time.”

‘It’s been lifesaving’

Aneka Winstead, a Rosedale resident and accountant who owns Watt Business Solutions, praises the convenience of The Cube, which she learned about as a Moms as Entrepreneurs trainee. Although the Stoneleigh location isn’t close to her house, The Cube’s other factors more than compensate for the drive, she said

Winstead typically brings her four-month-old son, Tyson, and her three-year-old, Tristan, to The Cube for three- to four-hour stretches a few times per week. But during tax season, the accountant is there daily, using The Cube as her primary office space.

She likes being close to her children; occasionally, she’ll take a break for a few minutes to nurse her infant before returning to her work station. In the near future, Lucas plans to add a designated breast pumping area to The Cube.

Winstead also likes the fact that she can grab lunch at nearby Uncle Wiggly’s or stop into Starbucks, which recently opened across York Road, she said. And when she’s finished working, rather than having to pick up her children from a daycare, she collects them from the room next door and heads straight home.

Winstead also notes that The Cube is more affordable than most daycare options. The average cost of full-time daycare for an infant in Maryland is $14,000 annually, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Unlimited membership at The Cube costs $75 per month; users can also drop-in for $25 per day.

Pay-as-you-go babysitting services are extra — $15 for up to two children for three hours, and $5 per hour for each additional child. Paulovkin estimates that she spends approximately $8 an hour at The Cube in return for a quiet and well-equipped place to work and the assurance that her child is safe and cared for.

“It’s been lifesaving for me,” she said.

With a successful first year behind her, Lucas hopes to expand The Cube if membership continues to grow. She envisions hiring more grandmothers like her own as babysitters, providing an opportunity for older people to return to the workforce.

She also plans to begin to offer more formal events, such as networking opportunities and professional workshops, at the space. Some might be affiliated with Moms as Entrepreneurs; Cube members might also utilize the space to run business meetings or workshops.

She also aims to become more involved in the local business community.

“I would love to see the [neighborhood] businesses interact with one another,” she said. “I plan on being that token business owner who’s always being supportive of what’s going on in the community.”

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
50°