Coworking + Childcare (+ Churches) in Plano, Texas

Following on from our first post in our Coworking + Childcare series where we met Christina and her community in Los Alamos, we now move on to Plano, Texas for even more Monday motivation.

Today we chat with Daryn DeZengotita about how they are helping to tackle childcare challenges in Plano TX, and further afield, in partnership with local churches. 

Can you tell us a little about the interesting coworking space you’re actively involved with?

We just launched a new project for a very large United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. It’s a large suburb of Dallas.

With 100,000 sq. ft. on 36 acres, the imagination reels. Just yesterday, we explored the property and floor plans and there were so many surprises:

  • forgotten garden plots that are bearing fruit,
  • beautiful small enclaves with architectural detail that are only being used for storage, and
  • a big open-floor chapel with natural light streaming through gorgeous stained glass art.

The coworking ministry will have a variety of private and shared spaces. The congregation includes many veterans and we look forward to helping them engage with young vets for job training and entrepreneurship.

Also, the commercial kitchen is already certified and opens the possibilities for culinary arts classes and maybe a food truck commissary.

First UMC Plano already has an operating pre-school/after school that has been serving the children of essential workers throughout the pandemic. Now, they are welcoming grade school children whose parents are opting for virtual learning. 

We look forward to helping the church engage those parents in new ways to support those who work from home or might want to explore working in community.

And before that, you supported an array of other spaces in other roles. What were they?

I was a founding member and a Community Animator at The Grove, one of the O.G. spaces in downtown Dallas. I’m delighted that Justin Nygren, founder of The Grove, is a collaborator on this new launch!

Then, as part of a non-profit, we founded The Mix Coworking at White Rock United Methodist Church. The Mix had a focus on creative arts and a commercial kitchen. 

I exited there after operating for three years and helped (launch) Central Westside at Central Christian Church of Dallas. It has a focus on wellness programming and a spectacular dog park!

These are the locations that I have been part of on a daily operating basis, but I have also been part of the early imagination for spaces including Arts Mission Oak Cliff in Dallas, Coworking @ Haymarket Church in Virginia and Haw Creek Commons in Asheville, NC.

From the beginning of the lockdowns, you’ve seen coworking as a pivotal piece of tackling child care issues. Why’s that?

Well, if we are being honest, it started long before the pandemic. Affordable, quality childcare is a crisis in our country. Women-owned coworking spaces have been struggling to create successful coworking + childcare business models for years.

It has been so frustrating to watch them unable to generate capital and to see them marginalized in the coworking movement. 

Like so many things, the pandemic has revealed social issues that have been ignored just beneath the surface forever.

I’m tempted to say, “I’ll get down off my soapbox now.” But no. I want everybody up here with me! Let’s elevate this conversation so that after the pandemic, we will continue to do what we do best – innovate, pivot, persevere. This is a social justice issue and it can’t be dismissed as “women’s work.”

Meanwhile, childcare has always been part of the operating model for Table Coworking spaces because churches have always been in the childcare business. Every Sunday, every church has been ready to welcome any and all children. They have staff, insurance and equipped rooms right down to the little tiny potties! 

A church wouldn’t dream of hosting an event without providing childcare. How can we learn from that level of hospitality?

How have you been helping space operators tackle these challenges?

We have been encouraging operators to connect with churches in their area to partner for safe childcare and micro schools. In some cases, local ordinances might require that one parent remains on campus during the time their child is in care. So the coworking pro can help create a branded satellite location for their members on the church campus. 

I will say, however, that churches have a VERY slow decision-making process and this is frustrating to our start-up ethic that moves quickly.

How can folks help you and your affiliated spaces?

Share our story! 

It is my hope that if any coworking communities lose their commercial real estate in the coming months, we could quickly connect them with a church space as a foster home.

What do you wish other coworking spaces knew about tackling local child care challenges?

Until parents have safe, affordable solutions for their children, they are not coming back to your coworking space.

We must all be part of creating those solutions.

Thanks for sharing Daryn, and for everything that you do through connecting coworking, churches and everything else!

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