Meet Jessica Strong, founder of both Whetstone Workgroup—a co-working space in Sharpsburg that features on-site childcare—and Flexable, which creates innovative solutions to help people find childcare when and where they need it. Mom to three kids, wife to a chef, and the principal dog walker in her family, Jessica lives in Stanton Heights. Driven by “a personal mission to help make childcare easier for everyone,” Jessica’s passion helps motivate her (and inspires us!) even when her days are “completely packed”—much like her week ahead in NEXT Up.
Monday, May 22:
Every day starts early with three kids who need to be up, dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out the door by 8:30 a.m. After dropping my two oldest kids off at Pittsburgh Montessori in Friendship, I’ll head to Whetstone Workgroup to start the week with Priya Amin, my co-founder at Flexable.
My toddler comes with me to work on Mondays and Fridays, and it’s awesome to have her making art and music down the hall. Priya and I are in serious growth mode for the company, so we’ll spend this time reviewing numbers, making plans, and doing sales and marketing outreach.
The evening requires a bit of juggling, since my oldest needs to be at swim team practice at the Thelma Lovett YMCA and my middle kid has a Little League game in Morningside. My husband will take care of the baseball game, so I’ll squeeze in a workout during the swim practice.
Tuesday, May 23
Lots of different groups use Whetstone for meeting space, and today the Propelle business blogging group is there for a joint working session. After checking in with them, I’m off to a day of meetings in the community.
Whetstone has grown tremendously in the 18 months since we opened, and I’ve been discussing with a group of like-minded colleagues what the next steps should be to continue that growth. Finding affordable, accessible childcare is a need for so many women, as is having a community space to come together to work. We typically meet at The Abbey in Lawrenceville for our brainstorming sessions.
Early Tuesday evening is an investor panel and reception at Innovation Works, which I’ll attend on behalf of Flexable—it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and tell them about the great work we’re doing.
Wednesday, May 24:
As an AlphaLab alum, I’m really excited about attending Demo Day at Carnegie Music Hall in Homestead. The pitches will be from both AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear companies, and I’m going with some women-in-tech friends to cheer on the teams and catch up with others in the tech community. I’ll get there early to set up childcare for the event—it’s awesome that Innovation Works recognizes that one way to encourage more people to attend events is to provide on-site childcare.
Afterward, I’ll head home to get a couple of hours of work in, and take our dog, Doris, for a walk around the neighborhood.
Once the kids get home from school, it’s blur of helping with homework, making dinner, and getting them ready for the sitter.
My husband and I try to have a date night twice a month, to catch up and reconnect amidst all of the chaos. Tonight we’re headed to hear April Ryan speak at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Lecture Hall.
We’ll likely grab drinks and something to eat at Apteka afterward depending on how long we have the babysitter!
Thursday, May 25:
I’ve been a fan of Sara Jane Lowry’s life-and-business coaching for years, particularly how she encourages people to think differently about their relationships with money and work. Together, we are leading a training at Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill, to help people who want to start their own nonprofit or social enterprise. There are so many people with passionate ideas—it’s really inspiring to help connect them to resources to bring them to life!
This evening it’s time to unwind—we do a monthly Game Night at Whetstone, where a group of friends gets together to eat, drink and play games like Settlers of Catan or Cards Against Humanity, while caregiver staff watch the kids.
It’s Memorial Day weekend! When I first began freelancing, I found it incredibly hard to take any time off from working, but I’ve learned how important it is to make time to relax and recharge.
On Friday, I’m meeting with organizers of Handmade Arcade about exploring a potential partnership to provide childcare at their next event.
This weekend will be especially fun, as it will be the first completely free weekend for my husband (since his restaurant, Conflict Kitchen, will be closed).
See who else is NEXT Up here.
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