For nearly 10 years, Nicole Dash ran a day care out of her Annandale home. As she became more involved in entrepreneur and mom groups, she realized that not every parent had the same level of support as her day care parents. “I often heard from these parents that they wished they had a few hours a day of child care to get work done without committing to a full-time day care,” says Dash. “This is where the idea for Play Work or Dash was born.”
Play, Work or Dash recently opened in Vienna and contains shared office space with high-speed Internet, a private conference room available for rent, a comfortable lounge for networking and—the best part for parents—high-quality, on-site child care. While parents utilize the facility, Play, Work or Dash offers up to three hours of child care per day (ages 9 months to 9 years). The location also allows parents to run an errand or attend a lunch meeting with a 90-minute drop-off option for children ages 2 and older.
Dash, Play, Work or Dash owner and Northern Virginia mom of four, answered some questions about her new location.
What draws parents to work at Play, Work or Dash?
Parents like the flexibility and convenience of using our services on an as-needed basis. There are no long-term commitments. Memberships are month-to-month, or you can simply pay for services as you use them. Parents also really like the idea of being able to get work done while remaining in close proximity to their children. They can take a phone call or work on a proposal and check-in on their child by looking at a tablet mounted in the kitchen that streams a video feed of their activities. Other parents are simply grateful to get some focused work done while their kids are engaged and socializing with other children. This ability to work during the day eliminates the need to work that second shift after the kids go to sleep.
Why did you decide to open your business in the Vienna area?
I have always been attracted to the strong community in Vienna. Also, with the recent growth of the Tysons area, it seemed like a great place to begin a new business. It is an easy location to get to, and it has free parking. In Northern Virginia, this is always important.
How has your background helped you prepare for this business?
I cared for children in my home-based day care for nearly 10 years. During this time, I learned so much about caring for other people’s children—as well as their parents. I understand the concerns of families and know that the struggle to find the right amount of support is real. My background in public relations [and] marketing as well as my familiarity with blogging and running a small business have helped me in this endeavor. Sometimes I feel like every piece of my life has been building for this moment. Every day I am using all of my experiences to make Play, Work or Dash a reality.
It seems like you have two different sets of customers: the parents and the children. How do you create an environment that makes the children want to come back to you?
I want to build more than a workplace or a child care service. I want to build a community where parents and their children feel at home. This is why I designed the place to feel less sterile and more comfortable for children to learn through play and use their imagination. I put a lot of thought into the kind of physical environment I wanted to present as well as the kind of culture I wanted to create. Our experienced, kid-friendly employees are certified in First Aid and CPR and engage the kids with fun, organized activities and events.
As a new business owner, what have been some of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge and wake-up call has been the realization that I am responsible for everything. [Nothing will] get done if I don’t a.) do it myself or b.) find someone to do it for me. There isn’t a magical formula for starting a business. It takes time and hard work and more time. And I, like many people, have to fight through feelings of self-doubt and fear to remind myself why I am doing this and why I believe it is important to build this new idea of “bringing your kids to work.”
Outline a typical day running your business.
My day is a mix of working online, giving tours to potential customers, greeting current members and overseeing all operations. I wake up early, go to bed late and use every free moment I have to work on some aspect of the business. When you own a new business, there is no such thing as being off the clock, which may or may not be a good thing, but this is where I am right now. Luckily, I have a lot of wonderful support at home with my husband and my four children, who are being incredibly patient and understanding.
Do you have any future plans for expansion?
Yes, I absolutely have my eyes on other locations. Once this location is up and running, I would like to explore opening in other areas of Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland or maybe even in the Richmond area.
Do you have to bring your kids in order to use your services?
Absolutely not. Play, Work or Dash is meant to be a collaborative work space with the additional service and convenience of on-site child care. Individuals are free to utilize our shared work space, host meetings in the conference room, organize workshops, use the copier, chat around the watercooler or simply meet up with other connections regardless if they bring their kids or not. And if they ever find themselves needing the childcare, we are there to support this need as well.
8214-B Old Courthouse Road, Vienna, VA 22182
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday: special events only, Sunday: closed
Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award-winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.