Emma Scanlan knows all too well the challenges of working for herself while raising a young family. While in many cases it's the ideal scenario, it also comes with a variety of logistical considerations...
Namely, where to work. With a thriving business, Scanlan PR & Marketing, Emma had tired of working out her laundry-ridden home, cafes with free Wi-Fi and libraries with a few too many children. So, upon returning to her hometown of Perth, she opened The Bureau, a bespoke shared working space for inspired and creative professionals. Located on vibrant Napoleon Street in Cottesloe Beach, The Bureau offers a premium and inspiring working environment with plenty of opportunities for collaboration. With six dedicated hot desks in the open-plan office, it is chicly outfitted in monochrome décor, including sleek desks with luxurious leather chairs, lush greenery, unique artwork and eclectic accoutrements. We spoke to GRACE Collective member Emma on her newest venture, and how she manages to keep all the balls in the air (hint: pay for help). Images: Natasha Galbally
You have an established PR & Marketing agency, Scanlan PR. What prompted the shift (or expansion) into a co-working space?
I’ve been lucky to have had a career in PR & Marketing for the past 15 years and after my first child was born, I started Scanlan PR & Marketing with me, myself and I. Now, six years later, I have a few amazing girls that I contract in for bigger projects that I can’t do on my own but it has given me the flexibility to continue working and earn a consistent income with all three of my children. I used to live in Sydney and was very familiar with co-working spaces, I had a few favourite haunts that I would go to while my boys were at kindy or day-care. Just a place to escape to that didn’t involve working on the Weet-Bix-covered breakfast table. It was liberating to leave the house and put on something other than house clothes and sit down with co-minded creatives and gave me confidence that “I still had it”. I think after each birth of my child I was wondering if my brain would still function, would I still know what to do, would clients still want to work with me – there was a lot of self-doubt and that comes with the isolation of being thrown in the trenches with young kids. Putting on the work hat and leaving the house and going somewhere other than a park, was refreshing.
Can you tell us a little about the vision behind The Bureau?
When I moved back to my hometown of Perth in 2017 (for the birth of my third child), I couldn’t find anywhere inspiring to work out of that felt vibrant and productive. The local libraries didn’t do it for me – I was trying to avoid children’s noises, not sit next to them on my laptop during rhyme time. I also couldn’t pretend I needed another coffee at a café; I always felt guilty about opening my laptop. Home was not an option (unless at night!) as I couldn’t focus being surrounded by baby land objects and the dirty washing everywhere! So the shift to creating a co-working space came from a need rather than a want. I would never have dreamt that I would open a shared office space, but I’m so glad I did as I just love it and it’s somewhere for everyone to escape to – I’m even here on a Sunday writing this! It’s been a labour of love for me and it would be too selfish not to be able to share it, I’ve had incredible friends help me with everything from the interior design, to the website to the choice of artwork and stationery! It was also important for me to work somewhere close to my home, the kids’ schools and a high street that had all the services that I needed so I could spend less time in the car. I’ve always loved Napoleon Street in Cottesloe and knew the previous tenant of the space, so when it came up for lease, I grabbed it as I followed my gut instinct. The co-working idea came later as a means to be able to create a business model to support the size of the space and share it.
Who are the ideal users of a co-working space?
The ideal users of a co-working space are people who are fortunate enough to work to their own schedule. And that may be because they have worked for 20 years and now just want to consult but don’t want to commit to an office lease. Or they may be 20-year-olds studying for their exams. Or they may work a few days a week for a company that doesn’t have an office in Perth. There are so many people I’ve met and talked to about The Bureau and I’m amazed at how different everyone’s circumstances are. I think the more diverse the users, the better the space. I was actually surprised at how many different people were booking desks. Some people just want to come in for a few hours and pay their bills to catch up on life’s admin. It’s the feeling of community and support that I would most like to instil in users at The Bureau.
We’re seeing some really exciting co-working spaces internationally (The Wing comes to mind) that are all-encompassing social clubs for women, with everything from events and lectures, to blow dries and libraries. Do you think this type of offering will eventually reach our shores?
I didn’t set out to target just women, but they have been my biggest support and fill most of the membership base. I created the office for me, so it makes sense that it naturally has interiors and space that may appeal a little bit more to the female eye who loves a bit of detail. I recently did a research trip overseas and loved We Work at the Champs Elysee in Paris – it had the buzz of being able to work on one of the most famous streets in the world … How incredible and inspiring is that for someone working on their own! I chose the location of The Bureau because of its street location. It’s not the Champs Elysee, but if you know Perth – Napoleon Street in Cottesloe is a little bit of an unreal high street. It has everything here that I need without having to get in the car. It’s 3km from my house, 2km from my sons’ school and 1km from the beach if you feel like a lunchtime swim. There is a hairdresser underneath, as well as some of Perth’s best boutiques and restaurants like Cimbalino’s and Van’s Cafe. There are also other services that I use all the time as a parent – a pharmacy, a grocery store, a toy shop, kids clothing boutiques, mani/pedi places, sushi – the list goes on! Let’s not forget that there’s also a champagne bar on the strip!
As a mother and a business owner, how do you manage your time?
Not very well! I thought I had it semi-sorted with my two boys but then we had our daughter Winnie (Winifred) last year, and three kids is a whole different ball game! I pay for help. And I pay a lot. But I figure it’s much cheaper than a therapist! I am lucky that Winnie is looked after in our home, and she has her big sleep at around 11-12pm. So I will drop the boys at school and go to the office and then be back by 2pm when she wakes up. That makes me feel less guilty, knowing that I’ve only been away from her for a few hours and then she’s slept. I will try to justify it any way I can! Then I pick up the boys from school, or I am very lucky that my husband is in a flexible position that he can pick up the boys and drop them back to me if it gets all too much.
“ The benefits are that it's child-free, clean, stylish, mature and peaceful. But there’s also the sense of an opportunity to be productive and motivated – there’s no competition or internal politics, everyone is here because they want to get sh!t done! I’m too distracted at home, there’s always another load of washing that can be done and the expectation that we probably put on ourselves is that if we’re home, we should be the ones doing the chores ”
Any tips/hacks for working mothers?
Don’t assume your income is worthless or that it’s only being used for child-care or covering basic bills. I hear so many women doing this. We are just kicking ourselves in the back. You’ve done enough for your children and your partner that your contribution in going back to work may be priceless. I’m a better person because I work. I’m making an investment in myself to be able to co-provide for our children. After all, they are the ones we are doing this all for.
Do you think women can have it all?
NO! But … What is having it all? I don’t have to walk 6km a day to a well so our family can have water. My children are healthy and have access to an excellent health and education system. However, I didn’t suddenly wake up and see that everything had happened for me – I’ve worked hard for the past 15-20 years. I’ve created opportunities and have hustled a lot! I think the most liberating thing a mother can have is her own schedule. And I wasn’t going to find that working 9am- 5pm in a corporate role. I was very fortunate that my very first client six years ago was my previous employer and their support enabled me to start Scanlan PR & Marketing. I had worked with them for a few years and they knew that I didn’t think it was possible to go back to my previous full-time role as a new mum. They gave me my first retainer and today I am still working for people I met through that company.
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