Category: Supporting Mothers

Whetstone Workgroup: A WAHM’s Dream

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

Somewhere along the way, I transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to being a work-at-home mom. And in many ways I feel like I’m living my own personal dream. After all, I get to work in my PJ’s at my own kitchen table doing what I love. I get to drop my kids off and pick them up every day from school. And I get to cook a tasty and healthy meal every evening. Flexibility. I’ve craved it my whole life.

jessicastrong
Jessica Strong, Founder of Whetstone Workgroup

Then there’s a week like a recent one… Half days, parent-teacher conferences, a road trip and two busted car batteries and my work plans for the week were shot. I was planting my preschooler in front of Netflix while I scrambled to accomplish what I thought would be easy. The reality is that uninterrupted work time can be very hard to find when you’re the parent with the “flexible” schedule.

So when I heard about the new Whetstone Workgroup, I felt this dense black cloud ascend from my head and proceed along the horizon. Finally, a place for WAHMs to get stuff done without leveraging fruit snacks or the Eagle’s Nest. I recently interviewed the founder of Whetstone, Jessica Strong, (a fellow WAHM), and here’s what she had to say:

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What is Whetstone Workgroup?

Whetstone Workgroup is a new co-working space located in the Aspinwall/Sharpsburg area. It has been designed specifically with freelancers in mind and is ideal for moms because it offers drop-in, on-site childcare!

 

What services does it offer specifically?

Whetstone members have access to a variety of workspaces that cater to different styles, including a room with individual work stations, rooms with large conference tables and a lounge-ish room with comfy seating. The space also has unlimited wifi, ample electrical outlets, Commonplace coffee, mailboxes and a phone/fax/scanner.

Whetstone Workgroup also offers a selection of shared software services (project management software, billing/invoicing/contact management software, Adobe Creative Cloud, and access to an IT expert to help resolve any bugs), as well as regular consultations with successful entrepreneurs and other professionals like accountants, lawyers, bookkeepers, etc..

 

What’s the scoop on the daycare option?

Toys in the childcare area
Toys in the childcare area

It can be really hard to focus on your work when the kids are arguing, or to be engaged on a conference call that you specifically scheduled during baby’s “naptime” and that baby is just flat-out refusing to nap and is over-tired and wailing instead.

For this reason, Whetstone Workgroup has a drop-in child care option. Although it is not a licensed child care facility, it is primarily staffed by local parents (all with clearances) and is available for up to four hours per day from Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 4:30pm. The cost is $6/hour for one kid and $4 for each additional child.

Whetstone’s childcare area has two rooms. One is for kids ages 0 to three with baby toys, a play kitchen, a pack-and-play, etc. The other room is for older kids (up to about age 12) with art supplies, an easel and paint, desktop computers, beanbag chairs, etc.

 

What is the cost to be a part of Whetstone?

Membership to Whetstone Workgroup costs $75 to join – it’s a one-time fee. Access to the shared co-working space is $125/month (with special deals for 6-month and 12-month packages). Access to the shared software suite is $100/month (again, with a discount for 6- and 12- month packages). Or you can get both, for a discount too. Both are available on a month-to-month basis, because one of the hallmarks of freelancing is the “feast or famine” cycle – some months have a lot of client (read: billable) activity happening, and other months are much slower.

 

What inspired you to start Whetstone?

Whetstone communal workspace
Whetstone communal workspace

I think freelancing is a really great “third option” for many moms. For women that work in professional/office environments, the options once a child comes along are often pitched as an either/or. You can go back to work full-time and someone else watches your kid. Or you can leave the formal workforce altogether and stay home with your kid. The former does not really afford the flexibility that many moms want and if you leave the formal workforce altogether, you may lose your professional identity/sense of self, your contacts, a paycheck – and that gap on your resume can be extremely hard to overcome.

That’s why I started freelancing. I had a nice office job, five days a week, good pay and benefits – but my kids were 4 and 2, my husband was working 70+ hour weeks opening a restaurant, the kids were at daycare from 7:30 am – 5:30 pm, evenings were incredibly stressful between trying to feed them, pick up, do laundry, answer work emails. At a certain point, I just decided I couldn’t do it anymore and quit.

jessicastrong2

Turns out though – that working for myself brings its own challenges. I’m naturally very social, and found working from home very isolating. Buying all the tech subscriptions was expensive, plus super time consuming to figure all of the supposedly easy WordPress and printer/scanner and phones updates myself. During snow days when school was cancelled, I had to re-schedule client meetings. During the summer, my kids had to accompany me to Panera to sit and play on the iPad while I met with colleagues.

I started a private Facebook group where other freelancers share their struggles and offer advice, job leads, etc, and we meet monthly to brainstorm and help each other through different challenges. So I knew I wasn’t the only one facing these kinds of things; in fact, we’ve joked that all we need to be successful is a babysitter, access to coffee, and a copier/scanner. At some point, I thought – how hard can it be to set that up?! So I designed Whetstone to address some of these challenges.

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Whetstone Workgroup is located at 2310 Main Street in Sharpsburg. If you’re interested in learning more, you can give Jessica a call at 412.782.2227, email her at jessica@whetstoneworkgroup.com or attend one of her upcoming events.  And don’t forget to like her Facebook page and/or follow her Twitter account!

5 Reasons Why Every Pittsburgh Mother Should Know about The Center for Women

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
Workshop at the Center for Women in Squirrel Hill, Photo courtesy of CFW
Workshop at The Center for Women in Squirrel Hill, Photo courtesy of CFW

On an unusually sunny day a few weeks ago I walked into The Center for Women (CFW) on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. I’d heard about the organization secondhand on Facebook and was honestly intrigued by the name. Was this an Ob-gyn office? Was it a holistic wellness center? Was it a social service agency? After spending about an hour with program administrators, I was absolutely convinced that every Pittsburgh mother should know about CFW. In fact, I honestly haven’t been this inspired by a Pittsburgh organization in a very long time.

So…what is CFW? It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting women in “transition.” At the Center, the meaning of “transition” is broad. It can refer to any woman undergoing a significant life change including a separation or divorce, the death of a loved one, a job loss, returning to the workforce after raising children or many other situations, i.e. ME as my children get close to school age (and probably many of you out there too). Although CFW certainly draws its clients from all walks of life, many are highly-educated, middle-class women facing situations they simply didn’t expect.

CFW provides its services to these women free of charge. And their offerings are absolutely fantastic in the most practical way possible. From financial and legal workshops to networking nights to mentoring and internship programs, the Center helps women adjust to whatever new situation comes their way. And here are five reasons why I think every Pittsburgh mother should know about The Center for Women:

1. Their mentoring program

CFW offers a 6 to 12-month free mentoring program for women. Participants are carefully matched with mentors who can provide the particular type of support they need. Perhaps you are going through a divorce or death and feel like your world is falling apart. CFW will match you with a mentor who has successfully navigated this path and can guide you along your own. Perhaps you are interested in pursuing a different career goal and would like to connect with a woman in this field. The Center will find the perfect woman to help you.

CFW’s mentors include nonprofit managers, licensed counselors and life coaches, experienced lawyers, child development specialists, entrepreneurs, writers, CEO’s, healthcare directors, etc. Many are fellow mothers. Some are grandmothers. All are committed to supporting other women as they transition to a new place in their life.

2. Their internship program

The Center for Women also offers a free internship program for women. Participants are paired with local organizations or businesses that match their career aspirations. Whether you are transitioning back into the workforce after raising children, interested in changing careers or recently lost a job, The Center for Women can help get you back on your feet professionally. Added bonus: many of the women who have completed their internships have gone on to find jobs in the field.

Past internship topics have included real estate, social media, editorial, social work, environmental sustainability, accounting, business research, grant writing and many more. Interns have worked at a variety of organizations/businesses in the city including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pop City Media, Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, Lawrenceville United and more. Whatever your career goal, the Center is committed to finding the right internship for you.

3. Their workshops

The Center for Women offers a wide variety of free workshops designed to help women become more self-sufficient. From financial workshops such as Tax Prep 101, Ask the Financial Planner and Budgeting 101 to family life workshops like Co-Parenting, Dealing with Negative People and The Power of Positive Thinking to returning to the workforce workshops like Interviewing 101, Cover Letters and Career Coaching, the Center can help you learn new skills that are directly applicable to your situation. Check out their calendar for upcoming workshops.

4. Their networking opportunities

CFW understands the need for networking among women, especially as we enter a new field or transition back into the workplace. Not only does the Center offer an Art of Networking workshop, it also offers free, no-pressure networking nights to practice with women professionals.

5. Their volunteer opportunities

Since CFW offers its services free of charge, it relies heavily on volunteer involvement. And what a noble cause! Volunteering your time and expertise to mentor, lead an internship or give a workshop is a wonderful way to support another Pittsburgh woman who needs you. And I was reassured that you don’t need to be a high-level CEO to find a place as a volunteer at CFW. Maybe you’re an expert co-parenter or a fabulous time-manager. There is bound to be a woman in Pittsburgh who can benefit from your expertise!

6. Their passion

I just wanted to add this last piece. From the moment that I walked into CFW, it was obvious to me that it’s fueled by passion–women who are intensely committed to helping other women succeed. And this is so important! I think there is no substitute for a strong female advocate in our lives. We understand and NEED one another.

I firmly believe there is a place for EVERY woman at CFW. If your life is trekking along right on track, you could volunteer as a mentor. If you are unsatisfied with your current job situation and could use a change, try out an internship. Even if you can’t make time now, please keep The Center for Women in the back of your mind. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will ALL need it at some point in our lives.

Want to stay connected to The Center for Women? Follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

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