Ashlee Johnson’s baby girl sometimes sits on the front desk, greeting people with an earnest “hi!” as they walk into the coworking space. If she isn’t there, the 1-year-old is at the play area on the top floor, where there is a reading corner, a bounce house and day care worker, who Johnson says quickly became her daughter’s “favorite person.”

“Bye, Mommy,” her daughter tells her, as if she is saying: You can go now.

Johnson then heads to work, assured that if anything comes up, if her daughter feels ill or needs to be fed, she is right there.

It’s what The Cube, a coworking place in the Moravia-Walther area of Northeast Baltimore, is meant to be, said its co-founder Tammira Lucas. It’s a place tailored for working parents, which can ease some of the child care crunch many face. Black women in particular are more likely to take both the caregiver and breadwinner roles, often in jobs that do not have benefits such as paid time off and flexible hours, according to U.S. Census data, the Center for American Progress and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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The office building includes small meeting rooms that seat up to eight people and larger spaces for 15 people, a gallery space for events and private offices for rent. The Cube, which caters specifically to working parents who are interested in business, partners with the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center at Morgan State University and the Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street to host business workshops.

Lucas wants mothers in particular to feel support, she said, and that’s why she started The Cube. Black women are also more likely to live in neighborhoods that lack access to affordable child care providers, according to the Center for American Progress. In low-income areas, like the one Lucas grew up in, she added, it can be particularly difficult for women to access resources that allow them to pursue careers that require a degree. For these mothers, there’s also more at stake if they want to take the leap. Lucas knew that, and she also knew she didn’t want her daughter to see her not running after what she wanted.

One of five children, Lucas watched her mother hustle to provide for her family in West Baltimore. Her mother dreamed of becoming a nurse, but the closest she could get was working in food service at a hospital, Lucas said.

“I always used to tell her, ‘you know, it’s never too late,” Lucas said. “She dedicated all her time into being a mother. And I think that that’s the misconception is that you either have to be all in being a mother or have to be all in building a career.”

Now, Lucas is a serial entrepreneur, her business partner and longtime friend TeKesha Jamison said. She bounced from other businesses and career paths before she set on opening the coworking space. The idea came from Lucas’ own experiences of frequently having a child following her to business and networking meetings, Jamison said.

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In the next few years, Lucas and Jamison want their daughters, who are 13 and 23 respectively, to run the business.

“We’ve positioned them for generational wealth, but also we were able to leave a legacy,” Lucas said. Her daughter has helped with the babies and participated in their yearly camp on entrepreneurship. She will start working the front desk and as a camp counselor.

After around two years of research, Jamison and Lucas found that, sometimes, all parents need are three hours or so of undivided attention to get a lot of work done, Jamison said. The coworking space allows parents to book three hours of babysitting service, while they can do their work in the building. Now, the pair are researching their next location, likely in Atlanta, looking for neighborhoods that are fit for families, are accessible by public transportation and near a main street.

For Johnson, the babysitting setup makes more sense to her than a day care. It has allowed her to build her doula support and childbirth education business on the side of her full-time job. It has given her more flexibility financially, Johnson said, allowing her to invest more into her business and send her 8-year-old and 14-year-old to private school. It has also allowed Johnson to keep her children close in their early years, a critical time in their development. All of that as she surrounds herself with people who care for her daughter, who make her baby girl feel safe, and with other working parents interested in business.

“It’s like an extension of my community and my village,” she said.

clara.longo@thebaltimorebanner.com

Clara Longo de Freitas is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities. Before joining the Banner, she interned at The Baltimore Sun as an emerging news and community reporter. She also has design and illustration experience with several news organizations, including The Hill and NPR.

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