With one of the first coworking spaces in northern Maine, Lillie Lavado is trying to solve some of the problems facing working parents and mothers especially.
“More people are working in the alternative economy. They’re gigging, freelancing and doing piecemeal work,” said Lavado, a web designer and mother of two who in May opened Hardscrabble Solutions in downtown Presque Isle.
The nonprofit organization is what Lavado calls a “family-friendly coworking space,” a shared office that people can rent or subscribe to use — and bring their kids along with them.
“The idea is that professionals who freelance or do other business activities can come in, use the professional side, and also have children,” Lavado said.
A Hartford, Connecticut, native, Lavado moved to Presque Isle with her husband in 2012 and ended up opening Hardscrabble Solutions in the course of finding office space for her web design business.
“The original idea is that I would have a desk and a play area for my little girls, who are 3 and 6. Within the first couple of days, I realized that I needed to make this available to other women,” Lavado said.
Anyone — moms, dads and non-parents — can use the Hardscrabble office space, but Lavado said she wants it to be particularly open to working moms.
“The kid-friendly aspect I believe is imperative here, because the target demographic is really women in the Presque Isle area,” she said. “It’s hard for moms to choose between going to work, taking care of their kids and paying for childcare,” with childcare being both expensive and hard to find.
Currently, people who use the Hardscrabble space can bring their children and keep watch on them, and in the fall Lavado said there will be a babysitter available during the week for people who want to pay a little extra.
In the fall, Hardscrabble also will start offering $99 a month memberships that come with unlimited, 24 hour use of the space, Lavado said.
She added that the organization also is hosting regular community events, such as open hours during downtown Presque Isle’s First Friday Artwalk and classes on topics such as infant massage.
Looking in the long-term, Lavado said she wants Hardscrabble to be a solution to the challenges of working families and freelancers, and also to serve as a development center for women-owned businesses.
“Hardscrabble Solutions is a way for us to figure out how to share resources,” she said. “It’s experimental but it’s working.”