Two Birds: Creating Space for Working Parents and Redefining Child Care
Working full-time and raising a family is no easy feat – a challenge that Kelsey Lents (MBA’18) and JP Coakley (MBA’18) knew all too well when they met in the MBA program at Georgetown McDonough. Lents and Coakley connected during their first year and quickly discovered a mutual need for a child care system that allowed for greater flexibility and connectivity between work and family life. With support from Georgetown Entrepreneurship, this idea soon developed into Two Birds, an all-inclusive family experience, tailored to meet the needs of both children and their parents.
To celebrate Father’s Day, we spoke with the Two Birds founders about their company’s mission, the role Georgetown McDonough played in developing their business, and how they plan to modernize child care for families across the Washington, D.C., area and beyond.
Give us your elevator pitch for Two Birds.
Two Birds reimagines child care for the entire family. We provide an all-inclusive experience by offering high-quality education alongside amenities and programs for the family. By merging full-time care with onsite workspace and weekend programming, we modernize the concept of village and community.
What inspired you to start Two Birds while at Georgetown?
Two Birds’ birth story was a reaction to personal experience as a new parent. I was eight months pregnant and in my first year of business school when we pitched Two Birds in an entrepreneurship class at Georgetown. JP had a two-week-old daughter. Neither of us were headed into corporate jobs or taking maternity or paternity leave. Instead, we were facing down a second year of business school with newborns. We were craving a parent community and protected space to work while also wanting to take advantage of the flexibility of a school schedule and how that might change the way we engaged with our kids and their childcare. Interestingly, the initial concept was centered around the parent experience.
By the time we opened our first location, we’d realized how important it was to actually begin with the child’s experience. We shifted our focus and built our company around a strong, unique early childhood education and curriculum. Over the past three years, the work we’ve done with the company has been to create a 360-family experience where we look at family needs from the child’s perspective and the parent’s perspective, both during the week and on the weekend.
How did your experience at Georgetown aid in launching your startup?
We were so fortunate to have started this in school. We had a year to really brainstorm and test out ideas before being catapulted into a sink or swim environment. It was incredible how many professors were willing to spend office hours troubleshooting various aspects of the model, listening to our pitches or pitching our ideas back to us through the lens of an investor, a landlord, or a customer.
JP and I organized our entire second year to each take different classes that covered a range of topics we would need to launch the company, including everything from real estate to finance, investing and accounting to marketing. We used Two Birds as case studies when possible and relied on classmates’ various skills to help us with research, building, and testing models. And the pitch events were a crash course in speaking with brokers and investors. Pitching the idea in theStartup Factory class and winning Bark Tank bookended our Georgetown startup experience and were pivotal in giving us the momentum to launch the first location.
You are both parents. What has been your experience navigating a full-time career while taking care of your children?
When you have young kids at home, you have to be efficient. JP and I set up our working relationship from day one to switch easily between working in person and working remotely so we could be productive wherever we were and flexible with what that looked like. That said, really early on, we set some clear guidelines around when we were available to work together, to schedule meetings, and when our individual focused time would be. It looks a little different for each of us, but in general, we start our days as soon as we drop off our kids (one of our selling points is no commute!) and we take a pause when Two Birds lets out for the day. It’s important to both of us that we respect family time and that we’re present with our kids when we’re home with them, so both of us take time for dinner and evening routines.
As we’ve gotten busier at work, my best focus time is when the kids are in bed, so I do a lot of my strategic thinking and work after the kids’ bedtimes. While my days may be longer, I really love that I can carve up my days to prioritize family and work in a way that works for me.
What do you want parents to know about your company?
We’re taking a fresh look at what families with young kids want and need. It’s about more than just providing care; it’s about creating a space and a service that is reminiscent of how community halls used to bring families together. And it’s about having fun while doing that. Our curriculum is play based and that’s infused into everything we do. We have art studios, soccer, and yoga – one of our locations has a kiln. Our kids and teachers are often covered in paint while learning. Our earliest families have graduated out and still meet up for weekend play dates. That’s success for us.
What is next for Two Birds?
We’re growing! We’re looking at opening additional locations in Washington, D.C., and Virginia and expanding into Maryland. We’re also building out some of our family services, including expanding weekend classes and incorporating recurring family-based community events now that it’s a little easier to gather together.