Shazia Mustafa : Third Door

Shazia Mustafa is a true coworking entrepreneur and trailblazer. Founder of Third Door in London, the FIRST coworking space with childcare in the world, she has been a champion for gender equality and workspace support for parents for nearly a decade—and she’s still pursuing it! Now, in addition to running Third Door, she’s on the policy committee of the Women’s Equality Party in Britain, working on policies in support of equal parenting leave and care, equal pay, equal representation and more.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Shazia and I co-founded Third Door, the world’s first coworking and flexible nursery hybrid business. I have three children all in primary school, although my eldest will be starting secondary school in September. Third Door was inspired by my daughter when she was just five months old. At that time, I knew one thing for certain; I wanted to return to work and further my career. However, like most new mums, I was reluctant to be far from my baby and wanted somewhere I could work in peace whilst my little one was cared for nearby. My husband was also studying for a self-funded MBA at the time and therefore his working hours weren’t what you might call ‘traditional’ hours either. Yet as hard as we looked, nowhere seemed to offer us a workable solution to our childcare conundrum. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands. As such, me and my husband, Yusuf, decided to set up Third Door, the UK’s first coworking space with an onsite flexible nursery. 

What inspires you?

I am inspired by change. I am driven to create a change in society where having a career and family don’t have to be at odds against each other. I want to encourage many more to join our movement of creating places where family & work can grow together and hopefully in the process remove the parenthood penalty altogether.

What books that have greatly influenced your life?

Whenever I am asked for business advice, I always recommend reading ‘Emyth’ by Michael E. Gerber. The other book I do recommend to anyone starting a business is ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. ‘Emyth’ helps you understand what is entailed in running a business – if you have a passion you need to put in procedures to help you continue that passion without getting embroiled in the day to day firefighting. ‘Start with Why’ is a great book to help you discover your core beliefs and why you started your business in the first place.

What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months?

Being organised is key to success, so I use apps to organise my working week from ‘Trello’ to help manage projects to ‘Forest’ which helps me keep focused on a task for 25 minutes. Both of these apps are free. I also use Ocado to do to the weekly family shop saving both time and waste, which is again a free app. Whilst not under £100, I have invested in a personal trainer and boutique gym membership which has helped with both my physical and mental wellbeing over the past year. I love it, especially the fact that I feel stronger and more relaxed as a result.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

I think success is built on a succession of small failures! That’s the great thing about running your own business, you can tweak your business as you go along learning from any mistakes alongside feedback from customers or your team. 

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

“It’s time to find an environment where work and family can grow together.”

In the last 2 years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

A positive mantra, delegation, networking and working 70% of my time on strategic work has made a world of difference. The business no longer needs me on a day to day business allowing me more flexibility to do what I enjoy and focus on what I am best at; growing Third Door.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world? What advice should they ignore?

Always be punctual. Always ask questions. Say yes to projects that will help you gain more skills. Network with people you admire. Dress how you wish to be perceived. Find people who inspire you and ask to work shadow them. If someone says no, do not be disheartened, rather find another route to do what you want to do. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Help more than you get back. Believe in yourself and most importantly, love and respect yourself. If people see you respect yourself, they will admire you and are less likely to take advantage. 

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

I step away from my work for a few days and then go back to my ‘why’. I also make sure I have downtime for myself, as well as my family. I can’t stress how important self-care is. Likewise, to aid this focus on self-care, I also try to work shorter focused bursts, rather than long stressful days.

Tell us something that would surprise us about you? 

I jumped out of an aeroplane for a tandem skydive at 10,000 feet to help overcome my fear of heights!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome? 

I think setting up a new business that no one had heard of with a very young family has been a challenge in itself.

What would be your message to the AWMB community? 

Don’t do things on your own just to save money. You will save time and money if you delegate and, let’s face it, the job will be done quicker and better (but always delegate well). 

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