Imagine if you will these scenarios. You are a tech or creative business traveller arriving in London possibly with your family for a two-week visit that’s part meetings, part pleasure.
Or you are a parent wanting to return to work flexibly and who needs somewhere cool to tap away on your laptop while your offspring are looked after by qualified crèche staff.
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, then you’re part of a trend of changing employee needs and business demographics ramping up demand for both design-led ‘homely’ corporate accommodation and co-working spaces with a crèche staffed by professionals.
Both are market opportunities that one fast-growing UK company is exploiting with two unique businesses, Cuckooz and Cuckooz Nest.
Cuckooz is a network of London properties containing boutique apartments including studio, one, two-bedroom and penthouse units starting at £176 a night for a standard studio to £370 a night for a two-bedroom deluxe flat.
They have been designed by a panel of up-and-coming interior designers and populated with furniture from Conran, all designed to appeal to the tech and creative communities.
“After doing a lot of business travel over many years around the world and having been put up in hotels that often weren’t that great for stays of up to three weeks, I and my co-founder Fabienne saw an opportunity to offer quality serviced apartments,” says Charlie Rosier.
“We want our guests to feel like they more ‘at home’ than they would be in a hotel but also have the opportunity to be part of a community should they wish to.”
The business was launched in September 2016 and then in January 2017 Rosier had her first child and experienced at first hand the frustrations of finding flexible child care provision in London for parents with children under two years old.
“After four months off I wanted to ease myself back into work but all I could find was private nannies who four or five guaranteed and fixed days of work,” says Rosier.
That’s when she started Cuckooz Nest, their second business, to offer a co-working space with flexible creche facilities, staffed by agency Manny & Me.
“Also, we have lots of friends who are freelance or who own their own businesses and are 30+ years old with children but don’t who want to give up their careers, so we saw an opportunity that wasn’t being serviced by other providers,” says Charlie.
The first Cuckooz Nest co-working facility is up and running in Farringdon but Charlie says she is to open a second facility near Old Street next year that will be three times the size and have a crèche for older children too.
Although Rosier makes the business’s fast growth sound almost effortless, it has been established in the face of regulators somewhat fazed by its concept.
She says it took her a long time to gain planning permission for the Cuckooz Nest site, for example, because planners had to be persuaded that D1 (creche) and C1 (office) use could be combined in the same building.
“This was a first for local planners and in general it’s these kinds of regulatory barriers that slow down innovation in the property industry and put it behind other sectors,” she says.
“Another example is Ofsted, which was another barrier for us; getting its regulators on board with the flexible nature of our nursery took a lot of work.”
Despite this, Rosier says the momentum for change is coming from two sources; consumer demographic and lifestyle changes, and a tough property market that is forcing freeholders to consider new, alternative property usage models.
Looking around one of the Cuckooz apartments, it’s hard to believe they are not someone’s home, rather than a serviced apartment.
Each includes a full-on kitchen, are designed to eye-poppingly fashionable standards and come with their own bikes so visitors can explore the local area. Cuckooz is also launching an app in the New Year that will recommend the best places to eat and visit in the local area, and enable residents to meet up.
“We built a company for people like Fabienne and I; younger people that want more of an experience and who don’t necessarily want to stay in a five-star, four-star or three-star hotel but who want to feel a bit more like they’re at home when they are away on business. – Charlie Rosier
The two Cuckooz businesses are in tune with the zeitgeist, to the say the least. The way people live, work and bring up children is changing rapidly, particularly for those who work in the global tech and creative industries.
“People are demanding more from their employers, more from their office, more from their corporate accommodation, and they want more support as parents within a workforce,” says Rosier.
“So the innovation really is coming from the customer as their lives change; big offices are scaling down and allowing more working from home days, which is very timely for our businesses.”
On the back of this, Cuckooz is planning fast growth. It’s added two sites to its London list and now has eight and is planning to grow these services over the next five years including a move into Soho and then, once its foothold in London is secure, expand into Europe’s main tech-hub cities such as Dublin, Amsterdam and Stockholm and service the same markets there.
The other growth multiplier for Rosier is that many employers, particularly in the US and no doubt soon here too, are encouraging employees to take their families or partners with them when they go on business trips.
“We’re seeing more and more people arrive in London with their partners and children; they go to work but want accommodation where they’ve got access to family-sized accommodation, childcare and a community of like-minded people from similar backgrounds to make friends with,” she says.
Imagining these scenarios, for an increasing number of people, would now appear to be reality.