Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Lewis.
Sara, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In 2013, I gave birth to my first child and my entire world changed. Maternity leave was hardly a vacation. I spent 10 weeks in a fog of postpartum depression, only to emerge with a few short weeks left to bond with my baby. When my leave ended, I wasn’t ready to be away from my new baby, but I needed to work – for my family’s financial stability, but also for my own personal wellbeing and sense of fulfillment. I started looking for companies in San Diego that provided on-site child care to their employees. At the time, I worked for a construction firm and I was looking for examples so I could propose a similar program to my company’s president. I couldn’t find a single company in the area that offered on-site child care!
I gave up on my pursuit but decided that I would take steps in my career to position myself so I could bring my next child with me when I returned to work. I didn’t know when that would be, or what that would even look like, but I was determined. When I got an opportunity a year later to join a fast-growing startup, I took it. I was excited to “get in on the ground floor” and be able to influence programs and policies that would benefit working parents.
A year later, the startup I had come to love fell apart unexpectedly. I had to layoff colleagues who had become friends. I was hurt and confused. I felt betrayed and – even worse – as I had unknowingly betrayed others. Less than a month later, I had to decide my own fate and opted to leave the company before I was laid off. I helped form another startup that promised a better culture but eventually left when that one also came up short.
My experiences “on the inside” of young companies taught me a lot. I learned a lot about the kind of company I want to work at and the kind of leader and colleague I want to be. Most importantly, I learned that when something doesn’t exist in the world, I can help create it. I don’t know if I would have had the grit, clarity, or passion I have today if it weren’t for the challenges I overcame during that season of my life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There has been a fairly balanced mix, I think. When the first startup went under, I was in a really dark place. I lost some very close friends in the aftermath and dealt with a lot of depression and anxiety during the downfall. I decided early on that my time at the second startup would be temporary and that my long-term focus would be building something of my own. I’ve taken things pretty slowly this time around, which has worked out well. My vision for the future is very clear and I am content saying “no” or hearing “no” when things don’t fit that vision. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom and I don’t feel the pressure to do a complete 180 the minute things get uncomfortable.
My biggest struggle so far has been finding office space. I was very much in a “chicken-and-egg” situation. I needed space in order to approach potential customers, but I needed customers for most landlords to consider me a reliable tenant. My company is a brick-and-mortar operation, so growing a side hustle from my dining room table wasn’t really in the cards for me. My patient, relentless commercial real estate broker stuck with me for over a year and finally snagged the perfect space in the perfect location. We’ll have many more hurdles to get over in the future, but I’m really glad that one is behind us!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Bond Project story. Tell us more about the business.
The Bond Project is transforming the return-to-work experience for new parents. We provide private office space and on-site child care for employees transitioning back to their careers after parental leave. One-in-four new moms return to work within 10 days of giving birth, and nearly half of all mothers reduce their hours or leave the workforce entirely during their child’s first year of life. This affects her career, of course, but it also affects her colleagues, her company, and her community. As millennial fathers become more vocal about their desires for better work-life balance, families and businesses will be impacted on a much greater scale. We want to help all new parents feel supported during the transition back to work because it’s the right thing to do, but also because the future of our economy depends on it!
Supported by their employers, new parents work remotely from a furnished office at our facility, among a community of their peers who are also navigating the same season of life. Next door, our professional staff cares for the employees’ infants and toddlers up to 18-months-old. Traditional on-site child care models take a lot of money, human resources, and real estate to implement and operate, so companies don’t even consider them to be real options. By leveraging collaborative consumption – as do Airbnb, Uber/Lyft, and other types of services in the sharing economy – we can drastically reduce the costs of on-site child care so more companies can provide the benefits to their employees.
I’m really proud that we have found a way to integrate work and family life for new parents without forcing them to sacrifice one for the other. Our program is designed to offer new parents as many benefits as possible (reduced stress and anxiety, lower absenteeism, resources and support for strong breastfeeding relationships, and more) while they transition back from leave, but also to really offer a lot of tangible benefits to employers as well. When a new parent chooses to return to work instead of extending their parental leave, reducing their hours, or quitting entirely, companies win big.
It has been fun to craft our program using my different perspectives in business operations and as a parent who works outside the home, and then comparing those with input from other parents, HR professionals, and executives to create something that really is good for everyone involved.
The best part for me, personally, has been being our first test case. Just as I had set out to do nearly 6 years ago, I came back from maternity leave in March with my 6-month-old son and the experience has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I can’t wait to share this gift with other new parents and see the effects it has on our society and economy here in San Diego.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m a realist, so I have a hard time with the concept of luck. Some of the things I might have considered bad luck at the time (two failed startups, a year “wasted” looking for office space) actually served as very valuable lessons for me. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I definitely see now how those circumstances, although largely out of my control, helped me take crucial steps forward in life and business, even though I was scared. I try to see “bad luck” as just another opportunity for growth and “good luck” as a positive consequence of lessons learned.
- Pilot program available June 2019
- Membership fee waived; On-site infant care $210/week when you mention SDVoyager
- Address: **Visitors by appointment only**
5160 Carroll Canyon Road, Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92121
- Website: www.thebondproject.com
- Phone: 858-859-8782
- Email: email@example.com