Trehaus was one of the first co-working spaces in Singapore and the only to cater to working parents. Fast forward a few years and the brand is reinventing itself once again by moving into a new location at Funan – or the right in the Central Business District of Singapore in a location three times the size of their original co-working space.

The real reinvention comes in their new focus on early education with a pre-school and complete overhaul of their co-working focus. With the brand now looking past entrepreneurs and freelancers towards the lucrative corporate market, Trehaus is looking to work with companies and staff to bring working parents to their new space as part of corporate benefits and more.

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We spoke to their CEO, Dr Elaine Kim to find out more about the new version of Trehaus and her vision for the brand. Here’s what she had to share.

Congratulations on the new space at Funan. What were some of the reasons for the new space and new direction of the brand?

There are a few reasons why we wanted to move into the new space at Funan with a brand new direction.

Firstly, we were ready to grow and scale and our new space at Funan is about 3 times the size of our existing space in Orchard. Our first space in Orchard was a co-working space with a crèche so working parents could work close to their children. It was a proof-of-concept and happily exceeded our expectations with our dedicated desks and offices reaching full occupancy by 2017 with the crèche hitting capacity shortly after, leading to an opportunity to grow at a larger space.

The Trehaus Village. Image courtesy of Trehaus

Secondly, we saw a chance to establish our education focus, as we see Trehaus as so much more than a co-working business. Our mission is still the same and we saw a huge opportunity to bring work-life integration and future-forward early education to so many more families in the CBD. We needed a great location for Trehaus School so it provides an unparalleled proximity to parents.

And third, we wanted to expand the impact that Trehaus can bring to working parents and their families, to not just benefit freelancers and entrepreneurs, but also those in the corporate sector too, especial employees of companies located in the Central Business District (CBD). Funan is surrounded by corporate offices and co-working spaces, so TREHAUS AT CITY HALL offers a site-specific solution to working parents in the CBD. Since working parents cannot always go to their children, Trehaus is bringing the children to their parents. Trehaus School helms the flagship at Funan, an evolution of the existing Trehaus model to meet the needs of working parents in the city – bringing a space helmed by Trehaus School to them, and providing a Trehaus Business Club for them to work from while their children receive a world class early education at Trehaus School, or are cared for at the nurturing crèche.

In line with the mission to stay ‘Ahead of Change’, we want to help parents raise the next generation of change makers with our future-forward approach and Silicon Valley-inspired curriculum. Parents who enrolled their children into our Trehaus School can gain access to our on-site business centre. If they are at their own company desk, our strategic location means that they can join their children for lunch and be involved in their learning journey. We also offer corporate memberships for SMEs and MNCs so their employees can be close to their little ones in school while they get some work done under the same roof!

From the press release and website, it almost seems like Trehaus is moving away from ‘co-working’ in general and stepping into a holistic approach to working parents. Is this a new approach for the brand?

Trehaus has always been more than another co-working space. This is due to a few reasons: Firstly, there is a demand from parents who loved our space but wanted the next step for their children who were growing to preschool age. Secondly, we observed that the co-working industry is becoming increasingly saturated with a low barrier to entry. Thirdly, and most importantly, we have a deep passion for early education and desire to change it for the better to raise changemakers. Trehaus has evolved into something much more than a co-working provider, and we see ourselves more as an education business now.

In fact, the new TREHAUS AT CITY HALL is helmed by Trehaus School. It provides an incredible early education for our little ones and we have built a holistic curriculum that not only focuses on academics but also builds character and nurtures qualities such as empathy, resilience, confidence, teamwork as well as other future skills while letting their parents be part of the learning journey. Changing early education to prepare kids for the future and changing the workplace to make life better for working parents and their families – that’s our primary focus now.

Parents of children enrolled in our Trehaus School can take up a business club membership to work out of the fully equipped business centre, and be able to get productive work done while being close to their children, spend time with their kids at lunch and in between meetings, and be involved in their school day so learning continues through school and home.

The work-family balance that Trehaus provides is not just limited to entrepreneurs and freelancers. We also provide corporate memberships for forward-thinking companies to have an innovative and cost-effective solution that allows employees to have flexible work arrangements and family-friendly benefits.

Corporate memberships include business club access plus crèche facilities, on top of Trehaus School subsidies.

How will working parents benefit from the new space at Funan?

Work-life balance is a problem faced by millions of working parents in Singapore, especially as a new generation of parents recognises the importance of spending time with their children in their formative, fleeting first years. Trehaus was created to make life better for these parent-professionals and their families.

Trehaus Commons. Image courtesy of Trehaus.

The Trehaus model is founded on the belief that working parents can achieve their corporate potential and business dreams, while letting them be present for their children’s precious early years. It is possible, and Trehaus is working to make it a modern reality.

We have a Trehaus Business Club  where working parents are able to enjoy unparalleled proximity to their children enrolled in Trehaus School. This is not just for freelancers and entrepreneurs! We also have a corporate membership programme that allows forward-thinking companies that want to provide flexible work arrangements and work-life integration to employees. This is a cost-effective solution that doesn’t compromise on productivity. Trehaus’ corporate memberships provide a way to solve for employee childcare emergencies and contingency plans, retain maternity leavers and attract a new generation workforce that values work-life integration, without the company having to building their own crèche, nursing rooms and let staff work unproductively from home with kids. The location of the new Funan is so close to the CBD and this was something that our corporate members, who work in the nearby offices, really appreciate.

How does a brand like Trehaus compete against brands like WeWork, The Great Room and now early education brands like Pat’s Schoolhouse or Odyssey in Singapore?

The Trehaus concept is completely unique. It is much more than a co-working office, and though we offer a solution like working parents, and have a beautiful business centre in the design vein of a WeWork or The Great Room, we don’t see ourselves as competitors as our offering is very specific to working parents and our main focus and business is in early education.  

In terms of pre-school education, we are committed to building a school that provides the best we can offer to raise the next generation of changemakers – from choosing only the most loving and nurturing teachers in an unparalleled child to teacher ratio of 1:5 to bringing together leading early education experts from around the world to help create our proprietary Little’s Programme curriculum.  Of course, what makes us different from any other pre-school is the opportunity we give to parents to be involved in their child’s learning journey. It’s the only preschool and childcare where parents are welcomed into the school to spend time with their children through the day, and that provides a workplace for parents in the same space.

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For children, we want to equip the next generation with more than just knowledge – to focus on building qualities like empathy, resilience, curiosity, creativity and strong communication and social skills. In this changing world, parents increasingly recognise that education also needs to change accordingly so as to meet a future where more than 50% of the jobs that exist tomorrow don’t exist today.

This is why we started Trehaus School, a Silicon Valley-inspired preschool and childcare that is changing early education, focuses on building character and future skills, and lets parents be present for their children’s learning journey.

Trehaus School at City Hall welcomes kids from 2 months to 6 years old and offers our proprietary Littles’ Programme Curriculum. This includes the Little CEO (to teach leadership and confidence), Little Entrepreneur (to develop problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills), Little Engineer (to teach the basics of coding, design thinking and logical reasoning), Little Philanthropist (to raise changemakers who want to make a positive difference in this world), Little Creative (to appreciate and create art and music and nurture creativity) and Little Chef (to learn life skills and healthy habits through the art and science of culinary arts).

Children are individuals with different learning preferences, talents and individual characters.  With our low 1:5 ratio and our Little Programme curriculum, learning can truly be child-led. Our curriculum writers are not only from the education field , they are from all walks of life and backgrounds ranging from tech engineers, psychologists, doctors, artists, music producers and entrepreneurs, providing a diverse perspective that lends creativity, innovation and a breadth of skillset-teaching to the curriculum.

Within the school, we have thoughtfully designed the space to provide learning opportunities and fun at every corner. Our open plan classroom is designed like a little village, and kids buy supplies for projects from the supply store with Trehaus currency which they draw from the Trehaus bank. The kids have access to an indoor playground with sand pit beach house and rock wall, as well as an outdoor edible garden and futsal court. There’s a concert hall for kids to present their projects, practice public speaking or display their creative flair through song, dance and theatre.

Parents in the business club are just a door away, as unlike other traditional schools we have a business centre in our space. There’s a playground with cafe where parents are welcome to work and enjoy a cup of coffee across the hall while their children are at school, or share a healthy gourmet meal with their kids at lunch time. .  We are proud of what we do so our school doors are always open to parents, and we welcome parents to come watch what their kids are learning, read to them or explore together and learn through play.

We also conveniently use our parents at the business centre as test subjects and customers for our Little Programmes.  For example, in our Little Entrepreneur programme, children first gather their own planted herbs from our Urban Garden during our weekly Garden Care time. In the lesson, children are tasked to sell their own herbal teas.  We do a market visit in a supermarket to study price points, marketing brands, packaging designs and learn about our clientele. After graphing those collaborated findings as a class, we learn how to public speak during our Little Assembly time to learn how to pitch and sell to our parents at our business centre across the hall.  We then design our own tea bags on our iPads, print them, do first batch of taste testing and learn to sell them for real money at our pop-up booths. In between, children will learn collaboration, creativity, grit, design strategies and even compassion as raised funds will go to a food bank charity!

We also have designed a Family Club and crèche where parents can bring other members of the family and siblings for extra-curricular classes after school or during the weekends. We believe choosing the right school for the early formative years is monumental and environment that our kids grow up in is crucial, so we really have put effort in creating a space that children will love and be loved in.

In Trehaus, the community of like-minded, passionate, supportive and driven parents and professionals is one of the best things about our modern village. We rely on the ecological system of the entire community to foster every student’s ability. This is a community of parents who are very driven and successful and unwavering in the belief that you do not have to compromise on quality family time in order to have a successful career. We are all part of a growing group of parents who understand the need of work-life integration. We want to build the network of trust, care and support that other schools don’t offer because it all ties back closely to what we truly believe in – that raising a child take a village.  We are parents who want to raise children who care for the world and for others, who think about how they can make the world better. Trehaus members readily offer mutual parenting support to one another. The Trehaus space is made meaningful because of the strong, vibrant community as well as their attachment to the space. At Trehaus School, parents, teachers and students work together towards the end goal – to raise changemakers.

Do you plan to expand your concept outside of Singapore into the region?

We have always wanted to expand the impact of Trehaus to parents wherever they may be. No matter which city my co-founders and I visit, be it Hong Kong to London to San Franciso, the locals will tell us that their city needs a Trehaus. We are focused on making our Funan flagship a success but we are already in discussion with some joint venture partners for expansion into the region.

What can we expect next from Trehaus?

As mentioned above, we look forward to bringing our TREHAUS AT CITY HALL to life and creating a modern village where families work, learn and play together in our business club, school and family club – all under one roof!

Additionally, we will continue to build and improve the Trehaus School Littles’ Programme curriculum, and we look forward to watching our children grow and develop.  

In the years to come, perhaps Trehaus will grow not just in number of locations and geographies, but also in an expansion of its educational offering too.

Trehaus at Orchard started as a co-working space back with a child minding crèche for kids aged 2 months to 18 months. As our kids started growing up past 18 months, parents who loved our space and our crèche asked us to start an education programme so they could continue to stay in our space. That was how our nursery programme, Trehaus Playschool, for kids aged 18 months to 3 years, was born. Then as the kids grew up, parents asked again, “what’s next?” Then, they asked us to create a preschool. TREHAUS AT CITY HALL with our Trehaus School accepts kids from age 2 months to 6 years. This was born once again due to the demand. The joy that parents have when they can spend precious time with their little ones at Trehaus during a regular work day is priceless. We foresee that as our kids grow older, we will meet the same requests from parents for more, and perhaps we will grow with our kids and start primary (and one day even secondary) education!

What advice would you give someone looking to start their own venture?

Entrepreneurship is always challenging and extremely hard work. Starting a business that is the first of its kind has its own specific set of challenges. You are doing something that others cannot picture because it hasn’t been done before! You need to have a lot of passion, confidence and grit to rise above the inevitable doubts that arises because of it. But my advice would be to have courage and take things one step at a time, one foot in front of another and keep going, and one day you would look back and realized you have built something you never thought possible at the beginning and that is extremely rewarding.

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