Elwin Pittman, 10, plays foosball with Ashley Kiboigo, who started the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Elwin Pittman, 10, plays foosball with Ashley Kiboigo, who started the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Born of the pandemic, this business is a parental reprieve

Ashley Kiboigo’s Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett is a place for kids to study and play.

EVERETT — When schools shut down a year ago and learning became remote, many children were left without a place to do their online coursework. One local woman created a business with a mission to help some of them succeed.

Last October, 32-year-old Ashley Kiboigo launched Safe Haven WiFi Cafe. It is a quiet, secure place with internet access where first-through-12th-grade students can learn remotely and receive in-person tutoring.

“When all of this started with the pandemic, it became very clear to me that a lot of families were not set up at home to all of a sudden be a teacher, be a tutor and know how to get into the Zoom classes,” Kiboigo said. “Some parents aren’t even able to stay home with their kids at all.”

Safe Haven operates from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. four days per week, and students who attend are subject to daily temperature and symptom checks.

“We’re a drop-off distance learning space. We’re really able to cater to each student, because I get to know them, and I get to know their families,” Kiboigo said.

Parents can pay for their children to have week-to-week enrollment or a single drop-in day, as needed. But Kiboigo said she’s found space for children whose families can’t afford to pay.

Safe Haven WiFi Cafe founder Ashley Kiboigo stocks the snack table. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Safe Haven WiFi Cafe founder Ashley Kiboigo stocks the snack table. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“At the end of the day, I want to help my community, so I have provided a lot of the funds for this. I’ve also had a few donations, and that’s been huge,” she said.

The cafe is in the Faith Tabernacle Fellowship Church building at 9800 Evergreen Way, a space Kiboigo has access to because it’s her family’s church.

“I’m just using this space. I like to keep it very separate from the church so that no one feels like they can’t come, or have to be a part of the church to come,” she said.

One student who’s been attending Safe Haven since it opened is 14-year-old Amya Knighten, a ninth-grader at Mariner High School. She said Kiboigo and Safe Haven have been a saving grace, keeping her focused and motivated in school.

“Without Safe Haven, I would have been sleeping through all my classes,” she said. “I’d be doing all my work late and would probably have a 3.0 instead of a 4.0.”

But students who study in the space are getting more out of it than just academic help.

During breaks between classes and homework, students have the opportunity to socialize and are encouraged to put down the screen and play games with one another. The space is equipped with a basketball hoop outside and an activity room inside.

Ashley Kiboigo checks on a student at the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ashley Kiboigo checks on a student at the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

There are currently six full-time students studying at Safe Haven, and Kiboigo said she has the capacity for at least six more.

When asked why she chose to take on the challenge of opening the space, Kiboigo said her background in child care and education, coupled with her love for community, made it a no-brainer. Kiboigo, a Lynnwood resident, is a Mariner High graduate.

“I’m very familiar with this area — it has my heart because I pretty much grew up here,” she said. “I really love what I do. People are trusting me with their kids and paying for this service, so I’m going to go above and beyond.”

Despite her passion, Kiboigo’s entrepreneurial journey hasn’t always been easy.

Elwin Pittman writes code for fun after school at the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Elwin Pittman writes code for fun after school at the Safe Haven WiFi Cafe in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It’s definitely been a challenge. Being a minority — a Black, woman-owned, woman-led company — I think there has been some talk like, ‘Is she qualified to do this?’” Kiboigo said.

But she’s just getting started and can’t wait to watch Safe Haven grow.

“I’m passionate, I’m ready and I’m a fresh entrepreneur,” she said. “It takes a village, and we all came together as glue.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

An earlier version of this story misstated the age of Ashley Kiboigo.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Jonnathan Yepez Carino speaks with Auliilani De La Cruz’s class about financial literacy during a presentation at Mariner High on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Extra credit for financial literacy: Bankers teach kids the basics

From building credit to applying for a loan — these execs offer money management advice for students and adults.

The 214-foot tall cranes work to unload their first cargo shipments at South Terminal at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Business Briefly: Port of Everett named Job Creator of the Year

Zap Energy receives $5 million for fusion energy plant and Kenmore Air offering flight from Everett to Victoria.

Rachel Daniels makes a salami rose during a Charcuterie 101 Workshop at Machias Meadows in Snohomish, Washington on Sunday, May 7, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snack queens share secrets to piecing together party platters that wow

Caterers Rachel Daniels and Mallori Rojas specialize in curating charcuterie boards. Here’s how they make their magic.

Michelle LeFevre and her Bernese mountain dog Kona sit in the shade in front of Kona’s Pond outside their home Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Camano, Washington. LeFevre, a retired teacher, wrote the children’s book “On Kona’s Pond” which centers on her pup and the other creatures that call the pond home. LeFevre’s sister, Susan Cousineau McGough, illustrated the book with watercolor renditions of Kona and the pond. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Life ain’t so ruff ‘On Kona’s Pond’

A retired Camano Island teacher’s new children’s book, “On Kona’s Pond,” tells the story of her dog and his wild friends.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing inks deal for up to 300 737 Max planes with Ryanair

At Boeing’s list prices, the deal would be worth more than $40 billion if Ryanair exercises all the options.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Four recognized for building a better community

Economic Alliance of Snohomish County hosts annual awards

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett nuclear fusion energy company nets first customer: Microsoft

The Everett company, on a quest to produce carbon-free electricity, agreed to provide power to the software giant by 2028.

Hunter Mattson, center, is guided by Blake Horton, right, on a virtual welding simulation during a trade fair at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, Washington, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. High school kids learned about various trades at the event. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Trade fair gives Snohomish County kids glimpse of college alternatives

Showcasing the trades, the Trade Up event in Monroe drew hundreds of high school students from east Snohomish County.

A Tesla Model Y Long Range is displayed on Feb. 24, 2021, at the Tesla Gallery in Troy, Mich.  Opinion polls show that most Americans would consider an EV if it cost less, if more charging stations existed and if a wider variety of models were available. The models are coming, but they may roll out ahead of consumer tastes. And that could spell problems for the U.S. auto industry, which is sinking billions into the new technology with dozens of new vehicles on the way.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Tesla leases space at Marysville business park

Elon Musk’s electric car company reportedly leased a massive new building at the Cascade Business Park.

Henry M. Jackson award winner Tom Lane. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tom Lane: An advocate for small and local businesses

The CEO of Dwayne Lane’s Auto Family is a recipient of this year’s Henry M. Jackson Award.

John M. Fluke Sr. award winner Dom Amor. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dom Amor: Working behind the scenes to improve the region

Dom Amor is the recipient of this year’s John M. Fluke Sr. Award

Opportunity Lives Here award winner Workforce Snohomish and director, Joy Emory. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Workforce Snohomish receives Opportunity Lives Here Award

Workforce offers a suite of free services to job seekers and businesses in Snohomish County.