Finding profit in a traditionally unprofitable industry
How does a mother of 8 have the time and drive to build a childcare empire? Victoria Sopik, founder of Kids & Company Ltd. knows it is all about balance. From a young age she knew she wanted two things in life: to be a mother and to be an entrepreneur. It was her experience as a mother that led her to discover an incredible and uncovered opportunity in the childcare industry. Victoria along with her partner Jennifer Nashmi, understood first hand just how difficult it was to find available child care. When Victoria was looking for a daycare for her first son she decided it would be easier to create the solution herself. After years of being unprofitable Victoria and Jennifer have built a child care empire with locations all across Canada and the United States. They have found a unique angle which has allowed them to be profitable in a generally unprofitable industry. Learn how they balance their work life, personal life, over and one thousand other employees!
“In the beginning, it was a bit of an uphill battle with employers who said we don’t choose our employees’ dentists, why would we offer corporate child care.”*
When Victoria and Jennifer first set out on their mission to provide childcare they knew they needed a unique angle. Anyone who has worked in the daycare industry understands that it is very difficult to be profitable. Owners need to ensure competitive pricing for their services, that children's resources are provided and also that staff is paid accordingly. Once those costs are laid out little is left in terms of profit. The founders of Kids & Company Ltd. (Kidco) knew there had to be a better alternative. They decided to reach out to large corporations and asked them if they would consider Kidco as part of their benefits package. In 2002, when the company was founded, employers were much less open to the concept of a work-life balance. They didn’t understand why they should bother providing childcare if they don’t even cover dental costs. It took time to get some major corporations on board, but as the years passed by the founders of Kidco saw a major shift in how employers cared for their employees.
The business model Victoria and Jennifer have created is based on memberships. Corporations pay a small membership fee to guarantee their employees children will have reserved spot in the nearby Kidco facility. Parents pay for the childcare costs but do not have to worry about driving far from work or searching for an available childcare facility. If you are a parent you probably understand just how stressful being put on a wait list can be. Kidco ensures children will have reliable childcare in a timely manner. To make sure Kidco can uphold this promise, their facilities are only open to their corporate clients. They have been able to differentiate themselves in a competitive market but also find a unique model to ensure profitability. It seems their model has been highly popular as they have close to 100 childcare facilities across North America!
“Be confident but careful, and really understand your competition.”**
Although Kidco has differentiated itself by providing corporate sponsored childcare, the company has also found other ways to stand out. Being mothers themselves the founders understood better than anyone that flexibility is key. Every family is different and every child has unique needs. For this reason, they have adopted flexible childcare plans. This is very different than many daycares who operate 9:00Am-5:00Pm and charge late fees. Kidco does not believe in late fees and they do not believe in traditional hours. The company conducts various surveys to gain insights on their clients and their needs. The outcome of one focus group helped develop Kidco’s “Date Night.” Parents are able to drop of their child at a Kidco location in the evening and have the date night they so desperately need. By listening to their clients, and their intuition Victoria and Jennifer have created a rather unique business model.
“You can’t beat yourself up. You just have to do the best you can.”***
Being an entrepreneur and a parent are actually very similar. You are constantly navigating new territory and mistakes happen more than you would like to admit. Still amidst all the chaos, both jobs are the most rewarding in the world. Victoria isn’t shy to admit she has made many mistakes. Balancing a growing business and family wasn’t easy but she made it work. Rather than dwelling on mistakes she grew from them and began to see where her true strengths lied. The most important thing you can learn from Kidco is that no matter how crazy things got, the company kept moving forward. Mistakes will be made but in the end your dream will work out if you put in the dedication it needs. You may not know what to do when you have your first child but before you know it they will be grown up with a family of their own. The same goes for a business. We can’t imagine the exact paths our businesses will take but if we keep pushing forward we will create something we never believed was possible.
Things to consider
If you are an entrepreneur here are some things to consider:
- Don’t be scared away by a traditionally unprofitable industry. Rethink a business idea and find an innovative model to drive profits
- Don’t beat yourself up, you will make mistakes and it is ok
- Study your competition and deliver services to your clients that your competitors do not provide
Here is how you can learn more about Kids & Company Ltd: