Getting to Know: Fotini Giannelis

Director of Poly Hill Intergenerational Learning

Finding a daycare, especially in a major city, can be a daunting task, and an even steeper dive into your bank account — but for Fotini Giannelis, director of the non-for-profit Poly Hill Intergenerational Leaning daycare, her focus lies beyond the traditional realms of daycare walls and integrates more than toys. “We are strategically placed in a Retirement Home to give young children and older adults the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. The benefits of our program are tremendous and both generations are able to achieve empathy, joy and compassion,” she says. “Older adults who are involved in the program are able to come and see the children whenever they want and to participate in daily activities.”

With the belief that this model is the future face of the daycare system, Fotini has also realized that this is the perfect time for this kind of opportunity. “I’ve been working with children for ten years now. Children are my passion and I believe that they deserve the best education and learning environment we can offer them. I have studied Early Childhood Education (ECE) and know how important learning is in the early years and so want to provide an environment where children have the opportunity to learn, explore and develop according to their own needs and interests,” she states. “Ever since I started my studies in ECE I knew that one day I wanted to open up my own centre. I have been talking about it for years now but it wasn’t the right time for me. I believe now I am at the right place and have found a wonderful partner that shares the same passion about this business as I do.”

But successful businesses don’t just thrive off of passion alone, as Fotini came to discover. “I’ve learned that a business plan is very important in structuring our business and putting everything we need in one area. This is also very important when applying for loans and trying to find a retirement home that is willing to let us run a daycare out of their building,” Fotini says. “If I had one piece of advice to give to a new social entrepreneur it would be to do your research and make sure there’s a need for your business. I believe that if there’s no need and people are not interested in what you want to do than there’s no point in starting your business.”

With the hopes of gaining investors interested in Poly Hill Intergenerational Learning, Fotini believes that the ability to hire a marketing director and build the best daycare possible for children will have ample impact on both its children and its older participants, too.

Story Written by Erin Ashley

Fotini is a participant in the Hook It Up program delivered by Socent7. Hook It Up is a support program for young social entrepreneurs in Ontario. Learn more at www.hookitup.ca. With Hook it Up’s support Fotini was able to incorporate, set-up of Board of Directors, get legal support, and prepare communication materials.