5 Questions With Beth Szymanski of “My Village”

By Pratik Joshi Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After having a difficult time finding their own childcare, two moms set out to create a program that would offer affordable in-home child care by licensed providers.

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

As a young mother looking for quality child care in Boulder after a stay abroad, Beth Szymanski was baffled. It was difficult to find affordable child care, she said. "I felt terrified as a parent."

She shared her concerns with a friend, Erica Mackey, and realized she was faced with a similar challenge of finding high-quality, affordable child care.

As a serial entrepreneur, Szymanski saw an opportunity to fill a void, and with Mackey, also an entrepreneur, began researching ways to create a program that would offer affordable in-home child care by licensed providers using curricula developed at Harvard University.

They wanted to increase the supply of affordable in-home care and make it top-grade, she said. "We are focused on better outcomes for children," she said of their program that focuses on kids from infants to age 5.

The duo launched their company, MyVillage, in 2017. The company had its first client in 2018, and now has more than 30 providers, called educators, across Colorado and Montana.

Recently, MyVillage raised nearly $6 million in venture capital seed funding. "We have experience in impact investing," Szymanski said, adding the company's business model is about doing well while doing social good.

We spoke with Szymanski, who also is chief financial officer and head of operations, to find more about the ideas behind MyVillage.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1.You say in-home childcare is in a crisis. Can you explain that?

Szymanski: For parents looking for ongoing child care there are limited options. Either they can hire a nanny, use a daycare center, or go for an in-home child care. Both nannies and daycare facilities can be very expensive. Often family, friends, neighbors and other informal care providers are unlicensed and without access to quality early literacy materials. With underpaid providers and a lack of professional growth opportunities for them, the in-home child care industry seems to be broken. The in-home care providers' career path is stigmatized. They are seen as glorified baby-sitters. We are trying to change the image.

According to the Center for American Progress, 51% of Americans live in a "child care desert," which refers to any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that children vastly outnumber licensed child care slots.

Also, there are very few infant/toddler care providers. it's the biggest need in the market.

2. What makes your program different?

Szymanski: We help in-home educators get their licenses, do a background check and provide them with licensed curricula. Our educators have a daily touch point with parents and have conferences with parents twice a year. We also have a mentor network. We help mentor educators, and help them maximize their revenue. They can earn up to $66,000 a year taking care of six children. We do all the marketing and outreach. Often people who want start in this industry have no prior business experience.

Early child care is important for the emotional and social development of kids, which makes educator training and access to proven learning materials very important. This often gets overlooked.

Our programs can also work in a rental property occupied by providers if the space is at the ground level. Providers are free to choose their curriculum and can integrate pets in it.

3. How much does your program cost for franchisees?

Szymanski: Franchisees pay no upfront free, but they share 10% of the revenue earned with MyVillage. The franchisees are supported with front- and back-office tools like accounting, marketing and scheduling to help run in-home child care programs. We even pay for liability insurance.

A first-time provider may have to shell out money for fencing of the yard, which often is the biggest expense. But we've had people start with a $500 investment.

4.Do you only cater to women?

Szymanski: The in-home child care industry is largely dominated by women. But MyVillage is helping a husband-wife team in Colorado to get started in the business.

5. What are your plans to grow the business?

Szymanski: We want to get into minority communities. We want to make it easy for providers to participate and help them navigate their admin tasks through our software.

We want to saturate the Colorado market before we venture out. We potentially could explore the after-school care market as well.

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