Wednesday April 16, 2014

Day care goes corporate

Parents can check in on kids via webcam
Keith Anderson

Kids & Company CEO and co-founder Victoria Sopik during Wednesday's grand opening of the day care.

Corporate-model day care doesn’t mean four-year-olds in three-piece suits hurriedly checking their BlackBerrys.

What it does mean is a service orientation tailored to the needs of corporate clients and their employees, explained entrepreneur Victoria Sopik, CEO of Kids & Company.

Sopik — who co-founded the child-care company in 2002 in Toronto and has since built a 52-centre franchise caring for 10,000 children in Canada and the U.S. — was in Kamloops on Wednesday to open her first B.C. Interior operation.

“We really saw the trend, a couple of trends,” Sopik said.

Parents were looking for options other than the one-fee-fits-all approach to support their career and lifestyle demands. Companies, too, were in need of child-care services that were flexible enough to accommodate a variety of employee needs.

With maternity leave, for example, some moms prefer a gradual return to the workforce, so they have the option of paying only for days of required service.

There are no late fees at Kids & Co., and parents are able to check on their children remotely through the use of a secure webcam. It’s a far cry from conventional home-based or society-run, not-for-profit day cares.

Sopik, a mother of eight, and co-founder Jennifer Nashmi, a mother of three, obviously struck a common chord. For a couple of years, Kids & Co. has been recognized as Canada’s fastest growing company with 250 corporate clients.

They offer a premium service with educational/developmental programming and meal standards that are uniform across the operation.

“Child care is expensive, in some cases substantially but, as I say, our parents are willing to make some sacrifice for flexibility and a robust program,” Sopik said. The average fee is $50 a day, she added.

They opened 10 locations in Calgary in short order to meet demand there. Why Kamloops as the first in the B.C. Interior?

“We know that Kamloops has a lot of young families and needed child care. This location came up with one of our real estate partners. We had lots of interest from young families.”

They offer guaranteed spaces over time, as much as a year in advance, which eliminates uncertainty.

“What we’re finding is that parents want extended hours. I think they’ll definitely embrace it.”

With 60 spaces, the bright, fully equipped facility is located at City View Mall, just off Highway 5A in Aberdeen. It should help to alleviate a shortage of spaces, which is common everywhere, Sopik noted.

“There’s always a shortage of child-care spaces,” she said. “One of the things here, we have a lot of infant spaces, which are hard to find. Typically parents are on a waiting list.”

Performing the customary ribbon cutting, Mayor Peter Milobar joked that the location used to be his day care, too. When his family owned the Days Inn property, he used to play after school on the tennis courts.

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