New daycare, new business plan

The people in charge of the newest daycare in Whitehorse have a unique idea of what it means to run a successful business. To them, it means not keeping any of the profits.

The people in charge of the newest daycare in Whitehorse have a unique idea of what it means to run a successful business.

To them, it means not keeping any of the profits.

The Whitehorse Learning Tree Daycare Society in Riverdale will provide daycare for toddlers and preschoolers, with all the profits from the money-making business going to the Yukon’s Boys and Girls Club.

“In an age where government grants and funding is drying up, non-profits finding a way to support themselves is definitely a direction we want to start going in,” said Dave Blottner, a former executive director of the club and consultant brought on to spearhead the daycare project.

It’s a business model that is known as social enterprise. The idea is for businesses to work with a conscience towards doing some social good.

In the case of the daycare, both the Boys and Girls Club and Learning Tree are separate registered non-profit organizations, complete with separate boards and separate mandates.

But it’s written right into Learning Tree’s policies that any profit from the daycare will go to the Boys and Girls Club.

Blottner said the idea of using this kind of business model has been bouncing around the country’s Boys and Girls Clubs for years.

As far as he knows, the Yukon is the first one to give it a try.

The daycare is still waiting for final approvals before it can start caring for kids. The tentative launch date is mid-September.

The whole business was set up with very little government cash.

It got the same grants available to anyone setting up a daycare, but the majority of the seed money came from an interest-free loan from the Boys and Girls Club that had recently sold its old building.

The club has heard from parents for years about the need for more daycare spaces.

The daycare’s executive director, Bonnie Gingras, is a mother of three and previously worked for the Boys and Girls Club. “As soon as I heard they were thinking about a daycare, that was something I really pushed for and wanted to make happen,” she said.

The Boys and Girls Club focuses most of its time on school-aged children and youth and wasn’t sure it should or could stretch itself away from that to run a daycare.

Instead, this new business is designed to complement the club’s work.

Teachers will focus on healthy active living, school readiness and community relationships, Gingras said.

“There’s no TV or movies within our daycare. That’s not a thing. One, because we think if parents are paying us to watch their kids they’re not paying us to put them in front of the television,” Blottner said.

“Also because we can’t justify it under the program pillars. Watching TV doesn’t help us build community relationships, it doesn’t get us ready for school and it doesn’t lead to a healthy active lifestyle. So if it doesn’t, it doesn’t happen in our daycare.”

The daycare is estimating it’ll need about three years before it starts making a profit. After that they’re hoping to be able to contribute enough money to the club so another school can be added to the local Weekday Warrior after-school program.

Learning Tree will run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. – later than many daycares in town.

“I know myself, rushing to try and make it before 5:30 when I would get charged extra, we’re hoping to ease that a little bit,” Gingras said.

Right now Learning Tree will accept a maximum of 12 toddlers, from 18 months to three years old, and 24 preschoolers aged three to five.

It’s not just a one-way relationship between the two organizations, Blottner said. The daycare will get a lot out of its connection with the Boys and Girls Club.

“The beauty of a partnership of this nature is that Boys and Girls Club has decades of experience in the Yukon figuring out how to provide support to families who need it and how to navigate that red tape and so on and so forth,” he said.

There’s already been talks about using those skills to possibly help families that can’t afford daycare.

Learning Tree has set its rates at $750 a month for toddlers and $650 a month for preschoolers.

Blottner said that’s on the affordable end of the scale, but if parents still can’t afford it, that shouldn’t stop them from approaching the daycare.

The Boys and Girls Club might know how to find sponsors, grants, or other money to help out, he said.

Spots at the new daycare are still available. Anyone looking for more information can look online: www.whitehorselearningtree.com

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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