Erica Mackey and Elizabeth Szymanski, pictured with their children, are the founders of MyVillage. Courtesy MyVillage.

MyVillage gives local moms new revenue stream, childcare option

BOULDER — MyVillage LLC, a startup founded in 2017 by a pair of moms, operates with a pair of complementary goals in mind — both of which are poised to benefit women working their way through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The firm, co-founded by a Boulder County resident, provides a home-based childcare program framework that can be adopted by moms looking for a new stream of revenue. The program, which provides training, curriculum and support for operators, also expands the childcare options for essential workers during a time when traditional daycare centers and after-school programs have shuttered or reduced capacity. 

“The childcare system across the country is broken,” Boulder-based MyVillage co-founder Elizabeth Szymanski said.

The system was meeting less than 50% of Colorado’s childcare needs before the COVID-19 epidemic, she said. The virus exacerbated the problem by shrinking the number of childcare options and causing parents to hesitate to put their children in daycare centers where they’d be in contact with many other people. 

Szymanski and co-founder Erica Mackey, who is based in Bozeman, Montana, met during business school at the University of Oxford. 

After school, the pair found themselves launching startups in Africa. Mackey founded Off Grid Electric, a company that provides solar power for low income Africans, while Szymanski was involved in plastic recycling startup TENA Recycling. 

Eventually Mackey and Szymanski returned to the United States and became mothers. 

After a stint in the Bay Area, Szymanski and her family moved to the Boulder area, and she began looking at childcare options.

“Every [daycare center] I went to in Boulder told me there was a two-year waitlist,” she said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I was supposed to get on a waitlist before I was even pregnant? How am I going to go back to work if I can’t find reliable, safe childcare?’ … Erica called me around the same time [and she was] experiencing the same problem.”

Thus, MyVillage was born. 

Initially, MyVillage sought to remove the stigma around home-based childcare.

When she was a kid, the stereotype of an in-home care operation was “bad shag carpeting and a mom chain smoking while Price is Right is on the television,” Szymanski said.

A challenge for MyVillage is maintaining uniformity and quality standards across the network of care providers.

“This is not McDonald’s. These are people’s living rooms, backyards, kitchens — no two are going to be alike,” Szymanski said.

The format needed to be both stringent but also adaptable. 

“It’s been a long process of trial and error,” Mackey said. “We partnered with Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child to determine the core elements that need to be there to ensure we were getting quality outcomes for kids. Those were the principles we wouldn’t move from.”

MyVillage began as a franchise model. Caretakers would license MyVillage’s branding as well as its training and curriculum programming. The company also helps get caregivers licensed by their home states. 

As the company grew, it evolved into a membership model that now includes nearly 200 caregivers. In September, MyVillage opened up its membership base, previously restricted to Colorado and Montana caregivers, to the entire country and the co-founders expect to have 1,000 members, each of whom can care for as many as six kids at a time, by the end of the year. 

The caregivers — mostly women, but occasionally husband and wife teams — typically fall into one of three categories: stay-at-home moms with young kids, daycare workers interested in operating their own businesses, career changers such as public school teachers who are motivated to take on a new challenge.

Using the MyVillage model, caregivers can make three times as much as the average salary of an early childhood care worker and “parents have a much more affordable option” compared to traditional daycare centers, Szymanski said. 

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

 

BOULDER — MyVillage LLC, a startup founded in 2017 by a pair of moms, operates with a pair of complementary goals in mind — both of which are poised to benefit women working their way through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The firm, co-founded by a Boulder County resident, provides a home-based childcare program framework that can be adopted by moms looking for a new stream of revenue. The program, which provides training, curriculum and support for operators, also expands the childcare options for essential workers during a time when traditional daycare centers and after-school programs have shuttered or reduced capacity. 

“The childcare system across the country is broken,” Boulder-based MyVillage co-founder Elizabeth Szymanski said.

The system was meeting less than 50% of Colorado’s childcare needs before the COVID-19 epidemic, she said. The virus exacerbated the problem by shrinking the number of childcare options and causing parents to hesitate to put their children in daycare centers where they’d be in contact with many other people. 

Szymanski and co-founder Erica Mackey, who is based in Bozeman, Montana, met during business school at the University of Oxford. 

After school, the pair found themselves launching startups in Africa. Mackey founded Off Grid Electric, a company that provides solar power for low income Africans, while Szymanski was involved in plastic recycling startup TENA Recycling. 

Eventually Mackey and Szymanski returned to the United States and became mothers. 

After a stint in the Bay Area, Szymanski and her family moved to the Boulder area, and she began looking at childcare options.

“Every [daycare center] I…