When we first started Earlybird, it was a great source of inspiration to know this model existed elsewhere. Perhaps not with our home-grown curriculum or our specific teacher training modules, but the general concept of workplace-based educare is already well established in countries like the United States, Mexico, Australia, and India. Bright Horizons for example, boasts a global network of over 700 preschools and provides onsite educare services to corporate giants such as NBC Universal, Salesforce, and IBM.
We knew a pathway to success was definitely out there! However, until we spoke to our professional counterparts overseas, we naively assumed that that pathway was quite linear – i.e. establish a partnership with one company, open an onsite educare centre at that company, and then repeat the process x number of times. What we discovered in speaking with different people, is that there are many different ways to grow a network of workplace-based educare centres.
For example, the extremely friendly and knowledgeable Advenio team from Mexico described how they found their earliest success with a mixed “B2B/B2C” approach. Rather than aiming for exclusive partnerships with big corporates right off the bat, they began by opening educare centres with a handful of seats reserved for smaller corporate partners, but were otherwise open to the general public. This flexible strategy allowed Advenio to quickly establish a reputation as a high-quality ECD service provider, which in turn helped them cement partnerships with larger corporates.
Another example was relayed to us by a former Bright Horizons employee. She described how BH would on occasion look to establish a foothold with a new company by hosting lunchtime information sessions for employees of the company. The information sessions provided those employees with small children helpful advice on topics ranging from potty-training to effective screen-time. The sessions also familiarized those employees with BH’s capable staff and high-quality approach to ECD which, in many instances, paved the way for more in-depth partnerships.
For the Earlybird team, learning about these different roads to success motivated us to keep our marketing strategies broad and flexible. The experience of speaking with and learning from other successful workplace-based educare networks also reminded us of how much there is to learn from the international ECD community and how generous those community members can be with their time. It would be nice to reach the point someday, where we too are able to ‘pay forward’ the lessons learned on Earlybird’s journey.