Co-Founder and CEO of CareFind, Erica Hughes, found her passion through wanting to solve her own (and many other’s) personal challenges. In 2017, a mother of twins and a full-time student at the University of Calgary, Erica experienced difficulty in finding immediate and reliable child care. When she called numerous daycares only to be waitlisted, Erica missed out on many opportunities that hindered her professional career. She then met Kathy Bui, Co-Founder and COO of CareFind, at the University of Calgary in an entrepreneurial class where this dynamic duo began to collaborate on the foundation of CareFind.
CareFind is a centralized interactive online platform with images, unique programs and more, which connect parents to real-time openings for child care. These are posted by accredited and or licensed daycares, preschools, out of school care programs, and approved day homes in Calgary and area for full, part-time, and drop-in care. This reduces the time that parents normally spend searching by having all child care providers housed under the same network, which highlight their availabilities.
CareFind currently has 450 child care providers and over 430 parents signed up to utilize their website. Kathy says:
“We also launched our emergency child care fund. The purpose of that fund was to support families who couldn’t necessarily afford childcare and help them in emergency situations like needing to go to an interview or doctor’s appointment.”
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, all child care providers were shut down for an extended period of time. In May, over 100 child care providers were able to re-open around Calgary and surrounding area for essential care workers. Erica explains:
“Essential care workers like nurses and doctors contacted us to see which daycares and preschools were open. We then contacted the Alberta government and were able to get the list of child care providers that were allowed to be open.”
CareFind wrote a blog listing the open child care providers and sent out a newsletter to the parents with the information. Through the newsletter tracking data, CareFind discovered that parents found the blog and newsletter very informative and valuable, especially during that time.
Erica explains that this unprecedented time gave CareFind a chance to implement virtual tours, which had been in discussion for the past 2 years:
“Virtual tours help parents search for child care from the comfort of their own home. It gives them a little bit of the look and feel of a potential centre and a chance to find the perfect spot for their specific needs. For example, if it is too small, too big, or if your child has sensory needs, it may not be the space they are looking for.”
The pandemic has ultimately altered the way child care providers operate. With enhanced sanitization practices, reduced capacity, enhanced protocols of drop-offs and pick-ups, virtual tours are essential for the health and safety of everyone.
Because of the halt of business in general for CareFind, Kathy explains that the biggest challenge right now is growing the business without the necessary funds in place. On a personal level, Kathy and Erica are always trying to maintain a work/life balance, which can be challenging as they are both students, work full time, volunteer, and have a family life.
CareFind’s resiliency is proven in how they are moving forward despite the current economic struggles. They are also now focusing on marketing and advertising by not only strengthening their own brand awareness but marketing and advertising for the child care providers to help them reach the community.
Looking to the future, CareFind hopes to expand their reach to the community and optimize their website to include summer camps, options for special needs care, and respite services. Their ultimate goal is to be the go-to for child care in Canada.
New: From hundreds of applicants and thousands of votes, CareFind won 2nd place in Orbiiit’s The Pitch Online Startup Canadian competition.