The childcare sector is a rapidly growing one, with daycare centres rapidly popping up in many of the major suburbs, and its definitely not showing any signs of slowing down.This the market that Ina van der Merwe achieving great success in. Van der Merwe is the founder of Opti-Baby, and mother of four.
Established in October 2003, Opti-Baby daycare centres promotes early childhood development, and accepts babies from six weeks to five years old.
What makes this exclusive service different is the premium care that they offer, which come in the form of 24/7 live video streaming service which allows parents to check up on their kids from anywhere. The centres also boast low caregiver-to-child ratio, and the cutting edge child stimulation practices and development programmes, all with the goal of developing each child’s full potential, and preparing them for school. This is the model that van der Merwe is franchising.
Van der Merwe shares how she took advantage of this need and made it the created a premium product for the childcare and education market.
I had a very bad experience with daycare when my oldest son was little. I walked into his school and found him unattended, screaming in his bed. I took him home and promised myself to never leave any of my children at a daycare ever again. When my last child was born – 16 years later, I decided to look at schools again in the hopes that things would have changed in 16 years. When I could not find a quality daycare centre, I decided to make a difference in South Africa and started the first Internet-monitored Opti-Baby & Kids School.
“If you try something new, you risk failure. If you don’t try something new, you’re guaranteed failure”
Obtaining funding for my startup was my biggest hurdle. I had to sell my house and move in with family to start my Opti-Baby dream. In 2011, Vumela, an FNB Enterprise Development Fund, had bought equity shares in the company which enable us to expand and roll out at least 15 to 20 Opti-Baby daycare centres in and around Gauteng, within the next 5 years.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa is on the rise, although there are still huge challenges. One of my biggest hurdles was access to capital. You might have a great idea, but you might not have the network and contacts to drive you forward and of course, access to capital/funding.
Always be persistent in pursuing your dreams, but don’t be blinded by them and always listen to others who have been there before you. There is a saying: “If you try something new, you risk failure. If you don’t try something new, you’re guaranteed failure.” So follow your dream and just do it!
Looking back now, setting clear, realistic goals is a must-have. Your goals need to be specific, measurable and timely. You have to narrow your focus and set a realistic goal. The more I have defined my goals as the years went on, the more clarity and motivation I had.