Social Innovation with Mountain Munchkin Daycare

**This is a special blog post as part of a series highlighting social entrepreneurship in southern Alberta as part of Simon Fraser University’s CED Certificate program.

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Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise

Case Study: Mountain Munchkin Daycare

Prepared by Anita Hofer / Prepared for Brian Martin

Introduction to Mountain Munchkin Daycare

Peter Rawluk is the co-owner of Mountain Munchkin Daycare in Canmore, Alberta. Mountain Munchkin Daycare provides childcare for the children aged 12 months to six years. The philosophy of the day care is that the child is first and foremost! The organization believes that quality child care facilitates the healthy growth and development of the ‘whole’ child. Mountain Munchkin believes that for the child to feel accepted and loved that their program must blend and enhance that child’s family experiences with their experience in the centre, thus family participation is encouraged to enhance the quality of the experience for the child. Therefore they embrace multiculturalism and encourage acceptance that people are all different but the same. Programming includes music sessions, mathematics, Whole Child, Nature/GEO Awareness, reading and community/global consciousness.

As a Doctor of Medicine, Peter has always been interested in health, but this venture is of special interest to him. The first two thousand days of life (roughly the time between birth and kindergarten) are critical to brain development. Young children will develop a broader sense of compassion for those beyond their immediate group if they are involved with meaningful activities and experiences early and often.

The Mountain Munchkins team has made considerable efforts to create these empathy-building and multicultural experiences and activities. Their objective is to impact children so that they will become adults who don’t just “care about others” but “care FOR others” as Peter often says. The team’s efforts could be captured, codified and shared with other early childcare educators for a profit. The team is understandably focused on day-to-day operations and there currently is not a significant investment of time or funding to help them understand how to structure this potential initiative.

Peter is very collaborative, open to learning, and willing to be influenced. He has built strong relationships and Mountain Munchkin has even connected with local organizations but also other daycare providers internationally. Peter has a deep sense of social responsibility and a focused curiosity about the ways children can learn to be better stewards of the earth and each other.

Mountain Munchkin’s Social Enterprise Vehicle

Mountain Munchkin is a private, for-profit venture. Return-on-investment for the co-owners is consistent and predictable. Peter in particular has a focus on “non-financial currency”. The daycare provides a much-need service in Canmore but also influences community through projects that create social good, ignites momentum in the town and builds, explores and tests meaningful empathy-building programming.

Profits are re-invested into mini projects or invested into larger initiatives like the creation of new children’s garden. Many other new projects are funded privately by Peter. Peter was originally the sole owner, but after observing the amount of time and talent shared by the daycare’s director, he gave her a 35% share of the business. Peter does not draw a dividend or salary. Mountain Munchkin has also invested heavily in the personal development of the staff, paying for their academic enrichment by paying tuition fees for addition education as needed.

A dedicated staff person in the organization tracks all things financial. Because Mountain Munchkin Daycare is privately owned and operated, they are not required to produce public reports to the community. Mountain Munchkin embraces the culture of a for-profit venture with a philanthropic spirit and strives to become more self-sustaining.

Analysis of the Social Entrepreneur Ecosystem

A financial resource that was required by Mountain Munchkin to launch was funding from the owner. Because of a unique and emergent situation faced by the previous owner, the daycare was purchased at an opportune time by Peter and his business partner.

Creating or tapping into new revenue streams are an external element that could help Mountain Munchkin Daycare. (See the attached Business Model Canvas for streams already identified.) The dollars from these new revenue streams would help them fund the costly and resource-heavy development of their alternative early childhood education empathy programming that would be codified, packaged, marketed and sold. As well as identifying these new revenue streams, a market of individuals, groups and organizations will need to be found or cultivated to purchase the goods and/or services. Potential ideas for new revenue streams include renting the daycare space when it is empty or offering workshops for parents/caregivers or other childcare providers.

Recommendations for the Organization

The ecosystem in which Mountain Munchkin is embedded is rich in human capital. The organization has thrived in these due to a nurturing culture both in Canmore and within the team. Their ecosystem has meaningful engagement from the staff team, customers (parents), partner organizations that range from local to international, and also greater-Canmore residents. They have consistent, predictable revenues, reliable infrastructure, and policy frameworks that are not overly restraining.

What will be required for their venture to grow financially, and increase in impact is for their empathy programming to be codified, financed and marketed. For this to occur, it is recommended that Mountain Munchkin consider:

  • increasing their own internal capacity in program design or bring in a consultant to help them codify their empathy-building programming
  • investing in consulting expertise from a “serial entrepreneur” to assist with project planning and encouraging testing-and-redevelopment – since their leadership team has limited entrepreneurial experience
  • examine their network for potential partners that can help them extend their marketing and promotion when they are ready to launch. Some partners in community may have reasons to assist them, but these organizations are considerably larger and more bureaucratic so beginning this process early would be wise.

Outside of Mountain Munchkin’s influence are social assumptions that child care organizations should commit to the status quo and should not be innovative, particularly that they shouldn’t be testing child care programming unless in an academic setting, and that they should not make more than a modest profit. To help them overcome these external barriers, it is recommended they search for another entrepreneurial childcare organization that is further along the entrepreneurial path (understanding these organizations could be a challenge to source) and make personal connections for the purposes of sharing experiences and particularly to understand approaches to working through the cultural resistance that they could encounter in their ecosystem.

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